Are you prepared for a Home Office audit?
As part of the UK government’s unbending determination to reduce the numbers relating to net migration, it is now becoming increasingly evident that there is a clear drive by the Home Office to reduce the number of Tier 2 sponsor licence holders and ultimately bring down the number of Tier 2 workers in the UK.
We have been watching this space intently and it is apparent that the Home Office is not only making it increasingly hard for employers who are applying for the first-time sponsor licence applications, however, they are also closely observing businesses who already hold a sponsor licences. The Home Office is conducting frequent unannounced audits on existing sponsor licence holders and it seems this trend is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
What does it mean for new and existing sponsors?
The compliance threshold for sponsor licence holders is now a lot higher; obtaining a fresh sponsor licence is becoming increasingly hard. The Home Office is probing and scrutinising each application and wants to know detailed reason/s for the making the application, details about the nature of the business and the also details of posts to be filled. They are also asking to see evidence of the resident labour market test (where applicable) the employer has carried out prior to applying for a licence and as part of the Appendix A information they require, they are asking for details of the individuals whom the business wishes to sponsor. If the mandatory Appendix A information is not provided at the time of submitting a sponsor licence application, it would lead to an automatic rejection of the licence application.
Employers now need to satisfy the Home Office that they have actively sought to recruit from within the settled workforce prior to submitting a sponsor licence application, thereby offering jobs to non-EU workers. Where the employer is exempt from conducting a resident labour market test e.g. where an existing employee on a Tier 4 (G) visa is switching into a Tier 2 (G) visa, they must make this clear in the sponsor licence application, although in our experience the Home Office are challenging as to why the employer did not conduct a prior resident labour market test even when it is not required!
What must employers do?
Both new and existing sponsors must ensure that their Human Resource systems and processes are up to date at all times and compliant with regard to right to work checks, sponsorship management system (SMS) reporting, migrant tracking, record keeping and recruitment. Where their sponsor licence is coming up for renewal, sponsors should prepare for an audit as part of the renewal process.
Consequences of non-compliance
If the Home Office conducts an audit and is not satisfied with the processes in place – even a minor deviation from the guidance, it can implement an action plan for the employer to adhere to within a set timeframe, or completely revoke the sponsor licence with no right of appeal. Moreover, once a sponsor licence is revoked, a company cannot re-apply until the mandatory 12 months’ cooling-off period has elapsed.
As it can be seen from the above, the consequences of a downgrade or a complete revocation are dramatic. Therefore, all employers who hold a sponsor licence must make a conscious effort to ensure that their compliance strategy is appropriate and up to date with the ever changing guidelines. The Tier 2 & 5 guidance in relation to sponsor licences can be accessed here.
How Hudson McKenzie can help?
Hudson McKenzie can provide extensive hand-held support to both new companies looking to apply for a sponsor licence and existing licence holders. We can carry out through compliance checks and even a ‘mock Home Office audit’ at your offices (or remotely) to ensure all of your systems and processes as mandated by the Home Office are in place and that you remain fully compliant at all times.
For further information or if you would like our assistance in carrying out compliance checks and/or conducting a mock audit, please contact Rahul Batra, Managing Partner at Hudson McKenzie by telephone on +44 20 3318 5794 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can access our website at www.hudsonmckenzie.com.