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Sponsor Compliance Visit: What To Expect And Prepare

As an employer in the UK, there are several reasons you could bring the Home Office to your business for a sponsor compliance audit.

Talk to one of our immigration lawyers at IAS for more information about sponsor compliance visits, the reasons behind them, how long they last, etc. Call our team on +44 (0)333 305 9375 or contact us online.

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    Benefits of Choosing IAS for Your Sponsor Licence Needs

    Our dedicated UK corporate immigration lawyers deliver our services through a comprehensive and personalised approach suited to fit each business client that we work with.

    We can assist you in getting a UK Sponsor Licence, generating a certificate of sponsorship, and applying for a work visa for your employee. Whether this is your first application, your initial application was refused, or you were found to not be compliant in the past, we can help.

    With a successful track record, IAS eases the process for you so you can focus on other parts of your business. Here are more things you enjoy by working with us:

    Our lawyers will assess your Sponsor Licence case 1-1 to understand its unique aspects.

    We provide customised guidance for Sponsor Licence applications to increase chances of approval.

    We assist with maintaining compliance with the UK government’s rules for employing overseas workers.

    Our team offers detailed assistance in making any critical changes to the sponsor management system.

    Regardless of what your business immigration query might be, IAS is here to help and support you. Call us or enquire online to learn more about how we can help you.

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    Reasons Why The Home Office Conducts Sponsor Compliance Visits

    The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) compliance team carries out compliance visits for all businesses that have a sponsorship licence. They carry out the audit visits and immigration compliance visits solely to ensure that sponsorship duties and obligations, such as reporting, monitoring, and record-keeping are met by UK employers who recruit overseas workers, and to also ensure that they are not hiring illegal workers.

    The UKVI carries out the compliance visits even before they grant your business a sponsor licence, otherwise known as a pre-licence compliance visit. After you are granted the sponsor licence, any other subsequent visit by the Home Office will now be called a post-licence compliance visit.

    Therefore, sponsor licence holders should always be ready for an inspection as compliance visits are carried out periodically. Sometimes, they could be announced and some other times they may be unannounced.

    Avoid sponsor licence suspensions or revocation. Speak to our immigration team for help.

    Your Legal Obligations As A Sponsor Licence Holder

    There are several legal obligations you have as a sponsor licence holder. They include:

    • Issuing certificates of sponsorship to your Skilled Worker visa applicants and other Work visa applicants you sponsor.
    • Ensuring that foreign workers have the required skills and experience to take on the jobs they are being employed to fill.
    • Pursuing the common good by refraining from doing or behaving in a way that is detrimental to society.
    • Monitoring, reporting and recording the compliance to the sponsor licence for the Home Office. You may use the sponsor management system to report. To keep records, you may keep workers’ HR files up to date and use the sponsor management system.
    • Adhering to the UK immigration and other laws.

    If your business fails to comply with the duties and obligations of its sponsor licence, then there is a possibility that the Home Office may downgrade or suspend it. The worst case scenario could be a complete revocation of your sponsorship licence by the Home Office.

    Are Sponsor Licence Compliance Inspections Typically Scheduled?

    Sponsor licence compliance inspections are not always scheduled. This is because the Home Office can decide to carry out sponsor licence visits at your work premises whether they announced it or not.

    The Home Office cannot compel you to grant them entry if you refuse to allow them into your business premises for the inspection, upon an unannounced visit. As a result of this, they could flag your business as non-compliant, and this would harm your business operations and result in your licence being refused, suspended, or even revoked.

    Past issues with your business and its immigration responsibilities or intelligence-led information about the activities of your business could be some of the reasons the Home Office compliance visit may be unannounced to ensure your business is not breaking any immigration rules and has a UK sponsor licence.

    Therefore your HR, recruitment, and sponsor management system must always be ready for a licence compliance inspection at any time the Home Office officials come.

