close menu

UK employers are always liable for illegal foreign hires

by John Dunn | Sep 05, 2018
  • If you’re an employer in the UK, you probably know that the process of hiring a foreign national isn’t as simple as hiring a British employee. One of the most important things that employers need to do to ensure compliance is to conduct right to work checks on all non-UK employees. Failing to do so can result in some serious fines and penalties.

    What is a right to work check?

    As the name suggests, right to work checks entail checking that all staff who work for your company have the legal right to do so. This is one of the core duties of any employer in the UK, no matter the size or sector of your business. So how is it done? Well, first a thorough document check needs to be conducted with the applicant present.

    When you check the documents, you need to ensure the following:

    • The documents are genuine, original and unchanged
    • The dates for the applicant’s right to work in the UK have not expired
    • Photos and dates of birth are the same across all documents
    • The applicant has permission to do the type of work you’re offering
    • If two documents give different names, the applicant has supporting documents such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree

    Once the documents have been checked and you’re satisfied that they meet the above criteria, you must make copies of all the documents and record the date that you conducted the check. These copies must be kept throughout the applicant’s employment and for two years after they stop working for you.

    See also: What UK businesses need to know about hiring non-EU nationals

    The fines are steep, so don’t take a chance

    The maximum fine for unknowingly hiring workers who don’t have the right to work in the UK is £20,000 per worker, so a few illegal workers could make a significant dent in company cash flow. However, if an employer knowingly hires someone who doesn’t have the right to work, the penalties are far more serious.

    In instances where you as an employer knew you were hiring someone who doesn’t have the right to work you could face up to five years jail time as well as pay an unlimited fine. The illegal employee would face up to six months of jail time.

    Aside from these harsh penalties, any instance of hiring an illegal worker in the UK will be recorded by the Home Office and will result in your company sponsorship licences being downgraded or revoked. This will also trigger more regular spot checks by HMRC. What’s more, your business’s details may be published by Immigration Enforcement as a warning to other businesses not to employ illegal workers – and no business wants that kind of publicity.

    Have a question about the status of your non-EU workers?

    How to ensure complete compliance

    If you’re in any way unsure about the immigration status of your employees, the best course of action would be to undertake a full audit of your employee records to ensure that all of your non-British staff hold a valid visa and work status in the UK. This will not only ensure your compliance with the legislation on the prevention of illegal workers, but grant you enormous peace of mind knowing you are not at risk of fines, penalties and potential public humiliation. 

    Our work permits team can conduct a full employee visa audit for you, as well as assist with any other enquiries you may have around employing non-EU nationals. Simply pop us an email on or give us a call on +44 (0) 20 7759 7584 to get in touch.

    We are a professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions.

    Our teams in the UK, South Africa and Australia can ensure that when you decide to move overseas, invest offshore or expand your business internationally, you’ll do so with the backing of experienced local experts.

    • visa application
      What’s the difference between a UK Marriage Visitor visa and a spouse visa?
      Nov 08, 2019  |  by John Dunn
    • Sydney skyline
      Invest in Australian property and earn permanent residency for you and your family
      Oct 18, 2019  |  by Sam Hopwood
    • Australia-look-see.png
      Everything you should do on your look-and-see visit to Australia
      Aug 12, 2019  |  by Sam Hopwood
    • Porto cityscape
      10 reasons to move to Porto, Portugal
      Jul 29, 2019  |  by John Dunn
    • Oxford-street
      Everything you ever wanted to know about applying for a UK Tier 2 (General) visa
      Jul 18, 2019  |  by John Dunn
    • Australia skyline
      Landed a temporary job Down Under? Get an Australian working holiday visa
      Jul 08, 2019  |  by Guest writer
    • sydney-australia
      Australian visa processing times: How long you’ll wait for approval
      Jun 27, 2019  |  by Sam Hopwood
    • British passport and citizenship approved
      British citizenship and indefinite leave to remain: Why you need to know the difference
      Jun 25, 2019  |  by John Dunn
    • seven-corners-image
      The importance of purchasing travel insurance with a Tier 4 UK student visa
      Jun 13, 2019  |  by Guest writer
    • kangaroos
      Two new Aussie visa routes for skilled migrants
      May 23, 2019  |  by Sam Hopwood

    South Africa

    Cape Town

    Regent Square
    Doncaster Road
    Kenilworth 7708 +27 (0) 21 657 2120


    25 Richefond Circle
    Umhlanga 4320 +27 (0) 31 536 8843

    United Kingdom


    One Croydon
    12-16 Addiscombe Road
    Croydon CR0 0XT +44 (0) 20 7759 7514



    9 Yarra Street
    South Yarra
    VIC 3141 +613 (0) 8651 4500

    Sable International is a trading name of 1st Contact Money Limited (company number 07070528), registered in England and Wales. We are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK (FCA no. 517570), the Financial Services Conduct Authority in South Africa (1st Contact Money [PTY] Ltd - FSP no. 41900) and hold an Australian Financial Services Licence issued by ASIC to deal in foreign exchange (1st Contact Group - AFS Licence number 335 126).

    We use cookies to provide the best website experience for you. Using this website means that you agree to this. How we use cookies.