Surprise Home Office compliance audits to take place

In late 2015, the Home Office stated that the number of Compliance Audits will be increased in all industry sectors, and that many of these will be unannounced.

  • 1,792 sponsor licence applications were made in Q2 2015
  • Of these, 791 received a HO visit, some 44%
  • Of those receiving a visit, 57% were unannounced

Approximately 4,000 sponsor licence applications were received in 2015; around 25% of those have been audited. The refusal rate is currently almost 1 in 3 (over 30%).

In an effort to rationalise the number of sponsors on the register in 2016, renewal applications will be approached with increased scrutiny and issues including further visits.

In November 2015, the Home Office launched Operation Magnify, a UK-wide enforcement and compliance initiative to prevent illegal working in the care sector. During the week long campaign, immigration enforcement officers carried out educational visits, alongside intelligence-led enforcement activity, to agencies and providers in the sector to raise awareness of the issue.

A sponsor failing to comply with the duties laid out in the Home Office guidelines faces severe penalties:

  • The Home Office may suspend or downgrade your licence if they believe you are not complying with your duties as a sponsor. If your licence is downgraded you may be required to undertake an action plan, for which a fee will be incurred to the Home Office, before your licence can be restored. Any failure to comply with the action plan will result in a further one being issued and a further fee incurred.
  • Alternatively, the Home Office may revoke your sponsor licence entirely. This will mean all migrants with Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 status will have to leave the UK voluntarily or face enforced removal. In order to apply for a new sponsor licence following an enforced cooling off period you will need to begin the sponsor licence application process again; this will be treated as a new application in terms of fees and considered in light of the reasons for revocation. Any mitigating circumstances will have to be included in the new application.

Penalties for employing illegal workers may also include revocation of your sponsor licence and a civil penalty of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker. If you are subject to UK immigration control, and liable for employing illegal workers, this will be recorded on Home Office systems and may be used in the consideration of any future immigration applications.

Compliance Audit

Our UK immigration partner offers a number of services to assist you in ensuring your company maintains its compliance in case of audit.

Our partner can undertake a full audit of your organisation’s HR systems as regards its migrant workforce. This will cover six areas;

1. Prevention of illegal employment and how this is integrated into the hiring process

How document checking procedures are integrated into the recruitment process and how migrants are identified and tracked.

2. Maintaining migrant contact details

Which processes are in place to ensure HR records are kept up to date with staff personal contact details.

3. Record keeping

Quality of HR file-keeping and how this corresponds to best practice.

4. Migrant tracking and monitoring

How the company monitors, tracks and reports its migrant population.

5. General sponsor duties

Compliance with sponsorship duties, including management of the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

6. Ongoing sponsorship compliance

Reporting changes to employee details (contacts, job roles etc.) and employee absence as well as company changes and updating the SMS.

Following this, our partner will provide a full report of our findings and make recommendations on areas that need focus to ensure your maximum compliance. We will also give guidance on the presentation of evidence during the audit and the procedure of the audit itself.

To ensure you don't fall foul of the proposed audits, please contact us for further information.

Stuart Beaty

Celsium, Birmingham, UK