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Civil Penalty for Illegal Immigration

Businesses that are found to have employed workers illegally could face a Civil Penalty under the Immigration Act. This is a fine issued by the Home Office that can lead to a liability of up to £20,000 per unlawfully employed migrant worker.

If your business has been issued with a Civil Penalty Notice under the Immigration Act, it’s essential to seek expert legal advice. WH Solicitors are specialists in providing clear guidance and support to organisations that face Civil Penalties and have a long history of successfully challenging penalties imposed by the Home Office.

Speak with our expert solicitors today to avoid or dispute a Civil Penalty Notice to the Home Office.


Civil Penalties under the Immigration Act – The Law

Civil Penalties are fines that can be issued by the Home Office under Prevention of Illegal Working legislation. They are imposed against firms who are discovered to have employed a person who does not have the legal right to work in the UK and can total up to £20,000 per breach.

Businesses can establish a statutory excuse if they have conducted compliant right to work checks on their employees, however failing to do so can lead to further investigation from the Home Office following the issuance of a Referral Notice. The outcome of this referral could lead to a Civil Penalty Notice, a Warning Notice, or a No Action Notice. Persistent or serious breaches involving right to work checks could result in the suspension of revocation of a worker sponsor licence if the organisation concerned holds one.

Civil penalty notices are issued when the Home Office has reason to believe that a business has employed one or more individuals who do not have the legal right to work in the UK, or who have breached the conditions of their leave to remain in the UK. The Civil Penalty Notice will set out the fine to be paid and the date by which it must be settled, along with information about how to object.


What are the consequences of a Civil Penalty Notice?

A Civil Penalty Notice could have far-reaching implications for your business, not least due to the financial element of the Notice. Fines for unlawfully employing migrant workers can reach up to £20,000 per illegal employee, but you may also attract criminal liability and even a prison sentence.

Beyond this, you may damage your business’s relationship with the Home Office through inclusion on their civil penalty offender list. You may also have a sponsor licence revoked, face action to disqualify company directors, and suffer from significant reputational harm.

The amount a business must pay will depend on whether the Home Office believes there are any mitigating factors that act in its favour. These might include where a business:

  • has reported its suspicions about an employee’s right to work to the Home Office;
  • has a history of proactive cooperation with the Home Office, including during any investigation relating to the matter in issue;
  • can demonstrate that it has effective and compliant right to work checking practices in place, has reported any suspicions to the Home Office, and has been cooperative throughout the investigation process.

In the case of the last mitigating factor, a business that can effectively demonstrate that it has acted in accordance with its duties may have its Civil Penalty Notice downgraded to a Warning Notice and no payment will be due.


What are your options?

If you have been served with a Civil Penalty Notice under the Immigration Act, it may be possible to challenge the fine. The appeals process can be complex and the limited timeframe in which you must respond mean it is important to seek specialist advice from an immigration lawyer as soon as possible.

To object to a Civil Penalty, it’s necessary for the business involved to file an Objection Form with the Home Office within the specified 28 days of receiving the Notice. Objections can only be lodged on certain grounds, for instance where the information relied on to issue the penalty is incorrect. Supporting evidence should always be supplied alongside the form to support the case.

Civil Penalty Objections can result in any one of a number of outcomes, including:

  • a Warning Notice;
  • the upholding of the Civil Penalty;
  • a penalty reduction;
  • an increased penalty; or
  • the cancellation of the penalty.

In cases where an objection is denied, the employer can appeal to the County Court – and must do so within 28 days of the decision.


We Can Help

If you have been issued a Civil Penalty Notice under the Immigration Act, it’s important to seek out expert legal advice.

Our specialist immigration lawyers provide clear and unambiguous guidance that will help you to protect your business interests. We have extensive experience of challenging Home Office and UKVI decisions, and regularly represent clients in front of the courts.

In many cases, we are able to successfully object to fines issued by the Home Office and have a strong track record in helping our clients to satisfy the requirements for a statutory excuse.

For help dealing with a Civil Penalty Notice, contact our team today by calling (+44) 01483 608 786 or by emailing contact@whsolicitors.co.uk.

Civil Penalties for Illegal Immigration


A Civil Penalty is a fine issued by the Home Office to businesses who are found to have employed an individual who does not have the legal right to work in the UK. Civil Penalties are issued under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006.

The amount businesses must pay as a fine for a Civil Penalty Notice varies depending on the circumstances. The maximum fine is £20,000 per unlawfully employed individual, however mitigating factors may reduce this amount.

Yes – businesses that wish to appeal must first file an objection to the Civil Penalty with the Home Office. If the Civil Penalty is upheld, the employer can then appeal to the County Court.

Organisations usually have 28 days to respond to a Civil Penalty Notice from the Home Office. It is not possible to extend this timeframe.

The contents of this webpage are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to constitute legal advice. All information is correct as of the date of publication, and any individual or organisation should be careful to seek qualified advice from a specialist immigration lawyer before acting on any of the topics referenced by this content.