The Latest on Right to Work Checks and Illegal Workers

Thomas Chase Immigration - St Paul's

On 12 July, the Home Office published updated guidance for employers to following the commencement of illegal working provisions.

The law on preventing illegal working is set out in sections 15 to 25 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (the 2006 Act) and sections 24 and 24B of the Immigration Act 1971. On 12 July 2016, sections 34 and 35 of the Immigration Act 2016 (the 2016 Act) were commenced.

Section 34 of the 2016 Act amends the Immigration Act 1971 by inserting a new offence of illegal working (section 24B). Section 35 amends section 21 of the 2006 Act sets out the criminal offence of employing a worker with no legal entitlement to do so in the UK.

Background

Employers continue to have a duty to prevent illegal working in the UK. Employers are expected to do so by carrying out prescribed document checks on candidates before employing them to ensure they are lawfully allowed to work. For employees with time-limited permission to work in the UK, employers are expected to carry out more regular and time appropriate checks. See my earlier article on right to work document checks: Click hereBy adhering to the prescribed right to work checks, an employer will have a statutory excuse and may not have to pay a civil penalty should they be found to have employed an illegal worker.

Illegal workers include but are not limited to:

  • Students with expired visas, or students working more hours than they’re allowed to
  • People who work on a visitor’s visa
  • Those carrying out roles and functions not listed on their visa

The offence of illegal working is detailed as follows:

With effect from 12 July 2016, under section 24B of the 1971 Act (as inserted by section 34 of the 2016 Act), a person commits the offence of illegal working if he is:

  • Subject to immigration control and works when disqualified from doing so by reason of his immigration status; and
  • At the time, he knows or has reasonable cause to believe that he is disqualified from working by reason of his immigration status.

A person has been disqualified by reason of his immigration status if:

  • He has not been granted leave to enter or remain in the UK; or
  • His leave to enter or remain in the UK:
    • is invalid
    • has ceased to have effect (whether by reason of curtailment, revocation, cancellation, passage of time, or otherwise), or
    • is subject to a condition preventing the person from doing work of that kind.

What does this actually mean in practice?

An employer may commit the offence of employing an illegal worker if they employ a person who does not have permission to work in the UK and, more importantly, the employer knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the person has no right to do the work in question.

As a result, the employer can no longer evade prosecution where the investigating body cannot prove that the employer knew that the employee had no permission to work. The amended offence enables employers to be prosecuted where they have reasonable cause to believe that the employee could not undertake the employment, even where they have perhaps deliberately ignored information or circumstances that would have caused the employer to know that the employee lacked permission to work.

The new offence attempts to close some loopholes that existed. Further, the provisions no longer apply to employees only, but also to apprenticeships and the self-employed.

Penalties

Employers suspected of employing an illegal worker will be issued with a ‘referral notice’ informing them that:

  • The matter is being considered
  • Outlining the possible penalties. That is an unlimited fine (also known as a ‘civil penalty’) for each illegal worker

An employer may avoid a fine where they can demonstrate that they carried out the correct right to work checks. This highlights again how important it is for employers to not only make proper checks but also to retain records of those right to work checks.

Once the matter has been investigated and the employer is found to be liable for employing an illegal worker, the employer may be served with a civil penalty. The employer will then be given 28 days to respond, make payment as detailed in the notice or lodge an appeal. Not only that, but the employer may find their business details and results of the civil penalty notice made public.

For the individual concerned, should they be found to have worked without permission, their wages can be seized as if it were the proceeds of crime and they may face imprisonment and removal from the UK.

Conclusion

It cannot be stressed enough the need for businesses to seek immigration advice at the earliest to ensure that they are meeting (or continuing to meet) their legal obligations when employing workers. If done properly, employers can get on with their primary concern, running and growing their business. Fail to carry out correct right to work checks and an employer can find themselves facing severe penalties, including crippling fines, imprisonment and possible reputational damage. Given the penalties and government’s appetite for managing immigration issues, the costs of securing legal advice to ensure compliance far outweigh the risks of employing an illegal worker.

7 Changes to Tier 2 That You Need To Be Aware Of

The UK Government recently announced fundamental changes to the Tier 2 categories.

