Immigration Compliance Training

Immigration compliance training supports enhanced internal efficiencies and risk management. We can support, whatever your immigration training needs.


Improving the skills and knowledge of internal teams and key human resource staff is a crucial element in meeting your immigration compliance obligations as a UK employer, and avoiding Home Office scrutiny and penalties.

Immigration training has the potential to offer significant return where the result is enhanced efficiency and effectiveness of your immigration practices, reducing both the cost and risk of managing a migrant workforce.

Immigration training for risk management

The UK immigration system has been subject to substantial reforms post-Brexit. The Immigration Rules, and the extensive body of Home Office guidance that underpins them, continue to be regularly reviewed and updated, resulting in frequent changes.

This backdrop presents an ongoing risk for employers, who are required by law to ensure they are compliant with the latest rules, or risk enforcement action.

Under the prevention of illegal working regime, employers face substantial fines.

Sponsor licence holders who are found to have failed to meet their duties can have their licence suspended or revoked in the event of non-compliance.

Proactive and regular training can help to mitigate this risk, and may also help to show mitigation should allegations of non-compliance arise.


A tailored approach to your immigration training needs

We can work with you to assess and benchmark current ability levels and provide immigration courses, training and mentoring for personal and professional development.

We will adapt to accommodate varying knowledge and ability levels within the various team to include introductory sessions for new staff, refresher courses for existing staff, advanced courses for knowledge expansion in specific areas and in-depth seminars on new developments and regulations as they are introduced.

Our aim is to help promote career development while overcoming knowledge and skill gaps, and operational and process deficiencies.

We offer a highly flexible approach to immigration training, and can build a solution to meet your specific needs.


Bespoke, face-to face immigration training

Our immigration training can cover all areas of UK immigration law to meet your needs.

The aim of our immigration training is to provide practical understanding of the law, ensuring your teams are knowledgeable and aware and that your operational practices are consistently compliant with regulations.

We will work with you to develop a bespoke programme specific to your organisational and immigration requirements, taking into account the level, knowledge and ability of the employees receiving the training.

These can be delivered at your premises or off-site. 
Our training is highly interactive, and provides your teams with the opportunity to ask questions pertinent to their business priorities.

Popular training courses include:

  • Understanding immigration law
  • Maintaining accurate records
  • Monitoring migrants under the Points Based System
  • How to meet your sponsor duties
  • The categories of permission
  • Right to Work training

We can also append a more in-depth immigration ‘surgery’ to the training, to allow delegates to seek advice on immediate business needs.


Immigration training for your team

We know from experience that compliance will flow when the central HR team engages with staff and advises on the processes that they need to follow. 

We can support your HR team by delivering training to non-HR personnel and migrant workers to inform them of their responsibilities under law and to support your organisation in ensuring compliance and minimising risk. 

Popular events include presentations for frequent business travellers.


In-house information sessions for HR staff and operations managers

As part of our focus on enhancing the capabilities of your in-house teams, we can deliver information sessions specifically designed to meet the needs of your HR staff and operations managers. These can be delivered at your premises, and structured to address specific immigration issues in the context of a particular strategic priority, project or business aim.


Professional development

We also work with larger employers to develop professional development programmes for key in-house personnel.

We support employers’ learning and development objectives by devising and delivering schemes for the professional development of personnel responsible for immigration and HR compliance. This includes:

  • Initial situational analysis to understand the teams’ strengths, weaknesses, needs and skill gap analysis and areas that need improvement
  • Development of bespoke support objectives and supporting strategies to determine measurable learning and development outcomes
  • Development and delivery of training and development plans, which can be team or individual based
  • Training and support to become OISC regulated immigration advisors

Webinar training

We deliver a comprehensive programme of free training webinars throughout the year, covering immigration topics affecting the HR function, as well as related subjects such as immigration and settlement applications for migrant workers.

Full details of our current schedule can be found here.


Right to work training & consultancy

Right to work elearning 

Our online right to work e-learning course allows employers to roll out compliance training across the organisation, to ensure all workers involved in recruitment and onboarding have the knowledge and awareness of their right to work obligations, in particular when hiring new workers. 

