A Home Office inspection can be a cause of real concern for organisations. The Home Office has powers to investigate employers to ensure they are meeting their obligations under the prevention of illegal working regime and if they are licenced sponsors, to ensure the employer is meeting its sponsor licence duties.
While immigration compliance may not be a daily concern for many employers, it is business-critical to pass a Home Office inspection. Allegations of illegal working or non-compliance with immigration obligations leave employers open to substantial fines, loss of their sponsor licence and workers’ visas being curtailed.
With so much at stake, what can you do to improve your chances of having a successful Home Office inspection and avoid the consequences of a fail?
What is a Home Office inspection?
The Home Office uses site inspections to gather further information before a decision is made in a number of scenarios, including where:
- An organisation has made an application for a sponsor licence
- An organisation has made an application to renew its sponsor licence
- The Home Office has received or become aware of information alleging an employer has breached its duties.
The Home Office can attend premises on a prearranged or unannounced basis and request access to personnel records and interview employees such as HR and migrant workers.
Best practice compliance for employers
Immigration compliance should be an everyday concern for employers. The Home Office expects personnel records to be maintained and kept up to date, and ready for inspection at any one time.
Following these six steps will help your organisation take a proactive approach to immigration compliance, so that in the event of an inspection, you are match-fit.
1. Check your policies
You should have formal policies in place for your immigration and Right to Work matters. While your operations may be correct and compliant, it is hugely helpful for a Home Office inspection to have it all official and written down.
You should also be able to show the policies are accessible and understood by your organisation. For example, as part of your onboarding process you could ensure all sponsored workers sign a document confirming they understand their duty to inform on reportable events.
Remember also that your policies will need updating as and when Home Office policy and legislation changes; these updated documents will need communicating to the organisation.
2. Train your staff
Appropriate training of relevant staff involved in your organisation’s immigration compliance processes is essential. This will go beyond the HR function, and should include managers and sponsored workers. Being inclusive will demonstrate your commitment to developing compliance knowledge and skills across your organisation.
3. Mind the gaps!
Human error isn’t an excuse for non-compliance. Be clear on roles and responsibilities in your organisation, and formalise them. This will ensure there are no gaps in duties and tasks to be carried out, and should address scenarios such as planned and unplanned absence cover.
4. Use mock audits
Practice makes perfect! Internal audits are extremely worthwhile exercises. Cover the same areas as an official Home Office inspection would: check policies, review records and carry out mock interviews with the staff most likely to be interviewed by the Home Office. We are frequently asked to carry out immigration audits to help identify areas for improvement, and provide coaching for interviewees to make the process less daunting.
5. Keep everything
The Home Office inspection is centred heavily on documentation and evidence. Demonstrate your willingness and efforts to comply by keeping records, particularly of any related training and internal audits.
If the Home Office does find an error, but they can see you are trying to comply with your obligations, this could help protect you from enforcement action.
6. Stay on the alert!
A Home Office inspection can happen at any time – at short notice or even unannounced. If you approach immigration compliance as integral to your everyday activity, and not just something to aim for in the run up to an audit, it will take the pressure off should the Home Office come calling.
DavidsonMorris are UK business immigration specialists. For expert advice on preparing for a Home Office inspection, or any aspects of immigration compliance, including training, auditing and sponsor licence management, contact us.
Last updated: 1 August 2021