In 2015, the government had commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the Tier 2 immigration categories. The MAC were specifically requested to advise on how to make the Tier 2 criteria more robust yet flexible enough to allow key skills shortages to be met within the UK.

Having considered MAC’s recommendations and in March 2016 announced key changes to Tier 2.

Here are 7 changes that HR professionals need to be aware of:

  1. Tier 2 (General) threshold to increase

From the autumn 2016, the Tier 2 (General) salary thresholds for experienced workers will be increased to £25,000 per annum. A further increase of £5,000 to £30,000 will apply from April 2017 onwards. The Government announced that some health and education professionals will be exempt from the higher threshold until July 2019. The minimum threshold of £20,800 for new entrants will be maintained.

Nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin will be exempt from the new salary threshold.nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin from the new salary threshold.

  1. Tier 2 ICT salary threshold

From autumn 2016, the minimum salary threshold for the Tier 2 ICT Short Term category will be £30,000 per annum. Tier 2 ICT Graduates will see the salary threshold decrease from £24,800 to £23,000 per annum.

For those Tier 2 ICT transferees looking to reside and work in the UK for between 5 and 9 and who are classed as higher earners, will see the annual salary threshold requirement fall from £155,300 to £120,000.

  1. Changes to Tier 2 ICT categories

The current intra-company transfer (ICT) provisions will be simplified by requiring all intra-company transferees to qualify under a single visa category. From autumn 2016, the Tier 2 ICT Skills Transfer category will no longer be available to new applicants. From April 2017, the Tier 2 ICT Short Term visa route will also be closed to new applicants. This will no doubt present problems for larger companies that currently transfer overseas employees to the UK to gain or impart knowledge for the benefit of the wider organization.

  1. Immigration Health Surcharge

Currently, the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) applies to the Tier 2 (General) category and not Tier 2 ICTs. This will change from autumn 2016, when all Tier 2 ICTs will be required to pay the IHS.

  1. Tier 2 ICT pre-qualifying period

At present, all Tier 2 ICTs must have been employed within the company for 12 months prior to the UK assignment. From April 2017, this requirement will be removed for all Tier 2 ICT applicants in receipt of over £73,900 per annum.

  1. Immigration Skills Charge

The Government recognizes that there is immediate skills gap in the UK particularly in some sectors on one hand. On the other hand, the Government wants The The to ‘incentivize’ businesses to reduce their reliance on overseas workers and instead invest in training and up-skilling UK workers. To help achieve this, an Immigration Skills Charge will be levied on Tier 2 sponsors at the sum of £1,000 per Certificate of Sponsorship issued per year.

Such a sum will prove eye watering to many employers especially small A reduced rate of £364 will apply to small and charitable sponsors, as defined by Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations. PhD level occupations, the Intra Company Transfer Graduate Trainee category, and those switching from a Tier 4 student visa to a Tier 2 visa will be exempt.businesses. Therefore, a reduced rate of £364 will apply to small and charitable sponsors.

Exemptions will apply to PhD level occupations, Tier 2 ICT Graduate Trainees, and applicants switching from Tier 4 student visas to a Tier 2 visa.A reduced rate of £364 will apply to small and charitable sponsors, as defined by Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations. PhD level occupations, the Intra Company Transfer Graduate Trainee category, and those switching from a Tier 4 student visa to a Tier 2 visa will be exempt.

  1. Nurses

Fortunately, nurses will remain on the Shortage Occupation List, but employers will need to carry out a resident labour market test before recruiting a non-EEA nurse.

Fortunately, nurses will remain on the Shortage Occupation List.  That said, HR professionals and employers will need to carry out a resident labour market test before recruiting a nurse from outside of the UK and EU.

What hasn’t changed?

With so many changes to the Tier 2 provisions, HR professionals and businesses may be pleased to hear that they may continue to recruit non-EEA graduates from UK universities without having to first conduct a resident labour market and without being subject to the annual limit on Tier 2 (General) places.

Further, Tier 2 (General) places will remain at 20,700 places per year.

Contact Thomas Chase Immigration for more information of the changes to the Tier 2 category and how they may impact upon you and your business.