The course is available online and accessible at a time convenient for workers to complete. Once successfully completed, the organisation can retain digital proof of the training for each worker. 


Level 1 & Level 2 SMS user training 

Licensed sponsors are under strict legal obligations to meet their compliance duties, or face enforcement action.

A significant part of the compliance burden falls on the company’s level 1 & level 2 SMS users, who have to know how to use the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) to discharge their company’s compliance duties.

As a level 1 or level 2 SMS user, you are probably heavily involved in your company’s day-to-day immigration work, but this doesn’t make the system any more intuitive or user-friendly.

The Sponsorship Management System is notoriously difficult to use, and the Home Office’s SMS user guidance is just as complicated.

Many companies also have only a small number of sponsored workers, so when you do need to log onto the system, you may not be sure how to use it.

With no one to ask for help, level 1 and 2 users are often left worried about making a mistake and exposing their company to compliance penalties.

Our SMS Level 1 & Level 2 User training course is designed to give you the knowledge and confidence to use the Sponsorship Management System correctly and efficiently.

During this highly practical and interactive session, our immigration experts will provide step-by-step guidance, including: 

  • Insight into the Sponsor Management System and its main functions
  • Checking the number of COS you have allocated
  • How to draft and submit an application in the SMS system for more COS allocations
  • How to review and change key personnel
  • How to review and change business / company information
  • Understanding how use the SMS to meet your compliance obligations
  • Understanding how to carry out your reporting duties
  • How to terminate employee sponsorship
  • How to apply to renew your PBS Licence
  • Train you on how to engage with UKVI and what documentation is to be sent to the Home Office following submissions on the SMS

You will come away with a thorough understanding of how to navigate the SMS and how to use the system to meet your company’s compliance duties. 

Sessions have limited capacity to provide maximum benefit for delegates. 


The importance of right to work training

When hiring any new employee, organisations must follow the ‘prescribed requirements’ in order to obtain the ‘statutory excuse’ and so avoid a civil penalty for illegal employment.

These prescribed requirements essentially require an employer to check documents and verify an employee’s working status prior to offering them employment.

Where relevant, employers must conduct follow-up checks to ensure that their employee’s status remains valid.

While this sounds simple in theory, the task may become problematic where an employee is unable to produce a document that unequivocally demonstrates a right to work in the UK.

UK employers must carry out Right to Work checks on all employees or face significant Home Office penalties.

The law requires all companies to check and retain evidence of each employee’s legal right to work in the UK.

UK companies found to be employing an individual who does not have permission to work in the UK can be issued a fine of up to £20,000 per illegal worker, among other punitive measures.

Even where companies recognise their duties under the Right To Work legislation, and operate with policies and processes to comply, there are many practical issues that can give rise to a breach and result in enforcement action against the employer.

For example, it can be challenging to achieve consistency in implementing Right to Work processes across an organisation with multiple sites and a large and changing workforce. The guidelines are also extensive and hard to interpret, and UKVI frequently change the legislation making it difficult to stay up to date with the latest requirements.



Right to work: employer considerations

The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 requires all companies to check and retain evidence of each employee’s legal right to work in the UK. Section 8 provides that all companies must check and retain relevant documentation in a prescribed format that demonstrates that an employee has the legal right to work in the United Kingdom. Section 22 determines that the checks must be made in a non-discriminatory manner. All employees must be checked regardless of nationality, length of service and role within the company.

Your HR processes and policies should be shaped around meeting the Home Office guidance of verifying each employee’s right to work by obtaining, checking and recording relevant acceptable types of documentation.

At the pre-employment stage, you should be asking all potential new employees to bring along their original passport or identity document. If the recruit is a British citizen and does not have a passport, you must request to see the original birth certificate (the long or short version) and P45, or other evidence of registration with HMRC.

You then have to determine whether an employee should be categorised as a List A employee or List B employee, as this will dictate the forms of ‘acceptable’ documentation that must be presented to you by the individual.

Employers will only be afforded a statutory defence in law against a civil penalty if they can prove that they have correctly signed off on the retained documents, and stored them securely.