    Receiving a Notice Of a Sponsor Compliance Visit

    You must prepare adequately for a sponsor compliance visit once you receive its notice. You can prepare for the sponsor compliance visit by doing the following:

    • Assess the HR documents. You need to cross-check your business’ HR documents for all employees. You must verify if you have observed the right-to-work checks, and documented and replicated them accurately as it is required for employees who are Skilled Worker visa holders. You must also check whether your sponsorship processes are updated, and correctly adhered to by your employees.
    • Ensure that all documents and files required are in a place they can be located easily especially if you do not have them electronically. If the files requested by the visiting official are missing or not found, it could send signals of unseriousness in running your business.
    • Assess information update. It is advised that you should always have a properly trained Authorising Officer, key contact and level 1/2 users available. You must also ensure that all the required information on your employee management system is adequately updated.
    • Let your key staff members know about the imminent sponsor compliance visit and get themselves ready on that day. If they may not be available on the slated date, you may request that the visit be postponed shortly to ensure they are all available.

    Additionally, if the visiting official of the Home Office wishes to interview certain employees in your business. You must ensure that those employees know about the interview, and its purpose and prepare adequately for it. They must also have their documents with them on that day.

    • Invite someone from outside of your business to carry out a mock audit to objectively evaluate your business. This evaluation must be done to find out the strengths and weaknesses of your business regarding HR file maintenance and sponsor licence compliance terms.

    The findings after this mock audit will help you identify where immediate adjustments are needed in your business before the main sponsor compliance visit.

    • Seek Legal Help on Issues. If at any point, you encounter issues, it is important to seek expert guidance from our immigration lawyers at IAS regarding such issues. Our immigration lawyers can suggest the right actions to take that will help demonstrate that your company is proactive in discovering, reporting, and resolving any difficulties linked to your immigration duties and compliance.

    If you need expert guidance on what you must do upon receiving notice of a sponsor licence compliance visit and other important things to note, you can speak to one of our immigration lawyers at IAS for immediate assistance. Call us today on +44 (0)333 305 9375 or contact us online.

    Pre-Licence Assessment Visits VS. Post-licence Assessment Visits

    The pre-licence assessment is a visit to your company by the Home Office officials because you applied for a sponsor licence for the first time or that you already have a sponsor licence but wish to expand it. During the visit inspection, the official may want to find out if:

    • The number of foreign workers you want to issue certificates of sponsorship is suitable to your company’s size and type.
    • Your business might jeopardise immigration enforcement.
    • Your business is capable of employing sponsored workers at the levels of skill required for the certificates of sponsorship you issued them and being able to pay them the relevant minimum wage.
    • You have HR systems that will help you handle the sponsor licence, adhere to your licence obligations, and abide by the law against illegal working.

    The audit will help the Home Office official to confirm the information they believe needs to be analysed from your application for a sponsor licence.

    While the post-licence visit is carried out because you applied to renew your existing sponsor licence or the information gathered about your organisation. When compared to a pre-licensing visit, a post-licensing assessment visit is more likely to be challenging.

    Because of this, you must understand what Home Office representatives will check during a post-licence sponsor compliance visit.

    The official would want to:

    • Find out if your business continues to be a trading business.
    • Know whether the staff you sponsor adhere to the conditions of their visa and whether their job descriptions correspond to the standard occupational classification code on their certificates of sponsorship.
    • Know if your HR systems are sufficient to fulfil sponsor licence obligations.
    • Know if your company’s operations jeopardise immigration enforcement.
    • Know if the initial quantity of sponsorship certificates is still required.

    For up-to-date guidance on compliance visits and meeting the criteria, speak with us today.

    How Long Do Compliance Visits Typically Last?

    The immigration sponsor licence compliance visits are not time-limited, however, they typically last for up to 2 to 3 hours. This is merely an estimated figure that may turn out to be shorter or longer which relies on how many people the Home Office official plans to interview to complete the checks.

    Your key staff, including your authorising officer, should be available throughout the visit in case the compliance visit officer needs them for any explanation. The officer will remain for however long they deem necessary to obtain a sense of your business and how it runs before departing and stating their conclusions regarding your immigration compliance.

    How To Prepare For a Sponsor Compliance Visit

    As a business owner in the UK, it is not advised to wait until you receive an announced visit notification before you prepare for the audit. The reason is that it becomes way harder for you to review your HR files, as well as prepare your sponsored staff and key personnel for interviews. It will also be more difficult for you to rectify sponsor licence violations that the mock and file reviews expose.