3 Simple Steps to Confident Right to Work Checks

Thomas Chase Immigration - Right to Work Checks

Right to Work checks can cause HR professionals and businesses no end of stress. Get it wrong and the Home Office can impose heavy (and sometimes crippling) fines or civil penalties of £20,000 per unlawfully employed person. A sponsor licence can be suspended and then there is the reputational damage and at worse, criminal convictions of up to 5 years for serious offenders.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Immigration Officers have the power to effectively close business operations for up to 48 hours. It’s not uncommon for HR professionals to confess that they are absolutely scared of getting this wrong and that hiring nationals from outside of the UK and EU can cause a sense of nervousness.

Yet finding a fantastic applicant to fill a key skills gap is a cause for celebration. The fact that the applicant has signed the employment contract and turned up for their first day of work is credit to the company and should be the start of an amazing journey together between employer and potential employee.

So how can HR professionals feel confident about the Right to Work checks? I advise them to follow these 3 simple steps:

  1. Obtain
  2. Check
  3. Copy and Retain.

Obtain

The key here is documents, documents, documents. Whilst the Home Office has placed a legal obligation on employers and HR professionals to check that the applicant has a right to legally work in the UK before the applicant starts working, the Home Office has also provided a list of original documents that it believes properly evidences such entitlements.

Those documents are partitioned into ‘Lists’ according to the current immigration status of the applicant.

List A Documents

Where an applicant has a permanent right to work in the UK, HR professionals may accept any documents from List A. The documents must be seen in their original format and must be obtained prior to the applicant starting their employment with the company.

As the applicant has a permanent right to reside and work in the UK, HR professionals will not need to conduct any further Right to Work checks for that applicant.

The company will have also established a continuous statutory excuse throughout that time. As a result, if for some reason, the applicant was later found not to have a permanent right to work in the UK, the employing company will have an excuse in law against liability for a civil penalty.

List A documents include:

1. A passport showing the holder, or a person named in the passport as the child of the holder, is a British citizen or a citizen of the UK and Colonies having the right of abode in the UK
2. A passport or national identity card showing the holder, or a person named in the passport as the child of the holder, is a national of a European Economic Area country or Switzerland
3. A Registration Certificate or Document Certifying Permanent Residence issued by the Home Office, to a national of a European Economic Area country or Switzerland
4. A Permanent Residence Card issued by the Home Office, to the family member of a national of a European Economic Area country or Switzerland
5. A current Biometric Immigration Document (Biometric Residence Permit) issued by the Home Office to the holder indicating that the person named is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK, or has no time limit on their stay in the UK.
6. A current passport endorsed to show that the holder is exempt from immigration control, is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK, has the right of abode in the UK, or has no time limit on their stay in the UK
7. A current Immigration Status Document issued by the Home Office to the holder with an endorsement indicating that the named person is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK or has no time limit on their stay in the UK, together with an official document giving the person’s permanent National Insurance number and their name issued by a Government agency or a previous employer
8. A full birth or adoption certificate issued in the UK which includes the name(s) of at least one of the holder’s parents or adoptive parents, together with an official document giving the person’s permanent National Insurance number and their name issued by a Government agency or a previous employer
9. A birth or adoption certificate issued in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland, together with an official document giving the person’s permanent National Insurance number and their name issued by a Government agency or a previous employer
10. A certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen, together with an official document giving the person’s permanent National Insurance number and their name issued by a Government agency or a previous employer

List B Documents

Where an applicant has a limited right to work in the UK, List A documents will not be appropriate. Instead, HR professionals may accept documents within the List B class of documents. Again, the documents must be seen in their original format and accepted prior to the commencement of employment.

Follow-up Right to Work checks will be required due to the temporary nature of the applicant’s stay in the UK. Further checks will normally be required when the employee’s temporary permission to be in the UK has expired and been renewed.

Documents in this category are divided into 2 groups.

List B – Group 1

1. A current passport endorsed to show that the holder is allowed to stay in the UK and is currently allowed to do the type of work in question
2. A current Biometric Residence Permit endorsed to show that the holder is allowed to stay in the UK and is currently allowed to do the type of work in question
3. A current Residence Card (including an Accession Residence Card or a Derivative Residence Card) issued by the Home Office  to a non-European Economic Area national who is a family member of a national of a European Economic Area country or Switzerland or who has a derivative right of residence
4. A current Immigration Status Document containing a photograph issued by the Home Office to the holder with a valid endorsement indicating that the named person may stay in the UK, and is allowed to do the type of work in question, together with an official document giving the person’s permanent National Insurance number and their name issued by a Government agency or a previous employer

Here, HR professionals have a time-limited statutory excuse which expires when the employee’s permission to be in the UK expires. Follow-up checks will need to be carried out when the document evidencing their permission to work expires.

