An immigration stamp on a passport

Over 100 arrested in illegal working crackdown

The Home Office has conducted a record number of visits targeting illegal working in one day, as part of a nationwide operation.

During the operation, which took place across the UK last week, Immigration Enforcement officers arrested 105 foreign nationals found working without the right to do so during 159 illegal working visits.

The arrests took place at commercial premises including restaurants, car washes, nail bars, barber shops and convenience stores.

Suspects were arrested for offences including illegal working and possession of false documentation, with sums of cash seized at some locations.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attended an early morning visit in Brent, North London, to observe Immigration Enforcement Officers at work as part of the day of action.

Home Secretary, Suella Braverman said:

“Illegal working harms our communities, cheats honest workers out of employment and defrauds the public purse as no taxes are paid. As the Prime Minister has set out, we are committed to tackling the abuse of our laws and borders.

“We know the prospect of black-market employment is a significant attraction for migrants considering making dangerous and illegal journeys to the UK. Operations such as today send a clear message that we will not stand for this.”

Of those arrested, over 40 were detained by the Home Office, pending their removal from the UK, with the remaining suspects being released on immigration bail. It is also expected that a number of the arrests will result in voluntary departure from the UK.

Offenders of over 20 different nationalities were found to be working without the right to do so in the UK.

The operation builds on the ongoing work by Immigration Enforcement Officers to clamp down on illegal working which is a key part of the government’s approach to stopping the boats. This work tackles illegal migration by breaking the business model of criminal gangs who use the offer of black-market jobs as one way to draw people to the UK illegally.

In the first quarter of 2023, Immigration Enforcement teams delivered 1,303 enforcement visits, a 57% increase on the same period last year, and since the PM set out his plan to stop the boats in December, arrests have now doubled since the same period last year.

Director of Enforcement, Compliance and Crime, Eddy Montgomery, added:

“This result demonstrates the dedication and professionalism of our officers to take action against immigration offenders, as well as employers who are not complying with the rules. Our enforcement teams are working around the clock to deter immigration offending and help protect the public.

“Working closely with partners and agencies including the police and the National Crime Agency, we are tackling illegal working at every level. It is vital that we not only identify individuals in breach of immigration law but target the people smuggling networks behind this type of criminal activity.”

All employers in the UK have a responsibility to prevent illegal working.

You can be sent to jail for five years and pay an unlimited fine if you’re found guilty of employing someone who you knew or had ‘reasonable cause to believe’ did not have the right to work in the UK.

This includes, for example, if you had any reason to believe that:

  • They did not have leave (permission) to enter or remain in the UK.
  • Their leave had expired.
  • They were not allowed to do certain types of work.
  • Their papers were incorrect or false.


You can also be penalised if you employ someone who does not have the right to work and you did not do the correct checks, or you did not do them properly.

If this happens, you might get a ‘referral notice’ to let you know your case is being considered and that you might have to pay a civil penalty (fine) of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker.

You’ll be sent a ‘civil penalty notice’ if you’re found liable, which will tell you how to pay, what to do next, and how to object to the decision.

Your business’ details may be published by Immigration Enforcement as a warning to other businesses not to employ illegal workers.