How to handle a visit from the Home Office
For sponsor licence holders - and their HR teams in particular - Home Office scrutiny is an ongoing concern. DavidsonMorris Immigration Solicitors offers some helpful advice.
At any point during the time your sponsor licence is live, you can expect to be ‘visited’ by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), in either an announced or - as is becoming increasingly common - unannounced capacity.
Generally, sponsor licence inspections tend to take place at the renewal stage, when your licence is coming to the end of its four-year life and you are applying to continue to be able to hire Tier 2 workers.
For UKVI, this is an opportunity to assess first-hand whether you are meeting your duties in respect of your Tier 2 (and where relevant Tier 5) employees, and in carrying out your Right to Work checks.
So, what can you expect at a site visit?
First, understand what it is the Home Office will specifically be looking for from you as a sponsor licence holder and UK employer. Consider:
- Are you carrying out the correct pre-employment checks, and retaining the records as required?
- Are you monitoring your ‘List B’ employees’ status?
- Are you meeting the Tier 2 duties of testing the market prior to hiring foreign workers and assigning Certificates of Sponsorship?
- Is the information the Home Office holds on record for you completely up to date – ie are you meeting the duty to notify?
You can expect the Home Office to request evidence of your compliance through:
- Access to relevant HR and personnel documentation & records
- Interviews with relevant personnel
- On-site inspections - taking a ‘look around’
How can you best prepare your company for a Home Office inspection?
The area many employers fall foul of is record keeping. Failing to meet the required standards; incorrect document format; overlooking timescale demands.
Build an approach to compliant record keeping into your everyday practices, and in the event of an issue, you are more likely to be able to defend your position if the Home Office can see evidence that you have been committed to meeting this duty.
How you manage the HR and compliance aspects of hiring foreign employees should be grounded in formal policy and documentation. Implementation should follow from this.
The Home Office wants to see transparency, consistency and compliance. They also want to see that you are keeping your policies up to date with changes in duties and rules (and we know these are many and frequent!).
Each organisation is different in how they assign responsibility for immigration compliance. Whatever your approach, you must demonstrate that you have assigned the required roles and responsibilities appropriately, and that you are also ensuring sponsored workers are aware of their compliance duties.
You should also be able to evidence that all personnel carrying out duties affecting immigration compliance have sufficient training to meet required standards. Think beyond HR, such as on-site line managers onboarding new staff.
Finally, it’s best practice to undertake regular mock audits of your compliance, looking at HR documents, policies and skills.
Identify areas of weakness, and take action to remedy before you come under the Home Office spotlight.
The Home Office remains dogged in its mandate to reduce illegal working and enforce Tier 2 compliance. Employers now more than ever should expect to be subject to a sponsor licence visit, and as such take preparatory steps to avoid penalties for non-compliance.
DavidsonMorris is a firm of specialist immigration solicitors working with businesses and individuals in and around the Cambridge area on all aspects of business immigration; from hiring foreign workers and conducting Right to Work checks, to challenging Home Office penalties.
DavidsonMorris specialises in business immigration. We assist companies with PBS Licences, compliance, visa applications and general advice regarding all aspects of UK immigration law.