The consequences of non-compliance are very serious, and the penalties that can be imposed are potentially severe, as follows:
- On-the-spot fines of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker
- A maximum 5-year prison sentence and/or an unlimited fine if illegal workers are employed knowingly, or when there was a reasonable cause to believe that they did not have the right to work
- Downgrading of the University’s sponsor licence to a B rating (partially compliant) with subsequent timed action plan to regain A status, and further regular compliance visits to the same, and other, departments
- Withdrawal of the University's sponsor licence, as a result of which the University would no longer be able to employ workers from overseas and all sponsored visa holders would have to leave the University and the UK
In the first five weeks following the introduction of the new points-based system, fines totalling £10 million were issued to employers. This is a clear indication of the Home Office’s readiness to check compliance and act accordingly.
Other consequences of non-compliance
Apart from the fines and risk of imprisonment, failure of any one department or college to comply with the regulations potentially risks the expulsion of all sponsored visa holders (staff and students) in the whole University.
In addition, the Home Office has a specific policy on the publication of non-compliant employer details. They have a ‘name and shame’ policy and publish a list of all non-compliant employers on their website. This list is readily accessible to the national and international press. This represents a potentially serious threat to the reputation of any non-compliant department or college, as well as the reputation of the University as a whole.
The need to ensure compliance cannot be over-emphasised.