Sponsor Management Series – Compliance visits
6th February, 2018
In the latest edition of our series on migrant worker sponsor management, we look at compliance visits.
What are compliance visits?
To ensure that a sponsor is complying with their responsibilities, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has the power to carry out compliance visits at any of the sponsor organisation’s UK premises, at any time. During visits, Compliance Officers will audit the sponsor to ensure that all of their obligations are being met. If the sponsor is found to be non-compliant, UKVI may downgrade, suspend or revoke their licence.
As compliance visits are becoming increasingly common, and can be announced or unannounced, it is essential that sponsors are prepared in the event they face a visit from UKVI. This update provides an overview of the issues to be aware of.
When can compliance visits happen?
Compliance visits can be triggered by specific events such as UKVI receiving intelligence of non-compliance or where a sponsor has a history of poor compliance. However, visits can also occur for a variety of different reasons including where a sponsor has applied to renew their licence or where the number of migrants they sponsor has increased. Sponsors in specific sectors may also be more likely to receive visits, including those in the healthcare and education sectors.
What happens during a compliance visit?
As mentioned above, compliance visits are an audit to check if the sponsor is meeting its obligations. Consequently, Compliance Officers will look in depth at a sponsor’s systems, processes and personnel. During a visit it can be expected that:
- HR systems will be assessed to ensure they are capturing and retaining all relevant information e.g. migrants’ contracts of employment, payslips, contact details;
- Key Personnel will be interviewed to check that those listed with UKVI are indeed the Key Personnel and that they are aware of their obligations;
- at least three sponsored migrants (unless a sponsor has less than this number) will be interviewed to ensure that there have been no breaches of the sponsor’s obligations;
- migrants’ files will be reviewed, to ensure that they are being paid the minimum salary and migrants may be asked to produce evidence of their work to demonstrate that they are fulfilling a genuine vacancy at graduate level or above;
- the sponsor will need to provide evidence to show that the resident labour market test has been complied with for sponsored migrants and provide the right to work checks for a sample of all employees;
- the Compliance Officer will check that the correct type of CoS has been assigned and that details provided on the CoS are still accurate; and
- employee attendance monitoring records will be checked.
Compliance Officers also have the ability to take documents away including original documents belonging to the sponsor or a migrant. However, original documents must be returned as soon as they have been copied or the Compliance Officer’s report completed.
If the sponsor does not have the documents requested, but will be able to obtain them after their visit, the Compliance Officer must allow the sponsor a reasonable amount of time to produce these.
Making sure you are ready for a visit
As a sponsor, you have a duty to cooperate with UKVI. In order to be fully prepared, it is recommended that a compliance visit plan is put in place.
Any plan should include the steps needed to be taken from the minute the officers arrive. For example, members of reception should be briefed and specific members of staff should be assigned the task of dealing with the Officers on arrival.
HR systems and personnel files should be kept up to date and staff must know how to access these during a visit. If practicable, the plan should contain a list of all sponsored migrants and their relevant sponsor details which can be used as an internal tool to ensure that the visit runs smoothly.
The Key Personnel should be tasked with keeping abreast of the Home Office sponsor guidance as this will assist in interviews as well as making sure the sponsor keeps on top of its ongoing obligations.
A list of all the documents which have been provided to the Compliance Officer should be kept and interview records and compliance records should also be requested. If the Officer requests certain documents that cannot be retrieved that day, actions will need to be put in place to ensure that these documents are retrieved and sent to UKVI following the visit.
If your business requires advice or assistance in preparing for compliance visits, please feel free to get in touch with one of our immigration experts.