Pre-License Compliance visit – what prospective Tier 2 sponsors need to know?

In order to sponsor a non-UK/EU national, a UK based company must apply for the Sponsorship Licence. When applying for the Sponsorship Licence, appointed by the company Authorising Officer is required to complete the online application form and supply specified documents to prove that the company is suitable and eligible to undertake its duties and obligations as a Licensed sponsor.

Before the Home Office reaches a decision on the License application, a Home Office Compliance Officer might visit the company’s business premises with a pre-license assessment visit. The visit can be either announced, whereas the Compliance Officer will be in touch with the appointed Authorising Officer via email to agree on the date, time and the location of the visit, or unannounced, where the Compliance Officer turns up at the address specified by the Authorising Officer on the License application form.

The aim of the Compliance Visit is to check:

– that the prospective sponsor has the necessary human resources system in place to carry out their duties if the License is granted;

– that the number of migrants the company wants to sponsor is appropriate to the company’s size and business nature;

– whether there is any evidence to suggest that the prospective sponsor will pose a threat to immigration control;

– any areas of concern that have been identified by the Home Office that require further inspection;

– whether the prospective sponsor can offer genuine employment.

It should be noted that the Compliance Officer that visits the company’s business premises is not the caseworker who makes the final decision on the Sponsorship License application. The Compliance Officer merely gathers the relevant information and the documents, and then prepares a final report which is sent to the caseworker for consideration.

The interview usually lasts at least 2 hours, whereby the Compliance Officer explores topic areas, rather than asking a series of questions. The follow up questions depend on the answers provided by an interviewee; hence, it is imperative that the answers are well thought out and to the point.

In order to be well-prepared for the Compliance visit, it is advisable that the sponsors (prospective and current) read the relevant Home Office policy guidance and seek a legal advice (if necessary), or even consult with an immigration specialist to conduct a mock visit.

At the start of the pre-License interview, the Compliance Office would show their ID, would ask to see the ID of the interviewee and explain the purpose of the visit. Thereafter, the interviewee would be asked a series of questions to establish the company’s genuine trading presence in the UK, such as what is the nature of business, who are the directors/owners, when the business was established and what position(s) are vacant.

There are four main areas that are being assessed in the course of the visit:

– Monitoring Immigration Status and Preventing Illegal Working;

– Maintaining Migrant Contact Details;

– Record Keeping & Recruitment Practices;

– Migrant Tracking & Monitoring;

– General Sponsor Duties.

The Compliance Officer explores each area by asking area-related questions and requesting to see evidence. At the end of the interview, the interviewee will be given a chance to add any information that they deem necessary.

The decision on the pre-license Compliance Visit is made usually within 2-4 weeks from the date of the visit. If the application is refused, the company may ask for a review.

Should you require any assistance with the Sponsorship License application, or should you require a mock Compliance Visit, please do not hesitate to contact our immigration team.