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Immigration: New guidance on preventing illegal working

Date: 31 May 2011

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) recently updated its guidance for employers on preventing illegal working in the UK.

The guidance explains how to check that someone is entitled to work in the UK. If an employer checks and retains copies of certain original documents before someone starts working for them, they will have a statutory excuse, under Section 15 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, against liability to pay a civil penalty for employing an illegal migrant.

Where the person has a time limit on their stay in the UK, employers must carry out repeat checks on their documents at least once a year in order to retain the excuse. The guidance lists those documents that provide an ongoing excuse and those which provide an excuse for up to 12 months.

Employers who negligently hire illegal workers face a maximum fine of £10,000 for each illegal worker found at a business. Employers who knowingly hire illegal workers are committing a criminal offence under Section 21 of the 2006 Act, however, and cannot rely on the statutory excuse, regardless of whether or not they have carried out any document checks. This penalty is for use in more serious cases where rogue employers knowingly and deliberately use illegal migrant workers, often for personal financial gain. This offence carries a maximum two-year custodial sentence and/or an unlimited fine.

The UKBA publishes the details of employers who have been found to be liable for the payment of a civil penalty for employing illegal migrant workers and those convicted of an offence under section 21 of the 2006 Act. The information is published by region and can be found at UKBA.

The UKBA is undertaking a major enforcement campaign to crack down on immigration crime, as a quick glance at the latest news on its website illustrates - see UKBA website. The repeated message to those breaking the law is - 'more raids are planned and you will be caught'.

The revised guidance for employers on preventing illegal working can be found at UKBA.

Contact Patricia Morrill on 01753 279029, complete the online enquiry form or email employmentlaw@bpcollins.co.uk, if you would like advice on any employment law matter.

Patricia Morrill

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