Tips on Sponsor Licence Compliance and Home Office Audits
Sponsor licence compliance is something that our specialist immigration solicitors could write books about given the complexities of the immigration rules. We don’t as we realise that UK business owners and HR directors just want handy sponsor licence compliance guides and an expert Sponsorship Licence lawyer available to speak to for advice on the latest sponsor licence rule changes or to explain how a compliance audit will work in practice.
UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers
Why is sponsor licence compliance important?
If your business does not comply with its sponsor licence duties it risks losing its ability to sponsor overseas workers who require a work visa to be employed legally in the UK. That means you will have wasted all the hard work that went into applying for your sponsor licence and, after the expiry of a cooling-off period after the revocation of the licence, have to make a fresh licence application to the Home Office.
From the perspective of your sponsored workers, a sponsor licence is crucial as without one you cannot continue their employment. Their options are to leave the UK or find a new job with another sponsoring employer. From the perspective of your business, losing sponsored workers does not make sense if you have spent time and money in sponsoring and training them to carry out specialist work only to have to try to replace them with British or settled workers if you are unable to get your sponsor licence reinstated after it has been suspended.
Sponsor licence compliance can be onerous but that’s because the Home Office is relying on your business to monitor immigration control by sticking to your reporting and recording duties and alerting the Home Office to potential individual immigration compliance issues.
Sponsor licence compliance made easy
Perhaps we should say ‘sponsor licence compliance made easier’ rather than easy. If your business has HR capacity issues or just wants to stick to what it is good at then our Sponsorship Licence lawyers provide a sponsorship licence management service for a fixed monthly retainer.
The sponsor licence management service is led by Hans Sok Appadu, head of the business immigration team at OTS Solicitors and known for his down-to-earth approach and ability to find solutions rather than lecture you on the law. If you want to find out more about our sponsor licence management service call Hans Sok Appadu on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.
Sponsor licence compliance needs to be bespoke to your business
Whilst Sponsorship Licence lawyers can't change the immigration rules and sponsor licence reporting and recording duties to suit your business, we can make sure that your sponsor licence compliance systems work with your existing HR systems. That way sponsor licence compliance isn’t so overwhelming or time-consuming.
If your business does not want to use a sponsor licence management service to manage its sponsor licence then it is even more important to ensure that you have the best key personnel in place to manage sponsor licence compliance for you and that you provide the key personnel with the time and training to do the job properly. That is a financial commitment that will pay off if it means that you don’t end up paying out Sponsorship Licence lawyer fees because the Home Office wants to suspend or revoke your licence.
It is best to be commercial about whether using a sponsorship licence management service or giving your key personnel the time and training they need to meet their reporting and recording duties is the most cost-effective solution. Sometimes outsourcing compliance on a fixed monthly retainer is both cheaper and less stressful. Contact us on 0203 959 9123 to learn more about our sponsor licence management services.
Getting your key personnel right
Whether you decide to use a sponsor licence management service or not it is still important to choose your key personnel with care. Sometimes a business will choose the most senior members of the team to act as key personnel without considering if they are the most organised or efficient members of staff. Other businesses select the most junior members of the business that they can get away with to act as key personnel, often forgetting the strategic importance of the sponsor licence and the recruitment of overseas workers on skilled worker visas to the success of the business and the financial consequences if the licence is lost.
Sponsorship Licence lawyers can help you identify the best key personnel to appoint and advise you on the steps you need to take if you want to appoint a new authorising officer or Level 1 User. If you are appointing key personnel who have not had to carry out sponsor licence compliance before we can provide bespoke training to ensure that your office systems are compliant.
Unexpected Home Office audits
The Home Office is entitled to carry out either announced or unannounced visits so the only answer is to be ready at any time for a compliance visit or audit if you want to reduce the risk of your sponsor licence being suspended or revoked. Whilst Sponsorship Licence lawyers can advise on the business sectors most at risk of experiencing an unannounced compliance visit the reality is that any business could receive a knock at the door from a Home Office official. Explaining that key personnel are away or that files cannot be found will not be an acceptable excuse for being noncompliant with sponsor licence reporting and recording duties.
What Home Office audits are there to do
You may think that a Home Office audit is an unnecessary intrusion into your business but a Home Office auditor has the job of auditing whether your business is complying with its duties, such as:
- The prevention of illegal working by checking immigration status and conducting right-to-work checks and ensuring that every worker has a right-to-work check contained on their HR file (and repeated where necessary if the worker only has limited leave to remain in the UK)
- Record-keeping duties on sponsored workers
- Reporting duties on sponsored workers and business changes, such as reporting to the Home Office if a sponsored employee leaves your business
Preparing for a Home Office audit
At OTS Solicitors we have the following tips for Home Office audit preparation:
- Mock audits - you may remember mock exams from your school days. They were an essential part of preparing you for an examination and a mock audit is just as important in making sure your business is ready for a Home Office compliance visit. Our friendly Sponsorship Licence lawyers can carry out an annual inspection and let you know where you have not complied with your reporting and recording duties or where systems could be improved to make things easier for your HR staff. It is best to know if there are risks to your sponsor licence before a Home Office official descends on your business to carry out an audit
- System reviews -if you do participate in a mock audit, it is equally important to learn from it and tweak your systems or follow the recommendations, such as the appointment of additional Level 2 Users or extra training on the latest developments on right-to-work checks or sponsor licence reporting duties and hybrid working
- Simplicity - remember that even if a Home Office visit is announced in advance, it is easy for key personnel to go into panic mode at the thought of an audit, even if their record-keeping is exceptionally efficient. That’s why the systems you put in place must be as simple as possible so staff can access all the documents they need on the day of an audit or the audit can still proceed smoothly despite the authorising officer being away on holiday or sick leave
- Communication is the key to getting through a Home Office audit. By that we mean internal communication between the management team, line managers and the HR department and making sure that the right information gets to the named key personnel. For example, the management team may agree to the promotion of a sponsored worker on the recommendation of the worker’s line manager. However, does the worker’s new job title still fit with the information on their certificate of sponsorship? Have the key personnel been told about the promotion or asked to check the certificate of sponsorship and make any necessary amendments?
- Keep up to date - as well as your business experiencing employee changes the immigration rules and sponsor licence guidance are frequently amended. You can keep up to date if you use a sponsorship licence management service or if you ensure that your key personnel have the time and resources to access the latest training
UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers