You can be sent to jail for up to 5 years and receive an unlimited fine if you know or should have known that you employed someone who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK.

You must check your employees have the right to work in the UK and make sure their documents are valid.

Illegal workers include:

  • students with expired visas, or students working more hours than they’re allowed to
  • people who work on a visitor’s visa
  • people doing work that’s not listed on their visa

If you’re caught employing an illegal worker

You’ll get a ‘referral notice’ to let you know that:

  • your case is being considered
  • you may get an unlimited fine (also known as a ‘civil penalty’) for each illegal worker

You won’t have to pay a fine if you can show you made the correct ‘right to work’ checks.

You’ll be sent a ‘civil penalty notice’ if you’re found liable and you’ll have 28 days to respond.

The penalty notice will give you your payment options and tell you what do next. It will also tell you how to object to the civil penalty. You can then make an appeal.

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

Get help and advice

Read more about illegal working penalties.

You can also contact the helpline.

Sponsorship, Employer and Education helpline
Telephone: 0300 123 4699
Monday to Thursday, 9am to 5pm
Friday, 9am to 4:30pm
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