    Here is the complete guide on how to prepare for a sponsor compliance visit:

    Arrange a Mock Audit

    The last thing you probably wish to consider when you and your human resources department are under pressure from the preparations for an upcoming sponsor compliance visit is to organise a mock audit. However, a third-party sponsorship licence mock audit might be useful because it highlights potential problems before the compliance inspection.

    You can determine how to handle the issues if you have advanced knowledge of the areas where key employees have not reported issues on the sponsor management platform or if HR files are missing. For instance, by:

    • Enrolling HR personnel in supplementary sponsor licence compliance training
    • Having late reporting
    • Committing to hiring more level 2 users or spending money on an advanced HR management system to assist employees
    • Using a professional sponsor management service

    Whether or not the company is chosen for Home Office compliance visits, it is ideal to conduct mock audits regularly since they flag problems early and may lower the likelihood that the Home Office may choose your company for a compliance visit.

    Prepare Your Sponsored Staff and Key Personnel

    Getting your sponsored staff and key personnel ready for possible Home Office interviews during the audit is a very commendable idea. You and your HR director may already be accustomed to getting interviewed, whereas your level 2 sponsor management user may not have experienced that in the past.

    Because of this, your sponsor management user and your sponsored staff may be scared of the idea of being interviewed by the Home Office official if they are not adequately prepared. Before the visit, some Home Office officials may already have a select few sponsored staff they would like to interview. During the sponsor compliance visit, the Home Office officials could request certain documents.

    It is not advised to presume that the Home Office representative would just speak with the identified sponsored employees or that the visit will be limited to reviewing the requested documentation. Even so, you must continue to get ready for the compliance visit should the auditor request more key persons, sponsored employee interviews, or HR files.

    Expect Interviews with Your Sponsored Staff

    It is normal for your sponsored staff to feel uncomfortable about being interviewed by the Home Office official during a post-licence compliance visit. The Home Office official may let you know that they could carry out interviews during the visit upon the announcement of a compliance visit. However, they may not let you know the sponsored staff who will be called up to be interviewed.

    During the interview with a sponsored staff, the Home Office official may centre the compliance visit questions on how well their daily tasks match the certificate of sponsorship job description and standard occupation code.

    The Home Office representative must have carried out a background check on the data of your sponsored employees that the Home Office holds before attending the sponsor compliance visit. They could also have utilised computerised government documents to look at the data on each of your sponsored employee’s job descriptions and the SMS reporting on specific staff members.

    Review Your Files

    You must ensure that your HR files are ready to be audited before the sponsor compliance visit, therefore, you must review them. If your files are not organised properly, especially if you have both undated and dated copies of right-to-work checks, and many saved drafts of employment contracts. It may be confusing for the Home Office official during the compliance visit and your HR staff even if you have electronic HR files.

    As a result of this, a hurried Home Office official may assume that you do not have the required documents whereas they are not organised appropriately to be found easily. If you use a paper-based HR system in your company, it is advised you create a folder with an immigration records section for each of the workers you sponsor. It should include their details, such as their certificates of sponsorship, salary, role, skills, absences, changes reported to the UKVI, contact information, and copy of passport/BRP/visa.

    Report and Keep Records

    Note that reporting and keeping records are some of your daily duties as a holder of the sponsor licence. There is guidance issued by the Home Office that states the requirements needed to be met regarding reporting and record-keeping for employers who have a sponsor licence. Therefore, the key personnel in your company must be accustomed to these obligations.

    Ensure all the legal requirements are met before the compliance visit with the help of our immigration team.

    What Happens After The Compliance Visit

    A report will be written alongside a recommendation that will be made about your sponsor licence once a compliance visit is completed by a Home Office official.

    You will be made to understand that you have been granted a sponsor licence if it was a pre-licence visit. But if it was a post-licence visit, your sponsor licence could be retained, suspended, downgraded to a grade B sponsor licence from a grade A sponsor licence, or even revoked.

    There are just two scenarios that may cause your sponsor licence to either be suspended or revoked. They are:

    • If a Home Office official determines there have been severe violations of sponsor licence obligations in your company
    • If your company jeopardises immigration enforcement

    The Home Office will issue you an action plan of the needed steps to upgrade your sponsor licence back to the grade A licence if they downgraded your licence from grade A to B after the post-licence visit. You will have about 3 months’ action plan to help you rectify any Home Office issues regarding sponsor licence compliance.

