Can the home office just turn up without giving any advance notice?

Yes, the Home Office can conduct an unannounced Pre-License Compliance Visit to a business without giving the business advance notice. Unannounced visits are typically conducted to assess the business’s compliance with its sponsorship duties, such as keeping accurate records and reporting any changes to sponsored workers’ circumstances.

If the Home Office conducts an unannounced visit, the business may be contacted by a caseworker from the Home Office’s sponsor licensing team. The caseworker will typically arrive at the business unannounced and may request to review the business’s records and speak with employees.

What to do when you receive notice of a sponsor compliance visit

If you receive notification of a sponsor compliance visit you have a short window of opportunity to prepare for the visit. Preparation should include: 

  • Ensuring that your key personnel will be available on the day of the sponsor compliance visit. If they are not then it may be possible to ask for a short adjournment of the sponsor compliance visit to ensure they are available. Any delay in the visit should be used wisely to help prepare for visit.     
  • If the Home Office official has asked to see named sponsored staff for interview make sure the sponsored staff and their paperwork are readily available and that your sponsored staff understand the purpose of the sponsor compliance visit.  
  • Reviewing HR files for all employees and ensuring that right to work checks were carried out correctly prior to employment and, if the check needed to be repeated because an employee was subject to immigration control, double checking that the subsequent right to work checks were conducted and properly recorded. 
  • Checking that you can locate all relevant files and paperwork (if you don’t store everything electronically). It won’t look good if the file that the Home Office official asks to see can’t be located or is off site. 
  • Reviewing sponsored staff HR files to ensure that all information is correct and up to date. 
  • Checking that information has been updated on the sponsor management system by your level one and level two users. 
  • Carrying out a mock audit, preferably the audit should be conducted by someone independent of your business, who can undertake a through and objective assessment of your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to sponsor licence compliance and the maintenance of HR files. 
  • Taking legal advice on any areas of concern. It is important that you get legal advice before the sponsor compliance visit as your immigration solicitor may recommend immediate action so you are seen to be proactive in spotting, reporting and addressing any issues with sponsor licence duties and compliance. 

 

CGM is a corporate immigration application for expats, sponsoring companies and business immigration advisors. Feel free to contact us on 0300 000 000 or send us an email if you have any questions.

What to expect during Home Office Compliance Visits

During a Home Office compliance visit, a UKVI compliance officer will carry out a number of checks to ensure that the business is meeting its obligations and duties. During a pre-licence compliance visit, the Home Office will normally question and check that:

  • the potential sponsor can provide genuine employment that meets the skill and pay requirements (for an employment sponsor licence)
  • the potential sponsor has a human resource (HR) system in place for the monitoring, reporting, and record-keeping of sponsored workers
  • the potential sponsor is able to carry out their sponsor duties
  • the number of overseas nationals that the potential sponsor plans to employ is appropriate to the size and type of business
  • the potential sponsor does not represent a threat to the UK’s immigration system
  • any other matters that may have raised concerns are checked, and
  • any original documents not provided in the sponsor licence application are checked

During a post-licence compliance visit, the Home Office will normally check that:

  • the existing sponsor licence holder has a suitable HR system in place, and they are meeting their monitoring, reporting, and record-keeping requirements
  • sponsored workers are being recruited to fill genuine vacancies that meet the skill and salary requirements
  • the existing sponsor licence holder does not pose a threat to UK immigration
  • the number of CoS or CAS initially requested is still justified
  • sponsored individuals who are working or studying are meeting the conditions of their leave to stay in the UK, and
  • the existing sponsor licence holder is still actively trading

It is important to bear in mind that compliance visits may be carried out at any time and are often unannounced. Visits are more likely to be unannounced if concerns have been flagged by or to UKVI regarding your compliance.

During the visit, you can expect the UKVI compliance officer to ask a number of skilled worker visa compliance visit questions and ask for evidence to be provided. In most cases, they will ask to see at least 10% of your sponsored migrant files/records to ensure that the details held are complete and up to date and that your workers have the right to work in the UK. They will also cross reference the information you have on record to ensure it is correct by speaking to the sponsored worker.

It is essential that you:

  • are prepared for a home office audit at all times
  • there is a suitable person who has the time, experience, and knowledge to spend with the compliance officer,
  • you can provide the information requested in a timely manner, and
  • you always cooperate in a professional manner with the compliance officer

 

The Pre-License Compliance Visit

During the Pre-License Compliance Visit, the Home Office will assess various aspects of the business, including:

  1. The business’s operations: The Home Office will review the business’s operations, including the products or services it offers, the size of the organization, and the types of roles it plans to sponsor.
  2. The business’s ability to comply with sponsorship duties: The Home Office will assess the business’s ability to comply with its sponsorship duties, including its ability to keep accurate records and report any changes to sponsored workers’ circumstances.
  3. The business’s need for foreign national workers: The Home Office will review the business’s need for foreign national workers and assess whether the business has considered other recruitment options before deciding to sponsor foreign national workers.