Among the record keeping duties, you must also keep a copy of the Right to Work check for at least 2 years after an employee leaves your organisation.

For organisations, the Right to Work regime presents a number of risks. The Right to Work rules – and the resulting requirements place on employers – are subject to frequent change. 

List B workers with time-limited permission to work must be subject to repeat checks and where an employee loses the right to work, the employer should take advice to falling foul of employment law issues. In addition, all personnel – including non-HR – involved in recruiting and onboarding new recruits, such as line and site managers, should be trained on their Right to Work duties and processes.

Right to Work compliance is an ongoing demand. The Home Office is looking for continued monitoring of HR processes and consistent and competent implementation to ensure ongoing compliance. A copy of the documents must be retained for the duration of the employment.

Rules and regulations surrounding the Right to Work in the UK should be taken seriously. The Home Office is proactive in pursuing employers for non-compliance with the regulations.

Where the Home Office suspects an organisation is employing workers illegally, perhaps as a result of specific intelligence such as an anonymous tip-off or complaint from a former employee, they can attend the employer’s premises without notice to investigate the allegations.

Immigration raids are daunting. Immigration officials will expect to examine records of your Right to Work checks and all other documents relating to your migrant workers to determine whether your migrant employees are lawfully employed or if you are in breach of your duties. They can also interview migrant workers.

If the immigration enforcement officers find evidence that employees are working illegally, they may be detained and subsequently deported. The business can then face a number of penalties, which, depending on the severity and number of the breaches, could include:

  • Substantial fines, known as a civil penalty – this can be up to £20,000 per illegal worker
  • Losing your trading license
  • Business listed on the Government public list
  • Sponsor licence downgrading, suspension or revocation
  • Criminal conviction of up to five years
  • Closure of business by the court
  • Seizure of earnings

The level of civil penalty you receive for illegal working will depend on the specific facts of your individual case, such as whether you are deemed to have knowingly hired an illegal worker or if this the organisation’s first breach.


A statutory excuse

If you are facing allegations that you have employed illegal workers at your business, you may be able to rely on a ‘statutory excuse’ as a defence to either seek to reduce the fine or have it cancelled altogether.

The statutory excuse may apply if can show you have completed compliant Right to Work checks on the employee(s) in question, and can show there is a consistent system in place for checking employees’ working status, and that the unlawful status was as a result of an error or was discovered at a later stage. In other words, you have met the requirements under law to perform document checks and are able to evidence how you have been compliant with the rules.

It is not enough to simply photocopy a candidate’s documents and show them as part of statutory excuse. You have to show a consistent and compliant approach to Right to Work checks, making an audit trail and record keeping of your document checks and processes critical.

A full assessment of your case by an immigration specialist will help to identify any grounds for challenge, including examining the Home Office’s conduct and procedure to ensure the fine was lawfully issued.


Sponsor licence training for key personnel

As part of the sponsor licence application, you will have to give certain responsibilities to members of your staff, some or all of which will have access to the sponsorship Management System (SMS) after a licence has been granted.

These people are called ‘key personnel’ and there are 4 roles which are:

  • Authorising Officer – a senior and competent person responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the SMS
  • Key Contact – your main point of contact with the UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI)
  • Level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using SMS
  • Level 2 user – an SMS user with more restricted access than a Level 1 user (can only access ‘Workers’ section on the Sponsor Management System)


Only Level 1 and Level 2 users will have access to the SMS. If the Authorising Officer or Key Contact requires access, they must also set up as a Level 1 or Level 2 user. A Level 2 user will have restricted access to the licence.

The Key Contact does not have automatic access to the SMS and if they require access to the system, they will need to be set up as a Level 1 or Level 2 User by an existing Level 1 User.

Each of your key personnel must:

  • not be subject to immigration control, i.e. be a visa holder (note that personnel with indefinite leave to remain or permanent residency are not subject to immigration control)
  • be permanently based in the UK
  • not have any civil or criminal matters which fail the Home Office guidance (please contact us if you need further information)
  • not be subject to bankruptcy proceedings
  • be a paid member of your staff or engaged by you as an office holder.


