Recent news suggests that the Home Office have increased the number of unannounced visits to Tier 2 sponsors, to ensure that Tier 2 Sponsors are complying with their legal duties. The ability to Sponsor skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to come and work in the UK has previously been described by the courts as a privilege. UKVI officials are therefore increasingly vigilant to ensure that businesses maintain compliance with the UK immigration rules and the process which allows businesses to employ skilled non- EEA workers continues to be used appropriately.
Home Office Unannounced Visits to Businesses
The Tier 2 visa route allows businesses to recruit skilled workers from abroad and employers wishing to employ non-EEA migrants must obtain a sponsorship licence before they can sponsor a migrant.
Sponsors should be aware that UKVI officials can visit a sponsor at any time during the duration of the Tier 2 sponsor licence. Most sponsors can expect to be visited at least once every four years however if issues have been discovered during a previous visit, a sponsor can expect more frequent visits from the Home Office.
The current Home Office guidance gives UKVI officers the power to conduct pre licence visits which allows officers to attend business premises to conduct checks to ascertain whether a business would be a suitable sponsor. A post-licence visit is one which takes place after a business has been granted a sponsor licence. UKVI officials conduct these in order to assess the following;
- The sponsor’s HR systems and if they are meeting their sponsor duties
- Whether the sponsor and/or the sponsor’s activities pose a threat to immigration control
- If the original number of migrants requested on the sponsor application or annual request is still relevant or valid
- If migrants working or studying with the sponsor are complying with the conditions of their leave to stay in the UK
- If the sponsor continues to have a trading presence
- If sponsored migrants under Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (ICT) were recruited to fill a genuine vacancy which meets the Tier 2 requirements in respect of skill level and pay – establishing this is vital, from 6 April 2014 a UKVI officer must revoke a sponsor licence if a sponsor has assigned a CoS for a vacancy which is not genuine
Compliance with Sponsor License Obligations and UK immigration Rules
Following the increase in recent visits to businesses we have highlighted below some key tips for sponsors to ensure that proper procedures are being followed to prevent any compliance issues and any issues and concerns raised by the Home Office during previous visits are properly addressed and remedied;
- Informing the UKVI of any significant changes to the migrant’s circumstances, such as changes of job title, not turning up for work or employment ceasing
- Ensuring that you have compliant HR systems in place to enable this
- Assigning the correct type of Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to prevent incorrect refusal of CoS requests
- Undertaking and maintaining records of the Labour Market Test where required
- Ensuring you have up to date processes to enable you to track employees
- Paying the employees at the appropriate rate and as specified on the CoS
- Ensuring that details submitted to HMRC regarding the employee’s salary match the CoS
- where there are any discrepancies, providing reasonable explanation to the UKVI
- reporting changes in corporate structure to UKVI in a timely manner
- Ensuring compliance with all other record keeping and reporting duties
Failure to comply with UKVI rules could result in downgrading, suspension or revocation of a Sponsor’s Licence which means that the employer will be banned from recruiting migrant workers in the future. Worst of all the loss of sponsorship due to one employee will have a knock on effect on all existing Tier 2 sponsored employees who will also lose their jobs. All employees sponsored under the revoked Tier 2 licence would be forced to leave the UK unless they can find a new sponsor to employ them almost immediately. If you are concerned about compliance issues following a visit from the UKVI or at any other time we would recommend that legal advice is sought immediately.
UK Immigration Compliance Solicitors for Businesses
Our advice for UK businesses/employers (corporate clients) and education providers encompass the following:
- Ongoing compliance with UK immigration laws and sponsorship duties for Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 5 Sponsor;
- Advice on Prevention of illegal working;
- Assistance with Home Office Audits;
- Advising on appropriate record keeping and monitoring processes;
- Training for businesses and educational institutions, including training on compliance procedures and recruiting international staff and students; and
- Keeping you updated with the changes in UK Immigration Law.
Our team of experienced and professionally qualified solicitors and barristers are ready to provide you with effective solutions to your business immigration needs. Our expert immigration solicitors based in London, provide business clients with a tailored service and are on hand to expedite the sponsor licence process. We ensure that we help you achieve and maintain an A rated sponsor licence and provide ongoing compliance checks to ensure you are aware of your duties as a Home Office registered sponsor.
To contact one of our Immigration Solicitors or Immigration Barristers please complete our legal case assessment form and we will get in touch or call us now on 02071830570 for a telephone case assessment.