Hospitality businesses employing illegal immigrants who have bought Romanian passports on the black market could be hit by £2,000 fines, experts have warned.
They said the influx of Moldavians obtaining Romanian passports over the past 12 months - which allow them to convert to EU passports once Romania joins the EU - could cause significant problems for UK employers.
Under the New Asylum and Immigration Act, a fixed penalty of £2,000 will be issued for employers who employ illegal staff, creating a new criminal offence of knowingly employing or exploiting illegal workers.
Fiona McKay, spokeswoman for health and safety consultancy MJL, said this offence could carry a custodial sentence of up to two years if a director, officer or manager knew the worker's passport was not legitimate.
"In order for an employer to satisfy their legal obligations when employing an EU or foreign national, they have to be clear as to the validity of the documentation provided by the individual," she said.
"Employers will have no idea who they are employing, and could even be employing a serious criminal unless they are vigilant."
By Emma Ann Hughes