Sponsor Licence Compliance & Audit Immigration Lawyers
Opportunities available for migrant workers to work in the UK and contribute to its economy are becoming harder to realise as government policy continues to tighten visa routes.
Therefore adhering to Home Office compliance responsibilities is vital to not only a sponsor licence holder’s integrity, but also to fulfilling the legal duty of preventing illegal working (under the provisions of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006). The Home Office can visit business premises at any time and have a zero tolerance policy to non-compliance, which may result in the employer receiving criminal and/or civil penalties including imprisonment and/or fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. Consequently it is imperative that the correct processes are in place and sponsor duties are carried out in order to facilitate successful employment of talented migrant workers.
Once an employer obtains a sponsor licence, the sponsor has an obligation to keep specific records and report certain events. In effect, the sponsor will be acting on behalf of the UKVI to police employment based immigration and ensure abuse of the system is kept to a minimum.
UKVI routinely visit sponsors (announced and unannounced) to ensure the obligations are met.
Sponsors need to keep specific details for each sponsored worker. Examples include:
Copy of passport identity page and UK visa / residence permit showing ability to work for the sponsor
Current and historical contact details plus dates of any changes
Copies of pay slips (to show the worker is being paid at least the rate shown on their Certificate of Sponsorship)
Contracts of employment giving details of the job to be performed in the UK
Any ‘market test’ documents such as copies of advertising and responses to advertising campaigns (where the vacancy had to be advertised as part of the sponsorship process)
Copies of degree certificates and professional accreditations (where necessary)
Attendance / absences from work
Sponsors must also report certain information about sponsored employees on the UKVI’s online Sponsorship Management System (SMS), in most cases within 10 working days of the event. For example:
Failure to attend on the first day of work (e.g. visa delay, change of project start date, flight change)
Unexplained absences of ten working days or more, or unpaid leave of one month or more
Employment ends either through termination, resignation or an employee otherwise stops being sponsored
Significant changes in an employee’s circumstances, such as a change of job, location or significant salary change. Please note: some changes may require fresh sponsorship
An employee switches immigration category
If the employer suspects a migrant is breaching the conditions of their leave
There are significant changes in the sponsor’s circumstances (for example, it has changed ownership, address or was involved in a merger) or there has been a change to the Authorising Officer/Key Contact
Records and reports are extremely specific and even a small discrepancy can lead to a Sponsor having their Licence suspended or revoked.
Suspensions or revocations can lead to the UKVI issuing an ‘action plan’ that carries a charge and stops the sponsor from employing any new migrants until the action has been satisfied. Revocations result in current employees having their leave curtailed and unless they can find a new sponsor or change immigration status; leaving the UK.
Visits by the UKVI are increasing. Please contact us for further information. We can assess your record keeping and reporting systems, employee files and procedures and recommend any changes that need to be made to ensure you maintain your licence.
When do I need an audit?
A compliance audit should be actioned on a yearly basis, especially when considering the complex and transitional nature of this area of law. However, the ensuing are significant circumstances which could warrant immediate attention:
Initial sponsor licence applications and renewals
Your company is either a restaurant, catering or construction business
The Home Office has contacted you to arrange a visit
You are concerned about your current immigration compliance systems and processes or do not have any in place
You are apprehensive about some of your employees’ rights to work for your organisation
Prevention of illegal working in the UK
All employers in the UK must ensure that the appropriate right to work checks are carried out on all new employees, regardless of their nationality, before they start work.
An employer who negligently hires an illegal worker will commit a civil offence and be liable to a fine for up to £20,000 for each illegal worker. They may also be committing a criminal offence if they knowingly hire an individual who has no right to work in the UK. If convicted of the latter offence, this carries a custodial sentence of up to two years and/or an unlimited fine. The UKVI publishes the names of all employers who have been fined on their website and during a recent survey, employers citied the threat of their damaged reputation as of greater significance that the fine.
Our fee for a compliance audit starts from £1000 plus VAT (if applicable) and from £500 per year for sponsor licence management services ensuring on going compliance.
Want to know more?
Call us for a free initial consultation