The Government’s plans to reform immigration laws gained momentum this month with the passing of the Immigration Act 2016 (Commencement No.1) Regulations 2016. The Regulations set out a variety of changes outlined in the Immigration Act 2016 which are due to come into force on 12 July 2016.
The main changes which concern employers are contained in Section 34 and 35. Section 34 creates a new offence of illegal working and allows the Government to seize the earnings of illegal workers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Section 35 extends the current offence of knowingly employing an illegal worker, breach of which carries a penalty of two years’ imprisonment at present. The new offence will operate where an employer has reasonable cause to believe that a person is an illegal worker and will carry a penalty of five years’ imprisonment.
In addition to the above, the Immigration Act 2016 sets out a number of new powers and penalties which are not yet in force and do not have a commencement date. For example, it is expected that from April 2017 the Secretary of State will have the power to introduce an immigration skills charge on employers who sponsor skilled workers from outside of the European Economic Area. It is also expected that public authorities will be required to ensure that employees in customer-facing roles speak fluent English.