Working Illegally In The US, Canada, Australia And The UK

Amy Smith / 8 min read
You can be considered to be working illegally in a country in several ways, whether it’s the wrong visa, an expired visa or no visa at all as well as those who have entered the country illegally or lied on an application. Regardless, it is not recommended at all since the penalties for working illegally (as well as illegal immigration) can be harsh, particularly in the current political climate.
You can be considered to be working illegally in a country in several ways, whether it’s the wrong visa, an expired visa or no visa at all as well as those who have entered the country illegally or lied on an application. Regardless, it is not recommended at all since the penalties for working illegally (as well as illegal immigration) can be harsh, particularly in the current political climate. For many, working illegally can feel like an only option but it can almost always cause more problems than it solves and can put yourself, and your status at risk. We look at four specific countries and their policies to see how many and what happens to illegal workers in each country. 

In 2015 there were an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US with over half coming from Mexico and a rise of immigrants coming from Central America and Asia. Approximately 8 million of these were working or looking for work illegally. 

Anyone in the US who is not a foreign national that carries out work must obtain a work visa, without one, here are some of the consequences you can be looking at: 

  • False statements at the border (i.e. saying you aren’t going to work and do, or over staying visas/getting the incorrect visas) carries a banishment term from the US for 5 years and will almost definitely hinder future applications. 
  • Being caught working in the US illegally for less than a year carries a 3 to 5 year deportation and banishment from the US. 
  • Being caught working in the US illegally for more than a year carries up to 10 years banishment from the US. 
  • In some cases, if you enter the country illegally as well as working illegally you can spend up to 4 years in prison before returning home. 
*The only way to reverse a banishment from the US is to get an official pardon and in most cases, you cannot apply for a visa during this time. 

Within the current political administration under Trump harsher laws and policies are coming into effect that not only make it more difficult to enter the country illegally but impose harsher sentences if you do. Border control is tighter and more of an emphasis is being placed on finding those who have entered and work in the US illegally. This means that you are more likely to face a harsher or maximum sentence than you were several years ago under a different administration. 

Canada is another country that is difficult to identify the number of illegal immigrants, partly because of the US-Canadian border but the number is believed to be around 75,000 offenders that they are aware of who have overstayed their visas. 

If you are found to be working illegally in Canada you will be under an exclusion order for up to a year meaning you have to leave Canada for a year, after which you can apply for another visa (although your application will certainly be hindered.) However, in more serious cases you can be deported and this means you will permanently be denied entry to Canada in the future. 

From and employer standpoint, those who hire illegal workers in Canada can face up to 2 years in prison and a penalty of up to $50,000 as well as loss of license or permits for certain industries. 

In June this year, the Australian Immigration department released figures identifying over 64,000 illegal immigrants that they are aware of, mostly who have overstayed their visas and not returned to their home countries. It is believed that a third of this are working with those from Malaysia and China being the main offenders. 

Breaching your visa terms or working illegally in Australia faces massive fines, deportation and generally denied re-entry into the country (at the least you are unlikely to get another visa.) You also receive a stamp on your passport that shows you have been deported and this could hinder visa applications for other countries as well. Generally speaking, if caught you are detained, your wages are confiscated and you will be sent back to your home country unless you can prove you were exploited e.g. sold into slavery, forced into sexual work or against your will. 

It is also important to note that for employers hiring illegal workers they can be fined up to $60,000 and face up to 2 years in prison PER hired illegal worker.

It is difficult to identify the actual figure of illegal immigrants who have come to the UK but the latest figure estimates that it is around 550,000 with it increasing each year with over half of these working or seeking work. In a bid to deal with this, illegal immigrants could face six months in prison before being deported as well as a fine (which there is no set limit for.) Authorities are also allowed to confiscate wages as evidence and considered the proceeds of a crime under law meaning you could have your finances removed before jail time. 

Also, in an effort to deter specific business such as takeaways, minicab companies, Chinese or Indian restaurants and liquor stores who are notorious in the UK for hiring illegal workers they can face massive fines and be forced to close with threats of licenses being revoked. 

As you can see, although each country differs on punishment, they generally all agree on the attitude towards an illegal worker and it’s one that isn’t taken very well. Working illegally in any country is a huge risk that can have serious consequences; even if you think it is a small, menial job that no one will notice. It is also important to note that whether you are aware or not, hiring illegal workers carries large fines for your company because it is your own diligence that should have required you to ask for documentation from your workers and in some cases, it has bankrupted some businesses that relied on imported workers. It’s just not worth it!

Tags: Migration Brokers - Working illegally in the U.S. Working illegally in Canada. Working illegally in the U.K. Working illegally in Australia - Migration Brokers working illegally.

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