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UK based Employers

Get an employee visa audit

There are substantial penalties (up to £20,000 per employee) payable by the employer where an employee does not hold the correct UK immigration status. We can undertake a full audit of your employee records to ensure that all your non-British staff hold a valid visa and work status in the UK.

How you as an employee can be held liable for an illegal hire

All UK-based employers are required by law to check that their staff have the right to take employment in the UK. Those employers which hold sponsor licences from the Home Office have an additional duty to ensure the relevant checks have been made and those who do not comply risk having their sponsor licence downgraded or revoked.

Prior to January 1997, no sanctions were imposed on UK employers who gave work to overseas nationals who did not have lawful permission to remain in the UK or take employment in the UK. At this time, any person found working unlawfully was simply removed from the UK by the Immigration Service.

Section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 came into force in January 1997 creating a new criminal offence of employing an illegal worker. It became the personal responsibility of the person instigating the employment to make certain mandatory checks on the employee’s documents, to benefit from a statutory defence given under the Act.

The Act was tightened in 2004, but in reality, it did not had the desired effect (i.e. to reduce illegal working in the UK), and we were only aware of a handful of cases which resulted in fines to employers.

In February 2008 new legislation came into force which allowed the Secretary of State to serve an employer with a notice requiring payment of a penalty of a specified amount where they employ a person aged 16 or over who is subject to immigration control unless:

  • That person has been given valid and subsisting leave to be in the UK by the government, and that leave does not restrict them from taking the job in question; or
  • The person is in a category for which employment is also allowed

The current state of affairs: Massive fines for non-compliant employers

A further code of practice was issued in 2017 under section 19 of the Act, which updates the ones issued in 2008 and 2014 to specify the factors that are to be considered by the Home Office in determining the amount of the civil penalty for employing an illegal worker.

Offences are divided into two areas:

  1. Civil penalties for those employers who employ illegal migrant workers as a result of negligent recruitment and employment practices
  2. A new criminal offence for those employers found to be knowingly employing illegal migrant workers

The civil penalty scheme is designed to encourage employers to comply with their duty as an employer to prevent illegal working by carrying out complete document checks. It also means that you will face a sanction if you have failed to act with due care and diligence in doing so.

The civil penalties that the Home Office impose are intended to be proportionate to the level of non-compliant behaviour and are therefore calculated on a sliding scale. The fine for employing an illegal worker in its basic form is presently £20,000 and the fine for knowingly employing an illegal worker is £50,000.

How we can help

At Sable International we offer a service to audit the personnel files of your employees. We will do this on-site for you and confirm whether each employee has the right to work in the UK, ensuring your compliance with the legislation on the prevention of illegal working and sponsor duties from the Home Office.

Contact our work permits team


Phone: +44 (0) 20 7759 7584

South Africa

Cape Town

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


201 The Annex
Ridgeside Office Park
Umhlanga +27 (0) 31 536 8843

United Kingdom


Castlewood House
77/91 New Oxford Street
WC1A 1DG +44 (0) 20 7759 7514


5-7 Selsdon Road
South Croydon
CR2 6PU +44 (0) 20 7759 7581



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 License issued by ASIC to deal in foreign exchange (1st Contact Group - AFS License number 335 126).

Please note: Sable International is a trading name of Philip Gamble and Co. Ltd. Philip Gamble and Co. Ltd is registered in the UK with the Office of the Immigration Service Commissioner (OISC) under no. F2001-00004. Our staff based outside of the UK are not regulated by the OISC and may be involved in some client casework. However, they work to the same high standards as our UK staff and clients receive the same service regardless of which office they engage with.

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