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United Kingdom – Immigration Law Gets Tough on Illegals, Their Landlords and Employers

United Kingdom – Immigration Law Gets Tough on Illegals

This GMS Flash Alert reports on some of the key provisions in the new U.K. Immigration Act 2016 (“The Act”), which has received Royal Assent.


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Last week the new U.K. Immigration Act 2016 (“The Act”)1 received Royal Assent and the measures in the Act will come into force over the coming months. 

The Act2 introduces a series of reforms designed to further reduce illegal migration and makes it harder for those who have no right to be in the U.K. to live and work here.  The new measures make it an offence to employ illegal migrants.  The Act appears aimed at making sure only people (legally) living in the U.K. have access to services such as U.K. bank accounts and rental accommodation.3  It also strengthens the Home Office’s powers to remove illegal migrants.


Businesses intending to employ non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals to work in the U.K. will face greater challenges as tougher penalties and sanctions on illegal workers are introduced.  Employers will need to properly fulfill their duties and make sure that all new employees are entitled to work in the United Kingdom. 

The Act makes illegal working a criminal offence in its own right.  If found guilty of the offence, a custodial sentence of up to 51 weeks and/or a fine in England and Wales, and a custodial sentence of up to six months and/or a fine in Northern Ireland and Scotland can be imposed.  The Act also conveys power on the U.K authorities to close a business for up to 48 hours with further closures as directed by the courts if the employer cannot show it has carried out adequate right-to-work checks. 

New Powers Included in the Act

The Act includes a range of new powers:

Illegal Working – New sanctions on illegal workers are being introduced, including the new offence of illegal working.  Furthermore, the Act will impose a new immigration skills charge on businesses bringing non-EEA migrant labour into the United Kingdom.  The charge is currently expected to be £1,000 per year of the visa per main applicant. 


Employers will need to factor in the costs of the new Immigration Skills Charge when sending people to the United Kingdom. 

Access to Services – Illegal migrants in the U.K. will be blocked from access to housing, driving licenses, and bank accounts.  The Act also includes powers to prosecute landlords4 and agents who repeatedly fail to carry out right-to-rent checks, or fail to take steps to remove illegal migrants from their property.

Enforcement – Immigration enforcement officers have new powers to search individuals and properties and seize identity documents if they suspect someone to be in the U.K. illegally.  The Act also includes electronic tagging for foreign national offenders on immigration bail.  The government hopes that these changes will make it easier to enforce immigration laws and remove illegal migrants.

Tier Asylum – The Home Office will have discretion to restrict the support given to failed asylum seekers to those who are destitute and face a genuine obstacle to leaving the United Kingdom.  The Act also aims to resettle unaccompanied children impacted by the ongoing migration crisis.

English Language – The Act stipulates that there is no language barrier to British citizens accessing public services, which means that public sector workers who have customer-facing roles must speak fluent English. 


As a result of the changes in relation to illegal working, employers must conduct checks on all migrant workers to verify their right to work in the U.K., both as an initial step prior to employment, as well as follow-up checks for all workers with limited leave to remain in the United Kingdom.  Employers will need to make sure these checks are carried out correctly in order to rely on them as a defence to possible prosecution.  The Act makes it:

  • easier to prosecute employers that deliberately ‘turn a blind eye’ to employing illegal workers and sanctions tougher, and
  • tougher for people to live and work illegally in the United Kingdom. 


1 See the Home Office’s 13 May 2016 News Release “Immigration Bill receives Royal Assent.”   

2  For text of and documents relating to Immigration Act 2016, click.  

3  See our related report in GMS Flash Alert 2015-076 (16 June 2015).  

4  For our related report, see GMS Flash Alert 2015-129 (29 October 2015). 


For additional information or assistance, please contact your usual KPMG GMS or People Services professional or one of the following professionals with the KPMG International member firm in the United Kingdom:

Punam Birly

tel. +44 (0) 20 7694 4950


Paul Jones

tel. +44 (0) 20 7311 1475


Denise Osterwald

tel. +44 (0) 20 7694 2481


* Please note the KPMG International member firm in the United States does not provide immigration services. 

The information contained in this newsletter was submitted by the KPMG International member firm in the United Kingdom.

© 2021 KPMG LLP, a United Kingdom legal liability partnership and a member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity. All rights reserved.

Flash Alert is an Global Mobility Services publication of KPMG LLPs Washington National Tax practice. The KPMG logo and name are trademarks of KPMG International. KPMG International is a Swiss cooperative that serves as a coordinating entity for a network of independent member firms. KPMG International provides no audit or other client services. Such services are provided solely by member firms in their respective geographic areas. KPMG International and its member firms are legally distinct and separate entities. They are not and nothing contained herein shall be construed to place these entities in the relationship of parents, subsidiaries, agents, partners, or joint venturers. No member firm has any authority (actual, apparent, implied or otherwise) to obligate or bind KPMG International or any member firm in any manner whatsoever. The information contained in herein is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavor to provide accurate and timely information, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. No one should act on such information without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the particular situation.

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