03 May How should a sponsor prepare for a visit?
The Home Office may undertake a sponsor compliance visit in order to assess a UK company once it has submitted a sponsor licence application.
The Home Office may also visit once a sponsor licence has been granted in order to ensure that the company is fulfilling its sponsor duties.
In addition, any change in circumstances may also warrant a Home Office visit. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Changing company address
- Takeovers, mergers, TUPE transfers
- Establishing a UK or overseas branch
The Home Office might ask for and check documents to support any change you request through the sponsorship management system (SMS) or the change of circumstances form.
Will the Home Office visit be announced?
The Home Office visit, including to a third party’s premises, may be prearranged or unannounced. The sponsored company must cooperate with the acceptable behaviour on visits, which means that the UK employer has to allow Home Office staff to enter and access any premises or sites under the company’s control and demand. However, if the sponsor were to refuse access, the Home Office might deny or even revoke the sponsor licence.
Pre-licence assessment visits
The Home Office might visit the UK employers who have recently applied for a sponsor licence. Before the licence is issued, the UKVI will need to check:
- How long you have been in business
- The validity of all your current employee’s right-to-work documents
- You have systems in place to verify the status of any non-EU nationals you are already employing
- You have a genuine need for a licence
- The necessary HR systems are in place to make sure you can carry out your sponsor duties
- That the number of migrants you wish to sponsor is appropriate to the size and nature of your business
- Whether there is any evidence to suggest you pose a threat to immigration control
- Anything they feel needs further investigation – for instance, requesting more documents in support of your application
- You are able to offer Tier 2 employment at the correct pay and skill level
Sponsor compliance visits
Existing sponsors will undergo a sponsor compliance visit to make sure that they are complying with the sponsor duties and responsibilities. The Home Office might check:
- Your HR systems, to ensure you are fulfilling your sponsorship duties
- That the information you provided in your sponsor licence application is accurate
- You are paying the non-EEA migrant the minimum appropriate salary rate
- If the original number of CoS you requested is still justified
- If your non-EEA migrant staff are complying with the conditions of their leave to remain in the UK – they may want to interview them directly
- Whether you pose a threat to immigration control
How long will a Home Office visit take?
Compliance officers estimate it takes 2-3 hours to carry out their necessary audit.
How should a sponsor prepare for a Home Office visit?
Sponsors should ensure their HR files remain up-to-date at all times and take licence compliance seriously.
Please note that in some circumstances you can request to postpone the meeting. A postponement of one to two weeks is the maximum permitted.
- Review your files
The level 1 user and HR team should regularly review the sponsored migrants’ documents to ensure they comply with Appendix D record keeping requirements, information is up-to-date, and changes in personal circumstances have been reported as required.
Please note that a pattern of late or non-reporting can lead to the licence being revoked as it suggests that the sponsor is not able to meet sponsorship duties.
- Arrange a mock audit
It might be a good idea to instruct an adviser to come to your offices before the audit to review files and ensure they are compliant with the sponsor guidance. Advisers can spot potential issues, ensure notifications are made, and conduct a mock interview with your key personnel in preparation for the visit.
- Review your right to work documentation
All employees, regardless of nationality, must have their right to work documentation checked, copied and retained before starting work. This consists of checking original passports and any visa documentation if applicable. Copies must be signed and dated and include prescribed wording. This process is important because, if done properly, it can provide a defence against findings of illegal working (attracting £20,000 fines or imprisonment).
- Prepare your key personnel and sponsored staff
The Home Office staff will interview the authorising officer to check he/she understands the licence and the duties. They verify that roles filled by sponsored staff are suitably skilled, any advertising carried out is genuine and meets the strict Home Office rules, and staff are paid in appropriate salaries. General legal compliance and understanding of employment law will also be covered.
What happens after the sponsor compliance visit?
After a Home Office visit, a visit report will be sent to the Case-working Team and a recommendation will be provided by the Officer. A decision will be made on the company’s overall rating; the sponsor will be rated as either A or B and it will be notified regarding the outcome of the Home Office visit.
Contact Our Immigration Team
For expert advice regarding any aspect of the sponsor licence application, please contact our immigration team on 0203 384 3075 or email [email protected]