sponsor licence compliance checks

Home Office Sponsor Licence Compliance Checks to include Digital Inspections

The Home Office has updated its guidance on sponsor licence compliance checks to include digital compliance inspections.

Prior to the changes, the Home Office carried out in-person inspections on site. But since this had to be suspended due to the pandemic, it is necessary for the Home Office to have another option to conduct their compliance checks, hence the introduction of digital inspections.

Earlier this year, the government announced that it will be gradually moving UK immigration systems online. It is said that a more digital approach is more streamlined and helps to promote national security. It is no surprise then that they have decided to extend the realms of the sponsor licence compliance checks to be consistent with their overall digital immigration system plan.
What could the digital compliance checks include?
The updated guidance suggests that digital compliance checks could include the following:

  • Interviewing anyone within the organisation or any sponsored worker via remote video calls.
  • Making checks with other government departments, agencies or local authorities.
  • Undergoing online investigations such as accessing Companies House records.

How do the new digital compliance checks affect companies?

The biggest change to the guidance which is likely to affect companies or catch them off-guard is that the inspections can come unannounced.
In this sense, it means that companies must be ready to be inspected by the Home Office at all times. Records and documentation should be in order and information provided to the Home Office should accurately reflect records kept by bodies such as HMRC and Companies House.

If a sponsoring company is called to an online remote interview, they should make sure that they have access to the relevant information that the Home Office may require. This can include details about the sponsored worker such as their role and salary, details about the company or annual accounts. The Home Office can request this information at any time during the interview, before the interview or after.

For instance, the Home Office could request proof of right-to-work checks to confirm that the company has done them correctly and maintained the right documentation in line with the requirements. Therefore, organisations must be explicitly aware of their duties as sponsors.

What is usually involved in Home Office compliance checks?

The reason that the Home Office conducts such checks is to verify that the information that sponsor licence holders give is accurate and that they can prove that they are offering genuine employment to foreign nationals.
In order to avoid illegal employment or trafficking, the Home Office needs to be certain that the company is genuinely trading and operating lawfully in line with immigration and wider UK laws.

The checks are there to ensure that organisations are not a threat to immigration control which means acting in accordance with their sponsorship duties.

The compliance checks can involve asking for extra documents once a sponsor licence application has already been made or doing extra checks to verify the documents a company has already provided. For example, the Home Office may check PAYE records with HMRC.

The Home Office can also make site visits to check that the company is doing genuine business activity in line with what they have declared in their sponsor licence application. Compliance officers may interview any of the workers to ensure that they are doing the role that they have been sponsored to do and that they are not working illegally. As part of the site visits, they may take photos of the location, and inspect the records kept, or the systems held.

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