On 23rd February 2023, the Home Office and Immigration Enforcement announced the creation of a special taskforce to clamp down on illegal working in the UK. The Home Office ramped up immigration enforcement activity in January 2023 following Rishi Sunak’s pledge to boost raids to stamp out illegal working. At the same time, he announced plans to hire 200 new Immigration Enforcement staff and the restarting of data-sharing arrangements with financial institutions to enforce the rules that those illegally present in the UK should not have access to a bank account. According to the Home Office, there have been 1,152 immigration enforcement visits across the UK since 11th December 2022, representing around a 10% rise in such visits. This has led to 58 arrests and 28 convictions since 13th December 2022. All of this follows the enactment of the Nationality and Borders Act in the summer of 2022, which increases the potential for criminal action for those involved in illegal work. At the same time, plans are being put in place for a new cross-government ministerial task force on immigration enforcement.

What Will The New Task Force Achieve?

The government is currently establishing the UK’s first cross-government ministerial task force on immigration enforcement. This is part of the government’s strategy to create a hostile environment for illegal workers in the UK. The aim of the new task force is to ensure that “every available power across government is utilised to support law enforcement activity to identify and reduce illegal migrants in the UK, and ensure only those eligible can work, receive benefits or access public services”.

The first meeting of the task force will focus on preventing illegal working, especially in the context of the rapidly growing gig economy.

How Will The New Enforcement Activity Affect Sponsoring Employers?

Given the substantial increase in enforcement activity across the UK, it is almost certain that the number of UKVI compliance visits will also rise in a bid to identify and prevent illegal work. This is likely to lead to a corresponding increase in sponsor licences being downgraded, revoked, or suspended. Where this does happen, sponsoring businesses will no longer be able to issue Certificates of Sponsorship, and existing sponsored workers may have their leave curtailed.

All businesses with a sponsor licence should now do all they can to prepare for an announced or unannounced compliance visit.

How Can Businesses Prepare For a Compliance Visit?

One of the best ways to ensure that your business is ready for a UKVI compliance visit at any time is to have mock audits. Mock audits are carried out by external third parties such as immigration Solicitors, who will simulate a UKVI visit but without the risk of a licence being lost due to non-compliance. Any problems identified that may cause concern for UKVI will be identified and reported to the business, along with advice on how to resolve the matter. This then gives the business the time and guidance necessary to rectify any problems, therefore ensuring ongoing compliance.

Garth Coates is a leading niche immigration firm based in the heart of London, specialising in all forms of personal and business immigration, including visas, global mobility, sponsorship and compliance, settlement, and citizenship. For more details on our sponsor licence mock audit services, speak to a member of our business immigration team on Tel: +44 (0)20 7799 1600 or by completing our online contact form.

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