List B – Group 2

1. A Certificate of Application issued by the Home Office under regulation 17(3) or 18A (2) of the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, to a family member of a national of a European Economic Area country or Switzerland stating that the holder is permitted to take employment which is less than 6 months old together with a Positive Verification Notice from the Home Office Employer Checking Service.
2. An Application Registration Card issued by the Home Office stating that the holder is permitted to take the employment in question, together with a Positive Verification Notice from the Home Office Employer Checking Service.
3. A Positive Verification Notice issued by the Home Office Employer Checking Service to the employer or prospective employer, which indicates that the named person may stay in the UK and is permitted to do the work in question

For List B – Group 2, HR professionals have a time-limited statutory excuse against liability which expires 6 months from the date specified in the Positive Verification Notice. HR professionals should therefore carry out a follow-up check when this notice expires.

Check

Once the documents have been obtained, HR professionals must check that the documents are:

  • Genuine; and
  • The applicant presenting the documents  is the rightful holder; and
  • The applicant is allowed to do the type of work detailed in their employment contract and Certificate of Sponsorship, where applicable.

It’s worth noting that the Home Office do not expect HR professionals to be forgery or immigration experts. However, there are some common sense questions that HR professionals should ask themselves when checking documents:

1. Does the photograph on the document match the appearance of the person before you? For instance, the document may be genuine but the applicant in front of you may not be entitled to it.
2. Does the document appear to be genuine? Does it appear to have been tampered with? Again, expertise in forgery is not necessary but you will be amazed at the spelling mistakes some forgers make with the names of countries and the word ‘Embassy’.

For some EU documents that differ from one European country to the next, it can be difficult to determine which document is genuine and which is not? If presented with an EU document and you are not sure if it is genuine, I recommend making a quick visit to PRADO – Public Register of Authentic travel and identity Documents Online at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/prado/en/prado-start-page.html which is a great source of information in such instances.

3. Is the date of birth consistent with the appearance of the person in front of you? If not, further documents may need to be provided.
4. Does the applicant still have valid leave to be in the UK? If the document evidencing their leave has expired, evidence should be sought and verified to establish if an application has been submitted to the Home Office for further leave to stay in the UK.
5. Are there any work restrictions on the applicant’s ability to carry out the work stated in their employment contract? For instance, some students may take up employment though there may be restrictions placed on term-time employment.
6. Still have doubts? Have you checked the reasons for any differences in names across documents? Such doubts need to be handled with care so as to prevent the employer/ employee relationship getting off to a bad start. There may be a plausible explanation for discrepancies which can be reasonably addressed by way of, for instance, inspection of an original marriage certificate, divorce decree, deed poll. If so, supporting documents will need to be photocopied and a copy kept on file.

Copy and Retain

The applicant has provided their documents, the documents appear to be in order and the applicant has valid leave to be in the UK and can perform the duties required.

The final step to key. In order to demonstrate that the Right to Work checks have been properly carried out and prevent and liability against a civil penalty, HR professionals are advised to photocopy and retain the documents. This administrative area is where companies tend to fall short in their immigration responsibilities.

When photocopying documents, it is advisable to make a clear copy of each document. The copy should be one that cannot be altered and there needs to be a note made of date that the checks took place.

The copy of the document will need to be obtained in the personnel files either electronically or in hard copy.

For passports, HR professionals need not photocopy the whole documents, just the pages which contain details of the document expiry date, nationality, date of birth, signature, leave expiry date, biometric details and photograph, information showing the applicant’s entitlement to be in the UK and ability to undertake the work detailed in the employment contract. For other documents, it may be necessary to copy the document in full. For example, both sides of a Biometric Residence Permit and Marriage Certificate demonstrating a change in name.

Conclusion

By taking the above steps of Obtain, Check, Copy and Retain, HR professionals should find Right to Work checks to be less complex and less difficult to carry out. If in doubt, seek expert immigration advice!

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families.

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