Preparing for a Home Office Sponsor Licence Audit banner


Preparing for a Home Office Sponsor Licence Audit

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Getting ready for a Home Office sponsor licence audit is stressful. There is no denying that. However, our immigration solicitors can help your business reduce the stress and hassle of a Home Office compliance visit by recommending that you follow some simple rules.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For advice on sponsor licence management call the immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

It could be you

It could be you or rather it could be your business that receives an announced or unannounced visit from the Home Office. Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that one of the best ways to prepare for a sponsor licence audit is to work on the assumption that ‘it could be you’ rather than assume that your business is either too large, too small, too niche or too generalised for the Home Office to single it out for inspection.

Although business immigration solicitors can pinpoint the businesses that are most likely to have a Home Office audit (because of their immigration record, other government departments’ investigations such as right-to-work compliance or HMRC, or the sector the business is in is perceived as at ‘high risk’ of audit) the reality is that no business immigration solicitor can guarantee that your company will not be investigated or audited by the Home Office.

Preparing for an audit

Compliance visits are carried out on either an announced or unannounced basis. Some sponsoring employers question what they can do to prepare if they have not had advance notice of a visit from a Home Office official. Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that a lot of preparation work should be standardised and take place on an annual basis so your company and your key personnel are ready whether or not your business is chosen for an unannounced visit. That isn’t wasted time as having internal audits and good management systems in place reduces your overheads as well as minimises the risk that your sponsor licence may be suspended or even revoked.

Never too early to prepare

The Home Office can decide to carry out an audit before they process your sponsor licence application so a company should not assume that they only need to worry about audits when their sponsor licence is due to expire in 4 years’ time.

You also cannot assume that you will be aware of the Home Office tagging along to an investigation and audit conducted by another government agency as that agency’s audit may be unannounced and something that you are unaware of and unprepared for.

The audit

Sponsorship Licence lawyers can't tell you what will happen during an audit as every audit is different from the last one. However, they can give you an indication of what to expect though so visits are fairly cursory and others very thorough.

Your business can expect the following matters to be checked during a pre-licence audit:

  • Your business has or will have genuine vacancies for jobs that meet the eligibility criteria for sponsorship under one of the sponsored work routes, such as the skilled worker visa, and the number of vacancies matches the size of the business
  • Your company has systems and procedures in place to manage the sponsor licence. This management does not have to be done internally as you can employ a sponsor licence management service to carry out some of your reporting and recording duties
  • The business is not a threat to the immigration system

In a post-licence compliance visit, the Home Office may want to look at a specific aspect of sponsor licence management or may check out all the following issues:

  • The company remains an active trading business
  • If your business and HR systems remain suitable for your company to manage the sponsor licence and comply with reporting and recording duties
  • Sponsored workers are doing the jobs and at the salaries recorded on their certificates of sponsorship and are complying with their visa conditions. If changes are made (for example, promotions) the online sponsor management system should be updated in accordance with the latest Home Office guidance
  • The allocated number of certificates of sponsorship remains appropriate
  • The business doesn’t constitute a threat to UK immigration

The paperwork trail

During an audit, you should expect to be asked to produce paperwork to support answers to questions. Knowing what documents you may need to produce is important as well as having the paperwork readily available, either in paper form or digitally.

It is standard practice for auditors to look at around 10% of sponsored workers’ HR files to double-check that the information provided is consistent with HR files. They can also ask to speak to those sponsored workers to make sure that there is no inconsistency between what is stated on the HR file and the reality for your sponsored employee. For example, their job description matches the job they are doing and their salary is consistent with their certificate of sponsorship.

Preparing for a Home Office audit

As a Home Office audit may be unannounced your business and your key personnel need to be in a state of readiness for a compliance visit. That’s hard as vigilance can slip, leading to complacency as no one thinks your business, because of its size or sector, will ever be ‘picked’ on.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that an annual audit by business immigration solicitors can help you remain ready for a Home Office audit as the solicitors will pick up on where the latest Home Office guidance isn’t being followed or where online sponsor management system recording has lapsed. For example, forgetting to update sponsored workers’ right-to-work checks or not recording changes of address on the sponsor management system.

Audits by external agencies also test out the basics, such as whether documents can be located if requested. Sometimes even computerised systems do not allow key personnel to find documents quickly and efficiently and this issue should be resolved before a real Home Office audit occurs.

If you know that your company isn’t that efficient and that it isn’t cost-effective for you to recruit more staff to manage your sponsor licence then consider employing a sponsor licence management service on a fixed monthly retainer. Not only will they provide the support you need but they will also help ensure that your business is always audit-ready.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For advice on sponsor licence management call the immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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