UK Companies Are Still Employing Overseas Staff Illegally

by : Charles Kelly


UK bosses are still employing foreign staff without proper papers. Employers face fines of up ?2000 per illegal employee and a possible 2 year prison sentence for knowingly using or exploiting illegal workers.

Since writing on this subject for Immigration Matters last October I have received hundreds of enquiries from worried employers and workers. Whilst the vast majority of UK employers are law abiding, many are still unwittingly employing overseas staff illegally.

As an immigration adviser I have found that Care Home owners and managers continue to make the same mistakes with non-EU staff. Errors include:

Accepting invalid or expired Work Permits

Accepting a Work Permit issued for another employer

Employing someone without Further Leave to Remain (FLR)

Employing Students beyond the maximum permitted hours

Employing people with documents “tied up" at the Home Office

A common mistake I find occurs is when a care worker or nurse on a work permit leaves one employer to join another. In many cases the employee will simply present their passport (which apparently indicates they have a valid visa) and their National Insurance card.

The employer is not always aware that the visa or ‘Leave to Remain’ is tied to the work permit, which has been issued to their former employer and is, therefore, invalid.

Although the previous employer has a duty to inform the Home Office to cancel the work permit when someone leaves, this can be overlooked and the situation can go on undetected for years.

The CSCI will check your employee files for valid work permits and visas. A National Insurance number, P45 or P60 no longer provides an employer with statutory defence.

What are the employer’s responsibilities?

You must check and take reasonable steps to ensure that any potential employee is entitled to work in the UK. Steps include checking passports, visas stamps and where applicable valid work permits.

In the case of students, check the type of course they are undertaking. Most students can work up to 20 hours per week, but some ‘sandwich’ courses may allow them to work for longer.

Finally, where people have their passports and documents perpetually “tied up" at the Home Office, ask for further written proof of their eligibility to work or call the Home Office yourself.

This is obviously a complex subject and I suggest you take legal advice if in any doubt.

Where can employers find further information?

The Home Office publishes a guide on their website ( and also has an Employer Helpline 0845 010 6677. Copies of example visas and passport stamps can be viewed and downloaded from the site. The Home Office website is huge and finding the correct information can be difficult.

More user friendly information can also be found on the Business Link website ( in a section on “Employing People". Different rules apply to citizens of the new EU member states see Home Office site for information on the Worker Registration Scheme (WRS).

A number of employers, fed up with the constant changes in rules and the administrative burden in arranging work permits and visas, are now outsourcing the work to immigration advisers.

If you should have any questions or views you would like to express concerning Work Permit, Visa Extensions, Leave to Remain email Charles Kelly or call 020 905 1822.

I will be speaking at the Care Show on: “Are You Employing Staff Illegally?"

The Care Show (NEC, Birmingham 25th - 26th October 2006) –

I will be on the Guide2Care stand afterwards and hope to see you there.

For regular immigration updates see:

HOW 2 COME TO THE UK to Live Work Study or Visit by Charles Kelly & Cynthia Barker2005 ISBN 0-9546338-3-0.
Available from our website, leading bookstores and