    Once the action plan period is over, you may have the opportunity to welcome the Home Office officials at your business premises for a further sponsor compliance visit to check if you have adhered to the action plan. Failure to comply with the action plan could leave the Home Office with no other option than to revoke your licence.

    What Happens If Your Licence Is Revoked?

    If you are unlucky to have your sponsor licence revoked after a sponsor compliance visit, you must then check the options available to rectify the situation.

    This is because once your sponsor licence is revoked, you will no longer be able to employ the existing staff you sponsor and you will no longer be authorised to recruit foreign workers from overseas who need employers to sponsor them. Additionally, the employees you sponsor must search for new employers to sponsor them.

    Your employees will only be given a 60-day grace period to find new employers, if they fail to get a new employer within the given grace period, they must leave the UK at once.

    You do not have the right to appeal against the decision of the Home Officer to revoke your sponsor licence. However, if you are sure that the decision for your sponsor licence revocation was unlawful, unreasonable or improperly made, you can then request a judicial review of the Home Office decision.

    How Can IAS Help?

    The UKVI compliance officer checks to know if you comply with your sponsor licence duties. They will flag you as a non-compliant employer if they doubt the efficiency of your process, find out that your records are outdated or that you have not been monitoring your sponsored workers and not reporting changes as required.

    Your sponsor licence may be downgraded, suspended or revoked as a result of your non-compliance to your obligations as an employer who holds a sponsor licence. But if you prepare adequately for a compliance visit, you will stand a better chance to pass it at any time.

    Engaging the services of our immigration law experts at IAS who can advise you on the best ways to bring your overseas workers into the UK is the right step to take in ensuring that you do not violate the UK immigration law. If you need more information about sponsor compliance visits, the duties you have as an employer, etc., our lawyers are always available to assist you.

    We can also help you prepare your sponsor licence application (if you never had one) and assist you in bringing your overseas workers into the UK whether on a long-term or short-term basis.

    Our immigration lawyers are experienced in all UK immigration-related matters. We can also advise you on how to continue meeting your sponsor licence eligibility requirements. Besides that, we can also help you with any other issues you have with your business and immigration.

    We have helped several companies in sponsoring their foreign workers and assisted in bringing them into the UK hassle-free. Let us help you make this successful, call us today on +44 (0)333 305 9375 or message us online.

    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

    Before deciding on your application for a Business Sponsor Licence, the Home Office is known to conduct periodic UKVI compliance checks to ensure you have adequate HR procedures and policies established if you are granted the sponsor licence.

    The Home Office reserves the right to occasionally conduct UKVI compliance checks once you have been authorised as a sponsor to ensure you are abiding by your sponsor obligations and are taking your duties seriously.

    A compliance officer is a person who makes sure a business conforms with both internal regulations and policies, as well as external legal and regulatory requirements. Compliance officers hold a responsibility to their employer to figure out and handle regulatory risk in collaboration with management and staff.

    The compliance officer is in charge of ensuring the organisation complies with the requirements and obligations of its sponsor licence. This entails maintaining accurate records, disclosing adjustments, carrying out Right to Work inspections and sustaining lawful employment.

    During the UKVI audit, the Home Office officials typically assess companies’ personnel and HR documentation and procedures. Besides that, they speak with pertinent staff members like HR staff and sponsored workers.

    The timeframe of a compliance visit is significantly determined by the size and complexity of your company. The compliance visit typically lasts for up to a few hours, a whole day or even more.

    The reason is that the Home Office officials assess your business premises, speak with your company’s manager or the CEO, the sponsored staff and also examine sponsorship records and systems. The duration of the visit may also depend on the severity of any compliance concerns found and whether further research or explanation is required.

    A compliance officer performs several duties during a visit. They visit to:

    • Check if you (the sponsor) are genuine and operating or trading lawfully in the UK.
    • Speak to any of your employees who partook in the recruitment of foreign workers and can also speak to any of the migrant workers.
    • Check records and systems to ensure that you are adhering to rules, such as those regarding record keeping, and fulfilling its sponsor obligations.
    • Verify other employees to ensure that you are abiding by your responsibility to stop illegal work.

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