The UK Border Agency (UKBA) are currently dishing out £10,000 fines for employing illegal migrant workers like confetti, as viewers of Sky TV’s ‘UK Border Force’ will be aware.
The show, screened on Sky 1, follows UKBA immigration officers as they carry out raids on employers, usually in the catering and hospitality sectors.
Officers normally plan their raids based on a tip off that a company is employing illegal workers, so any employer could be targeted.
Some of the employers featured on the programme are clearly aware that they are breaking the law, but others are merely ignorant of the law or just plain sloppy.
Illegal workers include Eastern Europeans from Romania and Bulgaria, who need permission to work, students with expired visas and people of visitors visas “helping out” whilst they are on holiday.
The UKBA introduced a civil penalty system for employers on 29 February 2008 as part of the Asylum and Nationality Act 2006.
Under section 15 of the Act, Employers found to be using illegal migrant workers will be served with a notification of potential liability (NOPL) by immigration staff carrying out enforcement and compliance visits.
The Illegal Working Civil Penalty Unit will then consider evidence provided by the visiting officer and decide whether to issue a notification of liability (NOL) and a civil penalty of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker.
If you are issued with a notice of liability and hit with a civil penalty having been found ‘guilty’ of using illegal migrant workers you have 28 days to:
- pay the civil penalty or fine in full
- submit a request to the ‘Illegal Working Appeals and Finance Section’ to pay by monthly instalments
- submit an objection against the service of the civil penalty to the UK Border Agency
- lodge an appeal against the service of the civil penalty to the County Court (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or the Sheriff’s Court (Scotland)
If all that is not enough the UKBA publish details of employers “found liable to pay a civil penalty for employing illegal migrant workers” see Lists of civil penalties issued to employers.
A civil penalty requires a lower burden of proof – ‘on the balance of probabilities’ rather than ‘beyond reasonable doubt – than the former criminal offence, which was rarely imposed on employers.
This means that penalties can be dished out like parking fines, leaving you with the burden of proving your innocence should you wish to oppose the decision.
Help is available
If you are still unsure of the steps you need to take to avoid employing illegal workers, visit www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/employers or call the UKBA employers’ helpline on 0845 010 6677.
Employers wishing to recruit overseas workers legally should register as sponsors under Tier 2 of the Points Based System, which replaced the Work Permit regime last November.
Immigration advisers like Bison UK provides a file audit or vetting service for employers unsure about whether or not their staff are legally employed.
Symposium Events are running a conference vetting both EU and non-EU nationals at £100 per ticket. Register online or call us +44 (0) 20 7231 5100.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Studying in the UK, Settlement, Citizenship, Sponsorship, extending Work Permits, Visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: