The Immigration Act 2016 introduces new sanctions to tackle illegal migration and illegal working.
Since 12 July 2016:
- It has been a criminal offence to work in the UK illegally, with the consequence that wages paid to illegal workers may be seized as the proceeds of crime.
- The offence of employing an illegal worker has been strengthened, so that it is possible to prosecute employers who employ someone they know, or have reasonable cause to believe, is an illegal worker. They also now face a maximum custodial sentence of five years.
From 1 December 2016:
- There will be a power to close premises for up to 48 hours if an employer operating at the premises repeatedly flouts the law by employing illegal workers, and immigration officers will be able to apply to the court for a compliance order which may impose special measures on the employer to prevent illegal working.
- Private hire and hackney carriage licence applications will be subject to immigration checks. This will prevent licences being issued to anyone who does not have the right to work in the UK.
Preventing illegal working in the private hire and hackney carriage sector
From 1 December 2016, immigration checks will be a mandatory part of the licensing regime for taxis and private hire vehicles, under section 37 and Schedule 5 to the Act. Applicants will need to provide evidence of their right to work in the UK, and licences will not be issued to those who do not have the right to work. Where immigration permission is time-limited, a licence will not be issued for a period that exceeds this period. Where the holder of a licence breaches immigration laws, this will be grounds to review, suspend or revoke a licence. If immigration permission is cut short, the holder of the licence will be committing an offence if they do not return the licence to the licensing authority, for which they may be fined.
The offence of illegal working
It is now a criminal offence to work illegally in the UK, as a result of section 34 of the Act. A person commits this offence if they are subject to UK immigration control and work when they know, or have reasonable cause to believe, that they have no permission to do so.
As well as work under a contract of employment, the offence of illegal working also applies to self-employment, and covers both informal as well as formal working arrangements.
The new offence enables wages from illegal working to be seized as the proceeds of crime. In England and Wales, the offence carries a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.