New proposals outlined in the upcoming Immigration Bill say people who work illegally in Britain and Wales will face up to six months in prison.
Small businesses which employ illegal migrants will also be targeted, as the bill will punish local convenience shops and takeaway restaurants. Those found to be employing illegal workers and could end up losing their licences.
Officials are also deliberating over whether this provision should encompass minicab drivers and operators too.
The bill is due to be introduced in the autumn, and penalties will cover unlimited fines as well as wages potentially being seized.
Immigration minister James Brokenshire said the government “would continue to crack down on abuse” of the system.
He added that “anyone who thinks the UK is a soft touch should be in no doubt – if you are here illegally, we will take action to stop you from working, renting a flat, opening a bank account or driving a car.”
Legal defence for other types of businesses found to be using illegal workers will also change, as they won’t be able to claim they didn’t know an employee wasn’t allowed to work. Employers will have to show they carried out proper checks before taking on these workers.
The Conservatives will be extending the maximum sentence for employers found guilty – raising it from two to five years, in addition to the already existing fines.
Brokenshire said: “As a one nation government we will continue to crack down on abuse and built an immigration system that works in the best interests of the British people and those who play by the rules.”
He had previously promised that businesses employing illegal workers would be hit with “the full force of government machinery”, as they were denying UK citizens jobs and serving to drive down wages while gaining an “unfair advantage”.
This would mark the latest in a new raft of measures introduced by the government in the bill – after a recent announcement that landlords will be expected to evict tenants who lose the right to live in the UK.
Landlords will be able to end tenancies – on some occasions without a court order – when asylum requests fail, and will be required to check a migrant’s status in advance of agreeing a lease, with repeat offenders facing up to five years in prison.
Earlier this month, The Times reported immigration officers would be targeting three sectors of the economy – construction, care and cleaning in the autumn, in an effort to target rogue firms. Enforcement teams are to conduct hundreds of raids, intending to create a “hostile environment” for illegal migration.
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