Received a Civil Penalty under the Immigration Act?

sponsor licence revoked


If your business has received a Civil Penalty under the Immigration Act, it is important to seek legal advice early on the options open to you. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to negotiate a reduction in the amount you owe, or you may have grounds to mount a successful appeal to cancel the fine.

The Home Office also has the power to increase the level of the original penalty at the appeal stage – so it is important to proceed with an objection only where you are confident in the merit of your challenge following professional advice.


What is a Civil Penalty under the Immigration Act?

All UK employers must by law – under Section 15 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 – ensure all employees have relevant permissions to work lawfully in the UK by conducting effective Right to Work checks. Through the civil penalty regime, the Home Office has powers to fine those employers that are in breach of the regulations.

Where businesses are found to be in breach of their immigration duties, a civil penalty for illegal employment may be served. Civil penalty fines for illegal working now start from £45,000 per illegal worker for a first breach, and up to £60,000 for repeat breaches.


The Impact of a Civil Penalty Notice can be far-reaching

As well as the obligation to pay a hefty fine, a civil penalty for illegal employment may result in:

  • Criminal prosecution
  • Enforced debt action
  • County Court judgment
  • Sponsor Licence revocation
  • Adverse impact on the ability to obtain future credit
  • Disqualification of company directors
  • Inclusion on the Home Office’s civil penalty offender list
  • Bad press, reputational harm and a resulting hit on profits
  • Business forced to cease trading


Objecting to a Civil Penalty for Illegal Employment

If your business has been served a civil penalty under the Immigration Act, you may wish to consider your options to challenge the fine, not least to limit the financial, operational and reputational impact.

The appeals process is, however, complex, and you have a limited amount of time to weigh up the pros and cons and make a decision based on the options open to you.


You’ve been issued a civil penalty – what do you do next?

If you have been served a civil penalty for illegal employment, you will have three options:

  • Object against the civil penalty
  • Accept the fine and request to the Home Office to set up a payment plan
  • Accept the penalty and pay the fine in full

You must respond to the notice within the 28-day deadline. The Home Office is strict in enforcing this timeframe, and there is no option for an extension.


We can help

As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, DavidsonMorris has an established reputation for leading successful appeals against civil penalty notices on behalf of UK businesses.

The approach you take should be dependent on your organisation’s circumstances and the level of the civil penalty notice you have received. We have the experience to advise you on the options open to you for appealing a civil penalty notice for illegal employment.

We provide a fixed-fee assessment at the preliminary penalty stage and if you have been served a civil penalty, enabling you to determine which option will result in minimal financial loss for your business. Contact us for specialist guidance.

Last updated: 16 February 2024


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 500 and 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.

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