Illegal Workers

If you are an employer concerned about illegal workers we can offer immediate support with our Sponsor Licence Advice Package

If you are concerned that you are either working illegally or employing illegal workers in the UK it is highly important that you change your circumstances as soon as possible. This will help you avoid incurring severe penalties from the Home Office.

You can be classed as an illegal worker if you do not have leave to remain in the UK; or if the leave you have is invalid or has ceased to have an effect. You will also be classed as an illegal worker if your leave to remain does not allow the kind of work you are involved in.

If you are in doubt as to whether yourself or those you employ may be working illegally, you should speak with a legal expert immediately. Our lawyers can offer you immediate, confidential advice to help ensure that you do not incur any penalties from the Home Office. Our services include Sponsor Licence assistance, immigration consultancy and urgent work permit applications. Get in touch to speak to one of our lawyers now.

Please see the FAQs section to understand the options that may be available to you.


What is an illegal worker?

As of July 2016, under section 24B of the 1971 Act, an individual pledges the offence of illegal working if he or she is:

  • subject to immigration control;
  • employed in the UK;
  • disqualified from working in the UK due to his or her immigration status; and
  • at the time, has knowledge or reason to believe that they should not be working in the UK based on his or her immigration status.

What are the Work Permit options for illegal workers?

If you are worried that you might be working illegally in the UK then it is highly advisable that you seek the guidance of an immigration specialist.

Working illegally in the UK can have a negative impact on any future applications you may make for a UK visa or work permit.

If you get in touch with one of our highly-equipped immigration lawyers, they can take you through the different Work Permits that are available to you and help you legitimise your position in the UK.

What are the penalties for individuals who illegally work in the UK?

It is highly important that, as an individual migrant worker, you understand the penalties you could face should you be found to have ignored the law.

You could face a six-month prison sentence with an unlimited fine if you are found working without the rightful paperwork. In addition, any income you earn as a result of working illegally may be seized by the Home Office.

What steps should I take if I am employing a migrant worker in the UK?

As an employer of overseas talent, there are certain duties which you must fill.
Firstly, if you do not already have one, you must obtain a Sponsor Licence before employing any non-EEA workers on Tier 2 or Tier 5 Visa.

Once you have obtained such a licence, you must then issue a Certificate of Sponsorship to every prospective Tier 2 and Tier 5 migrant worker. This will enable them to apply for a work permit or visa, or extend their current stay in the UK.

You must also ensure that you update your Sponsorship Management System (SMS) to keep relevant records and reports in relation to your workers. This includes ensuring they meet their visa regulations and reporting any breaches that may arise to the Home Office.

Our immigration lawyers can assist you with any issues you may have when looking to employ and sponsor migrant workers. Our services include assisting with Sponsor Licence applications and performing compliance checks. With this, we will make sure that your employment methods are functioning legally, and resolve any instances where they are not. We also offer appeal services if you have received a discipline, such as a Civil Penalty, from the Home Office.

What are the penalties for employers who employ illegal workers in the UK?

For employers, it is important to be aware of the penalties that you could be subject to should you be found to have ignored the law. As an employer, you must ensure that your employees have the right to work in the UK, and you must also ensure that your employees’ documents are valid.

Employers are liable for their employees and could be subject to penalties if they;

  • hire workers who do not have the correct eligibility to work in the UK; or
  • have not carried out extensive employment checks prior to hiring.

In the event that the above actions have not been carried out, the employer may receive a referral notice from the Home Office. This referral notice will notify the employer that their case is being considered and that the investigation could result in the employer having to pay a fine of up to £20,000 per illegal worker.

The employer may subsequently receive a Civil Penalty notice and have up to 28 days to respond to this notice. The notice will detail how to pay the fines, what the next steps are, and also how to appeal the decision (see next FAQ).

Your business’s details could also be published by Immigration Enforcement as a warning to other businesses not to employ illegal workers.

What are my options if I have received a fine for employing illegal workers?

If you are employing migrant workers illegally in the UK, you may receive a fine and a warning from the Home Office called a Civil Penalty.

Receiving a Civil Penalty can be detrimental to employers, as it may result in high costs, can negatively affect a company’s reputation and even cause a company or business to be closed down.

If you have received a fine for employing workers illegally you will be given 28 days in which to proceed with one the three of the following options:

  1. You can choose to object to the penalty;
  2. You can directly request that a payment instalment plan is set up by the Home Office; or
  3. You can pay the penalty in full.

The Home Office’s 28-day deadline is very strict and they offer no option for an extension of this period.

If you have received a Civil Penalty for employing illegal workers, it is highly advisable that you seek the help of an immigration lawyer, who can offer urgent assistance with our appeal package.

How can IAS help?

The lawyers at IAS have dealt with many cases in which migrant workers and UK employers have required advice about the legality of their actions.
Our services are strictly confidential; we are equipped to offer you the support, guidance and advice you need.

If you are a UK employer we will:

  • help you obtain your Sponsorship Licence so you can legally employ foreign workers;
  • perform an Immigration Audit to find and fix any issues with your current employment methods;
  • ensure your business’ HR methods are practising the law;
  • if you have received a penalty from the Home Office, find the best way to resolve or appeal the charge;
  • act as your legal representation if you choose to appeal;
  • prepare you for any visits from the Home Office;
  • liaise with the Home Office to discuss and resolve issues.

If you are an employee we will:

Get in touch with us to discuss any concerns you may have about working illegally in the UK.

Our Packages

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Comprehensive immigration advice tailored to your circumstances and goals


Application Package

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Appeal Package

Ensure you have the greatest chance of a successful appeal. We will represent you in any hearings/tribunals


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