Cheryl Ma, Senior Immigration Caseworker
AN IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR OUR CLIENTS WHO ARE UK SPONSOR LICENCE HOLDERS – Compliance Visits Resume as Covid-19 restrictions ease
In March 2020, sponsor licence compliance visits were suspended due to Covid-19. The Home Office has now confirmed that these audits will be resumed as lockdown restrictions ease across the country and will be carried out in a Covid-safe manner. The Home Office has also said that their initial focus will be on pending sponsor licence applications.
What to expect during the UKVI audit?
The Home Office may visit you (potentially on an unannounced basis) either before it decides on your sponsor licence application or during the life of your sponsor licence to ensure you are capable of carrying out your sponsor duties. The audit usually last between two to three hours and will be made to the office noted on the sponsor licence. During the visit, a Home Office compliance officer may:
- Check there is a genuine need for a sponsor licence
- Verify information given about the organisation is accurate and complete (an officer may also take photographs of the location and the premises)
- Check your HR systems are adequate to meet your sponsorship duties
- Assess compliance with work visa arrangements and other immigration law, or that you will be able to comply if they visit you before your licence application has been decided
- Discuss with/interview key personnel, any employees or sponsored migrants on a one-to-one basis
- Review files, inspect records and/or systems to ensure you are following your sponsor obligations and adherence to rules (for example, holding valid right to work documents and maintaining workers’ contact details)
You will not be informed of the outcome during the compliance visit. It is important that you request a copy of their notes from the visit – many sponsors are not aware that they can make such a request. These notes can be critical if you would have to challenge a decision to refuse your sponsor licence application, suspend or revoke your licence as a result of compliance concerns.
Preparation is the key to successful immigration applications.
As lockdown restrictions continue to ease, we anticipate that the Home Office will turn their attention to Sponsor Licence enforcement through undertaking compliance audits (especially when there is a significant increase of licence applications following Brexit).
Businesses have been focusing much of their attention on surviving during the pandemic and have not had the time to focus on Sponsor duties and compliance, which can be a significant administrative task. Our immigration team and employment team are happy to advise you regarding these duties and assist you by conducting a mock audit to ensure you are compliant with record keeping duties, reporting duties, key and ever-changing immigration law and genuine vacancy requirements.
Please note – this article does not constitute legal advice.