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Employers in Britain face new fines for illegal working

Businesses must source migrant labor through legal means or face severe penalties, Britain’s Home Office announced Thursday as part of its comprehensive program to reform Britain’s immigration controls.

The government is setting out new measures to prevent illegal working following a consultation with British businesses. Under a new system of civil penalties, employers who negligently hire illegal workers could face a maximum fine of £10,000 (about $20,000) for each illegal worker found at a business. If employers are found to have knowingly hired illegal workers they could incur an unlimited fine and be sent to prison. The measures, which take effect in February, will make it easier than ever before for employers to carry out checks and for the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) to deal with noncompliance. The civil penalties form part of the biggest immigration shake-up for forty years, sitting alongside a program of changes that will ensure the system is fit for the future. Over the next 12 months BIA will also introduce compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals and an Australian-style Points Based System to make sure only workers with the skills to benefit Britain’s economy come to Britain.

Meanwhile, a single border force bringing together the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs and UK Visas will provide a tougher, highly visible policing presence at Britain’s ports and airports. “By stamping out illegal working we are making the UK a less attractive destination for illegal migration,” said Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. According to Smith, the new civil penalties are a more effective way of dealing with employers who use slipshod or exploitative recruitment methods. By working together with employers and others, the government has developed a system that delivers the migrants that Britain needs while keeping out those that it does not.

The government also published on Thursday a Statement of Intent setting out a new approach for licensing employers or colleges who wish to sponsor migrants for visa applications. Under the Points Based System, employers and colleges will need a license in order to sponsor migrants. To earn and hold a license they must agree to fulfill certain duties. BIA undertakes regular enforcement operations against illegal working throughout Britain. In 2006 alone, the agency carried out over 5,200 illegal working operations and removed more than 22,000 people from Britain. (