How to avoid getting into hot water with the new immigration system

How to avoid getting into hot water with the new immigration system

It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that all their employees have a right to work in the UK. It has always been the case that businesses must check that their workers have immigration permission, but with the end of freedom of movement for European nationals it’s even more crucial that the right checks are being made.

Employers need to understand the regulations and compliance now that the implementation of the new UK immigration system has come into force. Fines, red tape, and impact on future abilities to recruit from overseas faces businesses that fail to adhere to the new system. 

So what are the changes and what steps must employers take in order to remain compliant? We’ll explore below:

When referring to EEA nationals, we mean to include EU and Swiss nationals as well.

Right to work checks

To prevent illegal working within the UK, right to work checks need to be done on each employee before they start service. If their right to work is temporary (a short-term visa), then another round of checks need to be completed before the allowance is due to come to an end.

If you know or suspect that your employee does not have immigration permission- it is a criminal offence and you have no defence. However, if you are unaware that this person does not have a right to work then it is a civil offence for which there is a defence.

How do I check a candidate’s right to work?

Passports and national identity cards held by EEA nationals are no longer acceptable as proof of right to work in the UK. A candidate must prove that they’ve been granted status through the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) or another immigration category. Currently this can be done using an online check, and most will not have physical documentation.

What you need to do:

  • From 01 July 2021, for all EEA national applicants please request their settlement status. Ensure you are up-to-date with current government guidelines by referring to

  • Make sure you have reliable document checking systems in order to carry out right to work checks.

  • Consistent and comprehensive right to work checking procedures must be in place and your staff must be fully trained to follow these.

  • Checks on physical documents still need to be completed for UK and Irish nationals- they can use their passport as proof of right to work.

  • You must keep a record and evidence of carrying out right to work checks for the duration of their employment and for a further two years after employment has ceased.

  • Prepare yourself for further changes as there are likely to be revisions to the immigration policy in the coming months.

What happens if I don’t follow the appropriate checks?

If you are found to be employing someone illegally and they haven’t undergone the necessary check the repercussions include:

  • A penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker.

  • Closure of your business and a court-issued compliance order.

  • Barring of ability to sponsor or employ migrants.

  • A criminal conviction with a prison sentence of up to five years, and an unlimited fine.