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How to prepare for Tier 2 Compliance/Sponsor Licence Visits

What is a Tier 2 Compliance/Sponsor Licence Visit?

Tier 2 compliance visits are carried out by the UK Visas and Immigration compliance team for all businesses with a sponsorship licence. Immigration compliance and audit visits are carried out for the specific purpose of ensuring that UK employers recruiting overseas workers are meeting their sponsorship duties and obligations (i.e. monitoring, reporting, and record keeping) and that businesses are not hiring illegal workers.

Compliance visits are carried out by UKVI before granting a sponsor licence (this is called a pre-licence compliance visit) and after a sponsor licence is issued (this is called a post-licence compliance visit). Tier 2 compliance visits are carried out periodically and may be announced or unannounced, meaning that it is essential that sponsor licence holders are always ready for an inspection.

What to expect during Home Office Compliance Visits

During a Home Office compliance visit, a UKVI compliance officer will carry out a number of checks to ensure that the business is meeting its obligations and duties. During a pre-licence compliance visit, the Home Office will normally question and check that:

  • the potential sponsor can provide genuine employment that meets the skill and pay requirements (for an employment sponsor licence)
  • the potential sponsor has a human resource (HR) system in place for the monitoring, reporting, and record-keeping of sponsored workers
  • the potential sponsor is able to carry out their sponsor duties
  • the number of overseas nationals that the potential sponsor plans to employ is appropriate to the size and type of business
  • the potential sponsor does not represent a threat to the UK’s immigration system
  • any other matters that may have raised concerns are checked, and
  • any original documents not provided in the sponsor licence application are checked

During a post-licence compliance visit, the Home Office will normally check that:

  • the existing sponsor licence holder has a suitable HR system in place, and they are meeting their monitoring, reporting, and record-keeping requirements
  • sponsored workers are being recruited to fill genuine vacancies that meet the skill and salary requirements
  • the existing sponsor licence holder does not pose a threat to UK immigration
  • the number of CoS or CAS initially requested is still justified
  • sponsored individuals who are working or studying are meeting the conditions of their leave to stay in the UK, and
  • the existing sponsor licence holder is still actively trading

It is important to bear in mind that compliance visits may be carried out at any time and are often unannounced. Visits are more likely to be unannounced if concerns have been flagged by or to UKVI regarding your compliance.

During the visit, you can expect the UKVI compliance officer to ask a number of Tier 2 compliance visit questions and ask for evidence to be provided. In most cases, they will ask to see at least 10% of your sponsored migrant files/records to ensure that the details held are complete and up to date and that your workers have the right to work in the UK. They will also cross reference the information you have on record to ensure it is correct by speaking to the sponsored worker.

It is essential that you:

  • are prepared for a home office audit at all times
  • there is a suitable person who has the time, experience, and knowledge to spend with the compliance officer,
  • you can provide the information requested in a timely manner, and
  • you always cooperate in a professional manner with the compliance officer

How to prepare for Compliance Visits

As a sponsor licence holder, there are many steps you can take to ensure that you are prepared for a compliance visit at all times, whether announced or unannounced, including:

  1. Regularly review your processes and compliance – we recommend periodically checking that your sponsorship processes are up to date and are being correctly followed by your staff
  2. Ensure that you always have a properly trained Authorising Officer, Level 1/2 users and key contact in place – and that their details are correct on the SMS system
  3. Ensure your records and documents are up to date – including the contact details of your workers, their current immigration status, and their right to work
  4. Have a checklist for each sponsorship compliance task for each sponsored worker
  5. Prepare sponsored employee records to make it easy to find immigration information – this will make it easy to find the information when requested by the UKVI compliance officer. How you do this will depend on whether you use paper-based or electronic systems to keep HR records. If you use a paper-based HR system, you may consider having a dedicated folder for each sponsored employee with a section just for immigration records, including their:
    1. certificate of sponsorship
    2. a copy of their passport/BRP/visa
    3. salary, role and skills
    4. absences
    5. their contact information and addresses, and
    6. any changes reported to UKVI
  6. Put a calendar/reminder system in place to ensure that checks (e.g., right-to-work and immigration checks) are carried out when required. For example, a reminder to speak to workers before their visa is due to expire to discuss their plans and requirement to leave the country or extend their visa.

Ultimately, the UKVI compliance officer is looking to see that you are fully on top of your sponsor licence obligations. If they have any doubts that your process is not working, your records are out of date, you are not reporting changes, or you are not monitoring sponsored workers correctly, there is a chance that they will find you non-compliant. This may result in your licence being downgraded, suspended, or your sponsor licence revoked. With careful preparation, you can ensure that you will pass a compliance visit at any time.

One of the best ways to achieve peace of mind that your business is always compliant is to engage the services of a specialist in immigration law who can carry out regular mock audits. Mock audits involve carrying out the same sponsor licence compliance checks as performed by UKVI but will not result in any negative impact if problems are identified. The person carrying out the mock audit will advise you of any problems and help you to resolve them, ensuring that you are then ready for a real compliance visit.

How can Reiss Edwards help?

As a specialist in UK business immigration, Reiss Edwards works with domestic and international businesses to make the process of bringing overseas workers to the UK, whether on a short, long-term, or permanent basis, as easy as possible. Our immigration solicitors can:

  • Guide you through the UKVI compliance process necessary to secure your sponsor licence
  • Provide sponsor licence compliance visit support
  • Explain the type of Home Office Tier 2 compliance visit questions you can expect to be asked during a home office compliance visit
  • Help your business to retain its sponsor licence by carrying out periodic mock compliance audits
  • Help your organisation make necessary changes after a Home Office compliance visit
  • Manage the suspension, downgrading, or revocation of your sponsor licence
  • Deal with the refusal of a sponsor licence

For assistance with employing foreign workers in the UK, please speak to our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation at 020 3744 2797 or by email at info@reissedwards.co.uk.

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