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Foreign nationals


Organisations are placed under a legal duty to prevent illegal working and can be subjected to penalties where they fail to do so. A criminal offence will be committed where an organisation employs an individual and they have ‘reasonable cause to believe’ they do not have the right to work in the UK.

To gain a statutory excuse against a civil penalty fine of up to £20,000 per worker, organisations are advised to carry out right-to-work checks in accordance with the Home Office’s three-step checking process. Organisations are encouraged to make offers of employment conditional upon the provision of satisfactory right-to-work documentation to ensure they secure the statutory excuse.  

Organisations may also require a sponsorship licence to sponsor migrant workers from outside the EEA, and Switzerland, under the points-based visa system. Specific requirements will have to be met to achieve a licence and sponsor organisations will have to meet sponsorship duties, including keeping records and complying with immigration laws.  

Before sponsoring certain migrants under the Tier system, organisations will have to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test to find a suitable settled worker for the role, or pay an Immigration Skills Charge for each certificate of sponsorship.

This area of employment law may be subject to future changes dependent on the ongoing Brexit negotiations. More information on Brexit can be found here.

Future developments

Immigration Health Surcharge fees to double

Non-EEA and Swiss nationals who apply for a visa entitling them to live and work in the UK for a period of more than six months are required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge for themselves, and any dependants.

The current rates of the surcharge are £150 per year for a student or Tier 5 visa and £200 per year for all other applications. From December 2018, these rates will double for all applications.

More information on this issue can be found in our in-depth section on the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Pilot visa scheme for non-EU farm workers

After Britain has left the EU, expected to take place on 29 March 2019, the government will operate a pilot visa scheme for non-EU agricultural workers to avoid the risk that Brexit will lead to an agricultural labour shortage.

Under the pilot scheme, a maximum number of 2,500 non-EU workers will be entitled to a six-month visa each year. The workers will be recruited by two authorised agencies to carry out work on fruit and vegetable farms in the UK. The pilot will operate from spring 2019 until the end of 2020.

The pilot scheme does not affect the right for EU workers to move to the UK during the transition period.

More information on Brexit, and the potential implications, can be found on our employment law page.