Sponsor Licence holders know all too well the challenges of maintaining compliance with UKVI requirements. To add to the pressure, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) officials have the power to make announced and unannounced visits to the premises of Sponsor Licence holders at any time.
A visit could be undertaken as part of the Home Office’s pre-license checks on an applicant organisation (including where a sponsor is seeking to add a new tier to its licence), or following an application to renew a licence or a report/notification it has provided to the Home Office. It may also occur if the Home Office has concerns that a sponsor is not complying with its duties and responsibilities, e.g. if it has received intelligence/allegations on a particular issue.
The Modernised Guidance (MG) for Home Office caseworkers on how to decide sponsor licence applications provides instances of occurrences which may lead to a visit by immigration officials. Examples include if the business:
It is crucial to ensure that you are fully prepared for a UKVI compliance visit. If you are lucky enough to receive notice of the visit, make sure you conduct an internal audit of your HR policies and procedures, and your Sponsor Licence Management System (SMS). It is good practice for all Sponsor Licence holders to have an external mock audit conducted every six months by an immigration lawyer to ensure their HR systems are compliant.
Below are eight top tips for surviving a UKVI compliance visit.
One of the most common issues arising during UKVI compliance audits relates to genuine vacancies. The government wants to be certain that the positions filled by sponsored workers cannot be filled by settled workers.
To prove this, companies normally have to show that they advertised the position for at least 28 days (through approved sites), and were unable to fill the position in this manner. The records of this process must be available during the inspection. Also, records should be maintained by all the people who applied for the position and why they were not suitable. This is also known as conducting a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) which is a vital part of the Tier 2 Sponsor Licence compliance Visit process.
Sponsor licence holders must have up to date records of their sponsored worker’s contact details at all times. They must also have attendance records and a system for reporting attendance concerns through the SMS system to UKVI.
In addition to the right to work documents and contact details, employers must also keep records for each migrant as listed in Appendix D of the Sponsor Guidance (SG). The SG also confirms the general duty that “you must give us when asked, any documents relating to your sponsored migrants or the running of our organisation that we consider relevant to assessing your compliance with your duties as a sponsor.”
Compliance auditors frequently interview sponsored employees to ensure they are working in the position they were hired for. Be sure that these employees are working in the position stated on their CoS, and they understand what their job description is.
Have your immigration lawyer present during the audit. This will show that your company is serious about maintaining compliance. An immigration lawyer will also be able to ensure UKVI compliance officers are acting within the scope of their powers. It is also good practice to take a note of everything that occurred during the visit, so you have a written record to refer to if the UKVI accuses you of not meeting your duties and responsibilities. Having an immigration lawyer present to support you will provide you with confidence that the compliance officers are acting correctly.
Co-operate willingly with the officer and their requests. Have all necessary staff available during the audit, and encourage them to co-operate with all reasonable requests. Failure to co-operate with compliance officers can lead to your Sponsor Licence being suspended or even revoked.
Maintaining compliance is a company-wide responsibility. UKVI are looking for systems that support this, rather than one individual who manages it all singlehandedly. Make sure your Key Personnel are fully trained and understand the importance of their position and duties.
Proper record-keeping is a must for Sponsor Licence holders. Ensure that all your records are up-to-date and easy to access.
Run mock checks, during which you can verify all aspects of your compliance, and ensure that relevant personnel are prepared for a real compliance audit. Knowing that your HR policies and procedures are in order takes away an enormous amount of stress should you receive an unannounced compliance visit.
Once you have a good system in place, maintaining compliance becomes manageable and part of your company’s standard operations. Being ready for a compliance audit and knowing that your Sponsor Licence and your sponsored workforce are secure is truly worth its weight in gold.
If you would like professional assistance with preparing for a compliance audit, A Y & J Solicitors can help. We are experts in all areas of Sponsor Licence compliance. Contact us today on +44 20 7404 7933 or email us at [email protected].
Disclaimer: No material/information provided on this website should be construed as legal advice. Readers should seek an appropriate professional advice for their immigration matters.