8 Reasons to Appeal a Civil Penalty for Immigration


The ramifications of a civil penalty for immigration can extend far beyond a £20,000 fine.

When considering whether to object or appeal a civil penalty immigration notice for employing illegal workers, businesses should be aware of the possible consequences.

While these fines can be significant, recent cases show the cost of a civil penalty can be much higher than that.

Consequences of a civil penalty for illegal employment

  1. Financial penalties

The most obvious effect of a civil penalty for immigration is a fine of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. In 2014, the Government doubled the previous maximum fine of £10,000. Where a business has employed several illegal workers, these fines can be very significant.

If the employer has not received an official warning or civil penalty in the previous the years, the maximum penalty is reduced to £15,000.

If a business can provide evidence that other mitigating factors apply, this amount can be reduced, or wiped entirely.

  1. Immigration breaches are published

The Home Office names and shames offending businesses by publishing the details of the civil penalty on their website. This can damage the reputation of a business.

  1. Impact on future Home Office applications and sponsor licence

Civil penalties for immigration breaches are taken into account by the Home Office when considering any future applications a business might make.

It may also have an effect on an employer’s ability to sponsor Tier 2 migrants or hold a Gangmaster licence.

  1. Business licences may be revoked

Civil penalties have the potential to impact livelihoods and the ability to conduct business.

In a recent landmark case, East Lindsey District Council v Abu Hanif, the High Court ordered that a restaurant owner’s alcohol and late hours licence be revoked, after he received a civil penalty for employing illegal workers.

This ruling is now applicable to future licencing decisions.

  1. Disqualification of company directors

In several insolvency cases, directors have been disqualified because they have employed illegal workers.

In November 2014, a Birmingham foods-wholesaler went into liquidation. Subsequent investigations into the company revealed that on two occasions, illegal workers had been hired.

As a result, the sole director of the business was disqualified from acting as a director for seven years.

  1. No national insurance allowance

The 2016 Budget announced that from April 2017, employers who receive a civil penalty for immigration will not be eligible for the national insurance employment allowance for the following 12 months.

  1. Criminal Prosecution

Criminal prosecutions under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 are currently limited to those cases where it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that an employer knew the migrant did not have permission to work.

If enacted, the Immigration Bill 2015-2016, will extend criminal prosecution to any employers who knew or had reasonable cause to believe that an employee was working illegally.

The new legislation also extends the maximum term of imprisonment for committing the offence from two to five years.

Immigration officers will be given the power to arrest a person without a warrant where there is suspicion of an immigration offence.

  1. Temporary closure of businesses

If passed, the Immigration Bill will also grant the Chief Immigration Officer the power to issue a notice closing a business premises for 48 hours, if he or she is reasonably satisfied that the business has committed an immigration offence.

This power is limited to situations where an employer has previously been convicted of an illegal worker offence, or has received a civil penalty within the past three years, or has an unpaid civil penalty that was issued at any time.

Appeal a civil penalty for immigration

An employer who receives a civil penalty for immigration has the opportunity to object to the notice and provide further evidence that:

  • They are not liable because they did not employ an illegal worker;
  • They performed the required document checks on the illegal employee and therefore have a statutory excuse; or
  • The penalty is too high because mitigating factors were not properly taken into account.

If the result of the objection is unfavourable, there are further opportunities to appeal the decision in the County Court on similar grounds.

Given what is at stake, all civil penalties should be taken seriously. If a business determines to object or appeal a decision, these applications must be well prepared, with detailed submissions and supporting evidence.

For further information about appealing a civil penalty for immigration working, please contact us.


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

Contact DavidsonMorris
Get in touch with DavidsonMorris for general enquiries, feedback and requests for information.
Sign up to our award winning newsletters!
Find us on: