During the pandemic, the Home Office had temporarily suspended compliance auditing. Onsite audits appeared to resume in late March 2021. The Home Office have increased the frequency of onsite compliance inspections in recent months.
Entities with impending sponsor licence applications appear to be the initial focus, but employers in general are advised to re-review their immigration compliance on a regular basis to avoid Home Office scrutiny and immigration enforcement.
Compliance duties and obligations
UK employers must meet their duties under the prevention of illegal working legislation. Sponsor licence holders are under additional compliance duties under the licence.
The Home Office rely upon a range of methods to monitor both the employee and sponsor licence holders. One of the tools available to the Home Office are compliance site visits. During a site inspection, Home Office officials attend upon the employer’s premises to inspect HR documentation and compliance processes. They also routinely interview employees to assess whether immigration compliance is being upheld.
Sponsor licence holders should expect and be well prepared for an audit by UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI), which is a division of the Home Office, at any stage but in particular:
- Pre-licence stage of the licence application process. During this visit the Home Office will assess the organisations HR systems and processes before granting the sponsor licence.
- At any point during the licence validity period.
- After making a licence renewal application.
Home Office site visits may be announced with prior notice, or increasingly, without warning as an unannounced visit. Therefore, sponsor licence holders must ensure that they are prepared for an onsite audit at any time.
What is the Home Office assessing during an immigration site visit?
The UKVI want to see that you have the relevant systems, processes, and records in place to ensure immigration compliance can be upheld as per your obligations as a sponsor pursuant to the Right to Work duties.
Your entity will be assessed in relation to the following:
- General sponsorship duties
- Monitoring employee immigration status
- Maintaining employee data
- Employee tracking
As a firm of solicitors who apply, manage, and reinstate many licences on a monthly basis, we cannot stress enough how imperative it is for sponsor licence holders to be in compliance with their immigration duties at all times under their sponsor licence and the prevention of illegal working regulations.
Penalties for failure to comply
Recent statistics by the Home Office indicate 70% of visits result in some form of UKVI action against the sponsor. Immigration compliance is an issue for the majority of sponsors. The Home office requirements.
The Home Office’s obligations upon sponsors are onerous, and the Home Office are becoming much more proactive in their approach to enforcement for non-compliance.
Following an immigration site visit, if the Home Office finds grounds for complaint, your organisation could face punitive action including:
- A Fine – Up to £20,000 per worker found to be working illegally
- Downgrading your sponsor licence
- Suspension of your sponsor licence
- Revocation of your licence.
Any adverse action by the UKVI will almost certainly impact an organisation’s ability to sponsor points-based visa workers.
Preparing for Home Office compliance visits
If you are concerned about a compliance visit, or your company’s overall immigration compliance, our corporate immigration experts can provide a number of services to protect you from Home Office penalties. Our services include mock audits and representation at compliance visits, as well as challenging a Home Office decision.
We also provide proactive retainer services to ensure your entity’s compliance is maintained on a monthly basis. Our aim is to act as an addition to your HR department and to provide you with legal support. For further information please contact the Corporate Immigration team at Branch Austin McCormick.