Post Licence Visit – What is UKVI Assessing?
In our recent series of blogs, we have taken a detailed look at various aspects of the Sponsor Licence process, including record keeping, reporting changes, refusals and cooling-off periods, and the pre-licence visit assessment. In this article, we will take a look at what UKVI are looking for during a post-licence visit.
What Is The Purpose Of A UKVI Post-Licence Compliance Visit?
As the name suggests, during a post-licence compliance visit, UKVI is checking whether you, as a Sponsor Licence holder, are properly managing the sponsorship process and you are adhering to your duties and responsibilities. The main purpose of UKVI’s compliance regime is to maintain the integrity of the points-based sponsorship system. In other words, that it is being used for its intended purpose.
According to UKVI, post-licence compliance visits may happen for a number of reasons:
- UKVI have initiated a visit because they have received information that the sponsoring business may have breached its duties and responsibilities.
- The sponsor has submitted an application for renewal
- Another entity within the Home Office has requested the visit as part of a joint operation
- the sponsor is B-rated and is therefore subject to an action plan that now requires assessment
- the sponsor has requested the visit
- a probationary sponsor requires assessment because they have applied for Tier 4 sponsor status
- the Premium Service team have requested a visit
Post-licence compliance visits may be announced or unannounced, depending on the circumstances. For example, if UKVI is tipped off that a sponsor is using the system to bring in foreign nationals for non-genuine reasons, they are likely to carry out an unannounced visit to ensure any evidence is protected.
What Is Being Assessed During A UKVI Post-Licence Compliance Visit?
During a post-licence compliance visit, the UKVI compliance officer will typically carry out checks in a range of areas, including:
- your HR systems to ensure you are adhering to your sponsor duties (see below for more details)
- evidence that your sponsor’s activities pose a threat to the immigration system
- whether sponsored individuals are complying with the conditions of their leave to stay in the UK
- whether your business is still trading
- whether you have been recruiting for genuine vacancies
- whether sponsored workers have the skills, qualifications, and experience needed to do their job
- whether you are only recruiting for roles on the list of eligible occupations and that there is no evidence of inflating roles to meet these requirements
- you are paying the correct level of pay
Whereas a pre-licence compliance visit is about checking that potential sponsors have the systems in place to properly manage sponsored individuals, the post-licence visit is focused on whether this is actually happening. For this reason, you can expect to be asked to provide documents, records, and information by the UKVI compliance officer, which they will check. If they find gaps, they may decide to take further action, including potentially downgrading your sponsor licence to a B-rating. If this happens, corrective action will need to be taken and a further reassessment by UKVI to reinstate your A-rating. If this does not happen, they may then revoke the licence and curtail the leave of your existing sponsored workers.
What Checks Will UKVI Make On Our HR Systems?
As explained above, UKVI will want to see evidence that your business is adhering to the duties of a sponsor licence holder. This means they will check for the following:
You Are Meeting Your Reporting Duties
Under this duty, sponsors have to report certain events within ten or 20 days, depending on what has happened. For example, if a sponsored worker does not arrive at work on the first day, this has to be reported via the SMS system within ten days. If your business changes its name or adds new branches, these must be reported to UKVI within 20 days. For a full list of reporting requirements, see the sponsor guidance. The compliance officer may check that no reports have been missed and that any sent were within the required timescale.
You Are Adhering To The Record-Keeping Duties
The UKVI compliance officer will check that all of the documents/information listed in Appendix D of the sponsor guidance is safely stored and up to date. This includes right to work check documents, copies of passports, qualifications/registration documents, personal contact details of each worker, visa information, copies of BRPs, and National Insurance details. It is essential that your business has a robust and safe system for storing all of this information for each sponsored worker and a method for ensuring it is always up to date.
You Are Complying With The Immigration Laws
UKVI will want to see that you are only employing overseas nationals with the necessary skills and qualifications for a genuine vacancy in an eligible occupation. They will also verify that each worker has the right to work for you and that you are not, even inadvertently employing a person whose visa has expired. For this reason, it is important that your business checks the immigration status of each sponsored person at regular intervals before their visa expires.
You Are Complying With Other Relevant Laws
And finally, UKVI will be alert for any situations where sponsors are not meeting other legal requirements, including UK employment law and data protection laws.
While compliance visits should always be taken seriously, there is no cause for concern if you are prepared and have the systems and processes in place to ensure your ongoing compliance. To make sure is the case, you can engage a third party, such as an immigration lawyer, to carry out regular mock audits. Mock audits effectively simulate what would happen during a live UKVI compliance visit and will reveal any gaps or issues which need to be addressed. By taking this approach, you can be confident that no matter what day or time UKVI knock on your door to carry out a compliance audit, you will pass with flying colours.