The Pre-License Compliance Visit is an important step in the sponsor licence application process, as it helps the Home Office determine whether the business is ready to become a sponsor and whether it meets the criteria for a sponsor licence. It is important for businesses to be prepared for the Pre-License Compliance Visit and to demonstrate their readiness to become a sponsor.

During the Pre-License Compliance Visit, an immigration officer from the Home Office will review the organization’s policies, procedures, and systems related to sponsorship, and may also speak with staff members and review documentation.

The officer will be looking for evidence that the organization has the systems and processes in place to meet its sponsorship obligations, including:

  1. Having a designated Level 1 user who is responsible for managing sponsorship obligations
  2. Having policies and procedures in place to ensure that sponsored migrants are treated fairly and in accordance with UK law
  3. Having systems in place to manage and record the attendance, absence, and well-being of sponsored migrants
  4. Having systems in place to report any changes to sponsored migrants’ circumstances to the Home Office
  5. Having systems in place to manage and pay the Immigration Skills Charge

If the organization is deemed ready to meet its sponsorship obligations, the Home Office will grant a license and the organization will be able to sponsor migrants. If the organization is not ready, the Home Office may provide guidance on how to address any issues and may schedule a follow-up visit to assess the organization’s progress.

 

What Will UKVI Check During A Pre-Licence Visit?

The purpose of the visit is to provide an opportunity for UKVI staff to meet applicants and discuss any issues that have arisen since their last interview. It also provides an opportunity for applicants to ask any questions they may have.

The Home Office publishes the checks conducted by UKVI compliance officers. The compliance officers ensure that the following items are verified during a pre-licence compliance visit;

The applicant has the necessary human resource (HR) systems in place to carry out their sponsor duties (as outlined below)

  1. If there is any evidence that they may pose a threat to immigration control.
  2. If UKVI has identified any areas that require further inspection of the application of a potential sponsor
  3. The potential sponsor would need to demonstrate that they have applied for a Tier 2 / Skilled Worker license to offer employment that meets the skilled worker requirements at the appropriate level of skill and pay

Maintaining compliant record Keeping

As part of the pre-license process, UKVI will need assurances that you have a process in place for recording the immigration statuses of sponsored workers, as well as documenting other important details about the worker, such as his or her name and place of birth, place of employment, as well as proof that they can be lawfully employed in the UK. In Appendix D of the sponsor guidance, you will find a complete list of the documents and details you need to retain and keep up to date. When Showing UKVI, you’ll have the opportunity to ask for what information you want and also update it in order to comply with their requests and requirements. Some of these requirements are but are not limited to;

  1. All records must be kept in English, and it is your responsibility as a licensee to have them translated if you are not fluent. 
  2. You should keep all of your records on file indefinitely, but they must be readily accessible at the time of inspection. 
  3. If any records are stored offsite, you will need to make arrangements with staff or an outside storage provider so that they can be retrieved quickly during a pre-licence visit. 
  4. Records such as invoices, purchase orders and receipts may also be requested by home office inspectors so make sure that these items are kept organized and easily retrievable. 
  5. You may also want to consider obtaining professional help in organizing your records and providing templates where appropriate.

Reporting Duties

Aside from maintaining records as a sponsor licence holder, you also need to report to UKVI using the Sponsorship Management System (SMS)  when certain changes happen, such as if any of your employees change roles if the work that was sponsored by you doesn’t end up working for you, if they fail to show up on the day of their resumption, or if they go for an unauthorised absence for a long time. When there are significant changes to an employer-sponsored applicant’s application, this reporting serves as a safeguard against potential abuses of the immigration system. In a case where ownership of the company changes, or if the nature of the business changes, which means, these changes need to report.

Compliance with Immigration Laws And Other Employment Laws

It is important that all prospective business owners are aware of their obligations with regard to immigration laws and other laws. Beyond simple records-keeping and reports, UKVI will want to make sure during the pre-licensing inspection that you’re only trying to fill authentic openings with qualified overseas candidates, and that you’re not using the cover of sponsorship to bring people into the UK for other purposes. In order for a vacancy to be genuine, it must:

  1. Show that the person hired for the job would have to perform all the duties and responsibilities associated with it and would meet all of the requirements for the relevant route
  2. Must not include duties that are dissimilar or with substantially lower-skilled duties
  3. Ensure the job role is in light of the organization’s business model, business plan, and scale

How we can help

CGM App is an end-to-end immigration app, designed to make the immigration and global mobility process more seamless and compliant; specifically for expats, sponsoring companies, and immigration consultants globally.

Visit cgmpartners.org.uk/register for more information.

 

Source: Points-based system – sponsor compliance visits: caseworker guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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