On 1st January 2021 the UK left the European Union and a new points-based immigration system was introduced. For those EEA, EU and Swiss nationals already resident in the UK on 31st December (and who were not already British citizens), a transition period enabled applications for settlement status. This period ends on 30th June 2021.
For others, the new points-based system offers a variety of routes for working visas to be granted. Employers wishing to use many of the routes on offer will need to become sponsors. Being a sponsor does carry some responsibilities, such as keeping evidence of every employee’s right to work documentation. Employing an illegal immigrant carries up to a potential £20K fine (per worker), which an employer may escape if they can show that they undertook reasonable checks.
Typical employment law pitfalls
Fake documents are common and employers should make reasonable efforts to verify that documents are genuine. Copies of evidence should be kept and signed ‘original seen’. Audits should be carried out once every 12 months, more frequently if a particular visa is set to expire sooner.
Some employers check only the documents for applicants who appear to be ‘foreign’. This can give rise to discrimination claims, which could have been avoided had the employer checked everyone’s details as a matter of routine.
Where a worker has a time bound permit to work it is important that employers do not allow employment to run beyond that date, unless an extension has been obtained. An employer will not have a defense against the charge of illegally employing a foreign national if they do not have and retain relevant copies of qualifying documentation proving the worker’s right to obtain employment in the UK.
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