Generally speaking, employers who wish to employ a migrant worker from a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA) must acquire a licence as a sponsor from the Border Agency, part of the Home Office. The Government places annual limits on the amount of people permitted to come to the UK to work, and requires sponsors of migrant workers to maintain adequate records and HR systems which it may inspect to ensure there is no abuse of the system.
Even where a prospective employee or worker comes from a country within the EEA, there may be some restrictions on their freedom to work.
Some employees may have the right to work in the UK as the dependant of an EU national. Where the right to work is restricted in time, the employer must ensure that checks are conducted regularly so that the right to work is not lost.
An employer who does not have the correct paperwork available for inspection by the Border Agency may be liable for a fine of up to £10,000 per illegal worker, and subject to criminal proceedings. However, it is also important that prospective employees are not treated in a way that is potentially discriminatory on the grounds of race (including nationality), so employers must ensure they have a robust system, which is applicable and fair to all candidates, when checking the right to work in the UK.