As many organisations have discovered, the UK Government takes immigration law very seriously. Learn about the five areas you will be audited on and your immigration obligations expected of organisations that hold a sponsor license.
If you sponsor, or wish to sponsor foreign workers in the UK, then you can expect an immigration audit at some point. The Home Office carries out audits regularly to make sure employers are complying with their sponsor license obligations. It is important to remember that failure to comply could result in your sponsorship license being revoked, employee visa restrictions, fines and even criminal prosecution.
We support many of our clients by, undertaking a mock immigration audits which can expose issues that need to be addressed. Like a Home Office Immigration Audit, our audits will test you on five key requirements:
1. Monitor immigration status and prevent illegal working
All organisations must complete a Right to Work check for every employee before they commence work. This means:
- Obtaining original versions of their official documentation
- Checking the validity of documents in the presence of the holder
- Keeping a copy of the documents, and recording the date the check was made.
As you do this, record relevant expiry dates (e.g. visas) and set diary alerts for three months beforehand so that visas can be extended in good time. If you don’t have a formal HR system, a spreadsheet detailing the required information will do.
Bear in mind that there is a £20,000 fine per illegal worker if you fail to carry out adequate Right to Work checks. Furthermore, if the Home Office can prove you knowingly hired an illegal worker or had reasonable cause to believe that they did not have the right to work, then this is a criminal offence that could land you with an unlimited fine and up to five years in prison.
2. Maintain migrant contact details
You must maintain an accurate record of every employee’s UK residential address, telephone number and mobile phone number. This should be kept on a central system or spreadsheet, and on the employee’s file so it is easily accessible prior to an audit.
Make sure your employees know how important it is to notify you of any changes in circumstance immediately, as part of their contract of employment.
3. Record-keeping and recruitment practices
Before sponsoring the individual, you need to demonstrate that an assessment was made of the UK labour market to ensure that no British, EEA, or settled applicant was sufficiently skilled to fill the required vacancy.
Keep documentation to prove that there was a genuine vacancy at your organisation, and that Home Office requirements were satisfied during the hiring process. This can include advertisements for the vacancy (which is counted as a ‘resident labour market test’), applications of rejected candidates, payslips for the duration of employment, and evidence that the employee is completing the job set out in their Certificate of Sponsorship.
4. Migrant tracking
You must be able to prove awareness of what migrant employees were doing throughout their employment with you. This includes recording all absences from work, whether for annual leave, sickness, lateness, unexplained absence, and even when working off-site such as attending client meetings or visiting suppliers. Record this information in the central HR system or spreadsheet.
Furthermore, the Home Office must be notified within 10 working days of any changes to the employee’s work. This includes changes to job title, work undertaken, salary, work location and anything else listed in the Certificate of Sponsorship.
5. General sponsorship duties
Finally, your organisation must have an ‘Authorising Officer’, who is the senior person in charge of all sponsor activities. They must ensure that all sponsorship obligations are satisfied, and that the Home Office is kept up-to-date on developments. If the person holding this position leaves the company, nominate a new Authorising Officer within good time as it can take up to 18 weeks for the Home Office to update their systems.
It’s worth a quick chat
If you are concerned about a sponsorship application or scheduled audit, SA Law can help. Our mock audits are a tried & tested way to highlight best practice and expose areas of concern. Contact us to find out how you can benefit.