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How to prepare for a Home Office compliance visit

When you apply for a sponsor licence, you are agreeing to allow the Home Office access to your premises at any time to perform a compliance visit.

For more information on how Birmingham Immigration Lawyers can help you, call our friendly team of advisors today on 0121 667 6530 for immediate assistance.

 

 

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    Compliance visits and their importance

    If you are a business that holds a UK Sponsor Licence, you will be more than aware of the possibility of a compliance visit from the Home Office- where the Home Office will visit a business premises to ensure that your organisation is meeting the agreed guidelines in regards to your Sponsor Licence and immigration compliance. The checks help to minimise the chances of illegal working in the UK.

    There are two instances where a compliance visit may take place. Initially, the Home Office may visit your premises after you submit a sponsor licence application to ensure your business is suitable and has a suitable sponsor management system in place. Alternatively, there are many other reasons for Home Office compliance visits after your licence was been granted.

    A key requirement for sponsor licence holders in the UK is that the business in receipt has an appropriate sponsor management system (SMS) in place. Failure to comply could result in your sponsor licence being downgraded or revoked by the authorising officer from the Home Office.

    For more information on how Birmingham Immigration Lawyers can help you, call our friendly team of advisors today on 0121 667 6530 for immediate assistance.

    Skilled worker visa

    Sponsor management system UK

    You can use the Home Office Sponsor Management System (SMS) in order to meet the requirements as UK employers sponsoring migrant workers with a UK work visa, either long-term or temporary.

    You can use the Home Office SMS system to do the following:

    • Manage or renew your businesses licence or services
    • Create and allocate certificates of sponsorship to employees who you anticipate to work for you- both on a long-term and temporary basis
    • Report changes of circumstances for individual employees
    • Report changes in your businesses personal circumstances- for example, if you change your address

    The running of the sponsorship management system is the responsibility of the company and must be ran smoothly by allocated key personnel within the company. Key personnel are typically highly competent employees who work for you already.

    Preparing for a visit from the Home Office

    No matter how well you prepare for a compliance visit, it makes sense to be nervous and daunted by the experience. In some cases, you will be notified of the visit to your premises, if so, you should take time to prepare.

    Key personnel

    You should ensure that your key personnel will be available in the workplace on the day of the compliance visit. It is important that the authorising officer is present and understands their role fully within the HR systems.

    HR systems and files

    It is essential that all files are located and well organised to ensure they can be easily pulled if the Home Office inspector asks to see them. Before the compliance visit, you should ensure that you review files and ensure that all of the correct checks were done before you employed each employee and ensure each check on immigration status was recorded correctly. Record keeping is something that will be checked thoroughly by the Home Office during the audit visit. You should ensure each folder for each employee contains the correct work documentation and evidence of right-to-work checks.

    Using the SMS

    You will need to check that all of the documentation reflects on the SMS before any Home Office compliance visits. You should be updating any changes on the SMS immediately after they happen. This is vital as using the Sponsor Management system is one of the sponsor duties you accepted when applying for a Sponsor Licence.

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      Holding a mock audit

      Before your compliance visit takes place, you may consider holding a mock audit visit within your organisation. This is a completely internal process but it should be taken as seriously as the real visit. The mock audit will allow you to identify any breaches or issues in good time so you can attempt to rectify them prior to the compliance visit day.

      The mock audit is the perfect chance to review files, your HR system and processes. Holding a practice inspection shows initiative and is the ideal way to identify issues early on that could sacrifice your sponsor licence on the day of your Home Office visit.

      Your key personnel should be present at any practice audits to ensure that they are aware of the inspection process and know what to expect from the visiting officer on the day.

      Why might a compliance visit be conducted by the Home Office?

      Home Office compliance visits are often conducted for a range of reasons whether it be to check a business for a pending sponsor licence or on an existing sponsor licence holder to ensure the requirements are met. The Home Office may request a compliance visit for the following reasons:

      • The Home Office has received information that leads them to believe a sponsor licence visit is necessary
      • You have a B-rated sponsor licence which means you have been subjected to a Home Office action plan
      • Another department wishes to carry out a visit and suggests a joint visit with the sponsor licence compliance unit

      The key to ensuring that you are prepared for a Home Office compliance visit is to ensure you are always audit ready should they just turn up.

      Do the Home Office have to notify me that they will be coming?

      The Home Office does not necessarily have to notify you of a compliance visit and reserve the right to turn up unannounced at your work premises. Upon applying for a sponsor licence, you are agreeing to allow the Home Office access whenever they see fit to do so.

      If the visit comes unannounced, it is likely that the Home Office has a reason to believe you may be breaching your sponsor duties and there may be evidence of illegal working in the company.

      Ensuring that your systems are up to date will prepare you for any unannounced visits should they occur.

      As sponsor licence holders, you can refuse the Home Office entry to your establishment but this will be marked against you and will possibly result in your sponsor licence being revoked and it will be noted that you are not complying with Home Office rules.

      How long does a compliance visit take?

      There is no time limit put on immigration compliance visits, but typically, they will take between two to three hours. This is a rough estimate and could be longer or shorter depending on how many people the officer anticipates interviewing to satisfy the checks.

      It is important that the key personnel are available for the entirety of the visit should they be needed for any clarification from the compliance visit officer, this will include your authorising officer.

      The officer will stay as long as they feel necessary to get a feel for your company and how you operate before leaving and concluding their findings of your immigration compliance.

      What happens if a company is found to be non-compliant?

      Non-compliance is taken extremely seriously and action will be taken accordingly if a company is found to be non-compliance or if there is any evidence of illegal working. The penalty given will depend on the severity of the breach. The penalties include:

      • Fines of up to £20,000 per person found to be in your company as a result of illegal working
      • Your sponsor licence is downgraded and your business is put on an action plan
      • Suspension of your sponsor licence
      • Your sponsor licence is revoked completely

      If any of the above are enforced on your company, your right to employ migrant workers under the points-based immigration system will be impacted extremely.

      How can Birmingham Immigration Lawyers help?

      Birmingham Immigration lawyers are experts in sponsor licence and work visa matters and are here to help you today.

      For more information on how Birmingham Immigration Lawyers can help you, call our friendly team of advisors today on 0121 667 6530 for immediate assistance.

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