Sponsor Licence: Home Office Sponsor Compliance Visits

Sterling Law 07.02.2022

The Home Office UKVI undertakes sponsor licence compliance visits to determine whether a business should be given a new sponsor licence or continue to operate under an existing sponsor licence. A compliance officer can undertake two types of visits: pre-licence compliance and post-licence compliance visits.

These visits can be announced or unannounced and the sponsors must grant a Home Office officer access to any facilities on demand of that officer. Diplomatic or consular premises are exceptions to this requirement. If a sponsor refuses a visit, it will be recorded by the officer as non compliance and can result in the sponsor licence being refused or revoked.

 

 

Pre-licence Compliance Visit

 

A pre-licence compliance visit is a visit to the facilities of an employer that has applied for a sponsor licence. The Sponsor Operations will then assess the conclusions provided by the compliance officer and decide if he meets the criteria to be granted with a license.

During these visits the compliance officer checks if:
– this sponsor is a potential threat to immigration control.
– the sponsor will be able to perform their sponsor obligations.
– the amount of migrants they wish to sponsor is proportionate to the business’ size and nature.
– the sponsor can provide employees with work that satisfies the standards.

 

 

Post-Licence Compliance Visit

A post-licence compliance visit is a visit to a sponsor who already holds a sponsor licence.  It may be carried upon Sponsor Operations request.
Some reasons for the visit might be
– renewal application
– sponsor’s request
– reaching the maximum number of migrants sponsored.
– new information about the organisation
– request of another Home Office unit

During these visits the compliance officer checks if:
– the sponsor’s meeting their obligations
– this sponsor’s activities are a threat to immigration control
– the migrants working are following the terms they agreed to
– the sponsor has a trading presence
– sponsored employees were hired to fill legitimate jobs that meet the requirements.

 

 

Illegal Migrants

During the compliance visit, potential unlawful workers can be assessed. Employers must  not hire migrants who do not have the necessary work permits and must save copies of all sponsored migrants’ passports and BRPs to fulfil their record-keeping obligations as a sponsor. If the compliance officer finds an illegal worker on a sponsor’s premises even if all recommended checks were carried out by the sponsor, that sponsor will be classed by the Home Office as having a ‘statutory excuse’.
However this situation will be reported to the Immigration Enforcement and other relevant bodies.

 

 

Sponsor Responsibilities

 

A sponsor is responsible for fulfilling certain duties but their responsibilities for a migrant ends when:
– The Home Office is notified the migrant is not being sponsored anymore.
– The migrant leaves the UK
– The migrant is granted further leave to remain with a different sponsor or in another immigration category.

 

 

Outcomes of the compliance visit

 

The sponsor licence compliance assessment will lead to one of the following outcomes:

– The approval of the sponsor licence application if a potential sponsor
– Existing sponsors will keep their licence.
–  Application refusal
There are no exceptions for Sponsor Licence holders who are found to be non-compliant.

 

 

Immigration due diligence

If you haven’t already been audited by the UKVI, you might reasonably be expecting an audit at some point. Your HR systems therefore need to be up to scratch. If the UKVI are not satisfied that you’ve complied with your obligations to them, your licence could be suspended or revoked, which could threaten your ability to recruit migrants indefinitely. In addition, heavy fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker and/or criminal sanctions of up to five years’ imprisonment may be imposed.

With the ever-changing immigration rules and regulations, changing business needs, it can be difficult to maintain this. Are you confident that your systems and processes would withstand a UKVI audit?

 

 

How can we help you

 

We can arrange an initial telephone conversation with you to understand how Sterling Law can support you. We will also propose a support visit audit from our side. This can be done remotely, but advisable on site to replicate UKVI visits.

We have first hand experience dealing with more than 100 UKVI visits, therefore we could be in a better position to prepare you on what they will look like in terms of record keeping and reporting via SMS.

With the Covid restrictions being lifted UKVI has increased their activity and more clients reported announced and unannounced visits, in some cases resulting in fines, hence why we feel that this process will be beneficial to your business. According to the recent data there was an increase of 87% of UKVI visits, and 1 in 3 companies are being inspected.

 

 

How our visit will benefit you…

 

We offer an audit of your HR immigration systems where we will:

-assess your understanding and compliance of the points-based system;

-review a sample of existing migrant files to assess whether they would meet UKVI requirements;

-make recommendations for improvements/changes.

 

 

We will help you

 

– to ensure you can recruit the best staff to meet your needs

– to provide comfort that you would be able to establish a statutory excuse against criminal and/or civil penalties.

– to successfully obtain and maintain an A-rated licence to sponsor

– to prepare you for a UKVI audit

– to avoid negative press and employment tribunal proceedings.

At the end you will receive a comprehensive written report summarising the above.

 

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