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What happens if you get caught working on a tourist visa?

A visitor visa is a short stay visa that allows you to engage in recreational activities in the UK and does not permit you to work. This does not prevent you from engaging in personal projects and doing minor and unplanned work for your foreign employer, provided you don’t take up local employment. If you are caught, you may be deported to your home country, require additional documents when next you plan on travelling to the UK, or even face a multi-year entry ban.

If you get in a case with an immigration officer, you will need the services of an immigration lawyer or attorneys. Regardless of what situation you find yourself in, our lawyers are available to help you out. You can reach out to us in person, by phone on 03334149244, or online through our website.


What is a tourist visa?

A foreigner who wishes to travel to another country may need a visa, among other documents required for entry. There are different kinds of visas to enter the UK as a foreign national, including work visasvisitor visas and student visas, with each type having its own requirements and restrictions. The UK student visa, for example, permits holders to study in the UK, while a standard visitor visa does not.

A visit visa is a type of tourist visa that allows its holder to stay in the UK for a short period. This visa permits its holders to visit on vacation, for tourism, medical treatment, short recreational courses, sporting, musical or social events, or to visit friends and family members. With a visit visa, you are not permitted to engage in paid performances, study, work for a local employer, or seek permanent resident status. You are also prohibited you from engaging in full-time remote work; however, it does not stop you from doing minor homework or engaging in unplanned remote work.

Working with a local employer on a tourist visa is illegal in the UK. Anyone found to be working with a local employer using such a visa is at the risk of deportation, having their visa revoked, and may even face more severe consequences, such as an entry ban or being charged with immigration fraud.

Who are illegal workers?

An illegal worker is a person who is not authorised to work within the UK. They are usually illegal immigrants or legal immigrants whose visa does not permit them to work. For example, a person with a visit visa is a legal immigrant; however, they can be tagged as illegal workers if they begin to work during their visit. Immigration officers usually handle cases of illegal workers and immigration. When immigration authorities apprehend an illegal worker within their border, both the illegal worker and their employers may serious face legal consequences.

Consequences of being an illegal worker

It’s not just those who employ illegal workers that can face consequences, as the workers themselves can similarly face legal troubles if found to be working in the UK illegally.

In most cases, when someone is found to be working illegally within the UK, they will likely be arrested and taken to detention centre. At the detention centre, they will see a judge preside over their case. If they are qualified for voluntary return, the offer will be presented to them, which they can choose to take or deny.

If they do not qualify for voluntary return, they are at risk of deportation. Their visa will be revoked, and they may not be allowed to re-enter the country without added documentation or face a multi-year entry ban, preventing them from visiting the UK again for a period of time. Depending on the severity of the case, some illegal workers may also be charged with immigration fraud.

To qualify for voluntary return, the person must have been in the UK for one year before being given the notice. The option is usually served to the offender by immigration attorneys or the judge. However, people on tourist visas are not qualified for this option because the tourist visa only permits holders to stay in the country for a short time. In general, the option for voluntary return is available to people who overstay after the expiry of a long-term UK visa.

Consequences of employing an illegal worker

An employer who knowingly employs illegal worker’s or fails to adequately confirm a employees right to work in the UK can face legal consequences and penalties. Immigration authorities may serve an employer a referral notice which comes with a fine or a civil penalty notice, which requires a response in 28 days. Fines may be as high as £20,000 per illegal worker, and in some cases, employers may be at the risk of up to five years in prison. The authorities may also use their business as an example to other employers by publishing its details in local newspapers and online articles.

Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to receive assistance on your tourist visa.

How can IAS Help

Getting caught up in immigration issues whilst in a foreign country can be difficult and unpleasant. You may also need to seek assistance and advise from legal professionals, like our team of immigration lawyers, to provide the advice you need.

Regardless of the situation or circumstances you find yourself in, our lawyers are available to help. You can reach out to us in person, by phone on 03334149244, or online through our website.

We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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Frequently Asked Questions

If you are on a visitor visa, working as an employee with a local establishment in the UK is considered illegal, and could lead to legal issues, penalties, and even an entry ban, preventing or making it more difficult to visit the UK again in the future. Any local employer that knowingly offers employment to someone without a visa that allows work in the UK, or fails to confirm an employee’s immigration status and right to work,  may also face legal consequences, including fines and even up to 5 years in prison.

There are several visa options when it comes to working in the UK, including both long and short-term work visas. These different types of visas include:

Long-term work visas:

  • Skilled Worker visa
  • Health and Care Worker visa
  • Senior or Specialist Worker visa (Global Business Mobility)
  • Scale-up Worker visa
  • Minister of Religion visa (T2)
  • International Sportsperson visa

Short-term work visas

  • Charity Worker visa (Temporary Work)
  • Creative Worker visa (Temporary Work)
  • Government Authorised Exchange visa (Temporary Work)
  • International Agreement visa (Temporary Work)
  • Religious Worker visa (Temporary Work)
  • Seasonal Worker visa (Temporary Work)
  • Youth Mobility Scheme visa
  • Graduate visa
  • High Potential Individual (HPI) visa
  • Graduate Trainee visa (Global Business Mobility)
  • UK Expansion Worker visa (Global Business Mobility)
  • Secondment Worker visa (Global Business Mobility)
  • Service Supplier visa (Global Business Mobility)

As well as work visas, other options including student visas and those in the UK as a dependent may also be eligible to work, although there may be limitations based on the type of visa. It’s always best to check if your visa permits you to work in the UK before taking on any local employment using a simple Right to Work check, which can be done online at gov.uk.

Most visas permit you to stay in the country for a limited period. Some can be extended, while others cannot. If you overstay the length of stay permitted by your visitor visa, you may face deportation, a multi-year entry ban, and even prosecution.

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