None of your ‘key personnel’ can be:

  • A representative who is not based in the UK
  • A contractor or consultant who is contracted for a specific project
  • Subject to a Bankruptcy Restriction Order, or Undertaking
  • Subject to a Debt Relief Restriction Order, or Undertaking
  • Legally prohibited from being a company director; the only exception to this rule is for the Key Contact who can be legally prohibited from being a company director but only if that is solely due to them being an undischarged bankrupt or subject to Debt Relief Order


Level 1 Users

Your Level 1 user will be the person who will be doing your day-to-day immigration work. They have full access to the Sponsorship Management System (SMS), which means they can:

  • Undertake routine sponsorship activities, including assigning Certificates of Sponsorship, reporting migrant activity and changes of circumstance, request CoS, apply for and assign restricted CoS and apply to renew your licence.
  • View information about your licence, notify UKVI of changes to your organisation.
  • Apply to renew your licence and track the progress of your application.


You must always have at least one Level 1 user in place, who can access the SMS to carry out these tasks. In your Sponsor Licence application, you can only nominate one Level 1 user, and this person must be an employee. Once your Licence has been granted you can appoint more Level 1 users, including your Representative or other members of staff. UKVI recommend that you keep numbers to the minimum necessary for effective business operation.


Level 2 users

The Level 2 user also have access to the SMS, but on a much more restricted basis.

They can only:

  • Assign certificates of sponsorship
  • Report migrant activity


They cannot:

  • Access your general Licence information
  • Report any changes to the organisation

You can appoint as many Level 2 users as you need once your Licence is in place.


Compliance & key personnel contact details

You must provide contact details for all 4 Key Personnel at the time of your Licence application and if any changes occur subsequently. The contact address given for each of your Key Personnel must be either:

  • your main address
  • a branch or head office included in your Licence.
  • your Representatives business address
  • Email – All email addresses you provide for Key Personnel must be secure, personal to and only accessible by the named individual.


If your organisation moves location you must update the contact details for your Key Personnel, as well as updating the licence address itself.


Compliance & key personnel good character

Any owner, director or the authorising officer of the organisation must not have been issued with more than one civil penalty under Section 21 of the Immigration Act 2014 over the last 12 months even if the penalty was fully paid; or if issued with a penalty, not fined.

‘Annex 1: circumstances in which we will refuse your application’ sets out the circumstances in which The Home Office will refuse your organisation’s sponsor licence application.

‘Annex 2: circumstances in which we may refuse your application’ tells you about the circumstances in which the Home Office may refuse your organisation’s sponsor licence application.

Whilst the Home Office does not ordinarily carry out checks on persons associated with your organisation such as employees in positions of responsibility who are not directors or key personnel and financiers involved in the running of the institution they reserve the right to ask for information about these people at the licence application stage and throughout the life cycle of the licence. The Home Office, if they identify the need to carry out checks on these personnel, will certainly do so. Their decision whether to grant your organisation a licence will depend on the seriousness past actions, as well as consider mitigation circumstances such as what steps have been taken to improve things.


Need assistance with immigration training? We can help

As a dedicated team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, we provide comprehensive in-house immigration compliance training to help meet your duties under the immigration rules and manage the complexities of multinational and globally mobile workers.

Whether you are looking for top-up sessions to stay up to date with the frequent changes in the immigration rules, or want more in-depth insight into a particular risk or area of immigration, we can help. We regularly deliver training to employers ranging from global corporates and UK-based business through to SMEs, to enhance their internal capabilities through immigration training, webinars, information sessions and email updates.

Our immigration training covers all areas of UK immigration law and we can tailor a training solution specific to your organisational and immigration requirements.

Contact us for specialist immigration training support. 



Immigration training FAQs

What are the new immigration rules in the UK 2023?

The UK's Immigration Rules are extensive and subject to frequent change. In general, unless you have British citizenship or UK settled status, in most cases you will need to apply for a visa to come to the UK.

Can an immigrant work in the UK?

Non-UK residents can come to the UK to work provided they have the required permission. UK immigration routes for work include a range of sponsored and unsponsored work visas, as well as a number of temporary work visas. Every worker in the UK, regardless of their nationality, must prove their lawful right to work to their employer.

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