Ad-hoc query on illegal working of migrants

22 (Member) States provided information on their practices regarding illegally working migrants, more precisely on whether this is considered a criminal offence and what possible sanctions they face. This query was launched by the British National Contact Point.

The UK Immigration Bill 2015/2016, which is currently being examined in Parliament, creates a new offence of illegal working, which will apply to migrants who are in the UK illegally and/or have no permission to work. The Bill also introduces new sanctions on illegal workers, as their earnings might be seized and they might be imprisoned for up to 6 months.

In order to inform the debate around this new Bill, the UK National Contact Point (UK NCP) launched an ad-hoc query in November 2015. This ad-hoc query provides a comparative overview of practices regarding illegally working migrants in 22 (Member) States: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United-Kingdom, Croatia and Norway. 

Main findings of this ad hoc query:

  • For the vast majority of (Member) States who responded to the query (including Belgium) it is not a criminal offence to work for migrants who are in the country illegally and/or have no permission to work (although it may be for an employer to employ someone who is not legally allowed to work). Only 6 (Member) States indicated that it could be a criminal offence for migrants to work in these circumstances (CY, SE, FI, NO, DE and UK).
  • For UK and Germany it was only a criminal offence in some cases, although in the UK provisions in the current Immigration Bill will make it an offence in all cases. In Germany illegal working may be a criminal offence when a person is present in the country illegally and works, not when they work while in possession of a residence permit that does not allow them to work.
  • For those (Member) States that answered the question, usual sanctions for illegal working (for both those where it is a criminal offence and those where it is not) were return to country of origin and or/fines of the employer and/or migrant.  Germany and Cyprus indicated that a person could in addition potentially be imprisoned for up to 12 months for working illegally. The UK will make it possible to imprison people who work illegally for up to 6 months as part of provisions in the Immigration Bill.

More detailed information can be found in the attached compilation of answers given by the 22 (Member) States.

Publication Date:
Thu 28 Jan 2016
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