An Introduction to Immigration Compliance for Business

14 May 2024

More and more companies in the UK obtain permission to sponsor workers from overseas. For some, this has been straightforward choice; it is necessary to attract qualified candidates. See this as more to do with what is most practical for the business rather than a necessity. We are commonly advised that, whilst the Home Office guidance regarding this is lengthy, sponsors are pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to complete the licence application form.

There are several obligations a company must meet to maintain that sponsor licence. Those are less clear from the Home Office guidance, and it is sometimes a less present surprise to sponsors that this needs to be done. A series of record-keeping and reporting duties must be undertaken in respect of sponsored staff, together with more general requirements to comply with the law, co-operate with the Home Office and only issue such sponsorship for genuine vacancies.

The immigration changes of 4th of April have brought the first of the requirements into sharp focus. Because a large number of candidates are no longer able to qualify for such sponsorship, it has  become very important to keep the correct records to assess whetherindividuals qualify for a Certificate of Sponsorship. There are other challenges we come across on a regular basis regarding compliance. The Graduate Route visa, itself currently under reconsideration by the Government, has led to situations in the workplace where staff with limited leave to remain expect sponsorship and, if the organisation has no process to determine whether that is appropriate, it can lead to inconsistent treatment. Many companies are mindful of the potential cost of sponsorship and would like to limit the number of shortlisted applicants needing this but are mindful of their obligations to avoid discriminatory conduct and adopt fair recruitment practices. The turnover of staff within HR teams is such that training regarding immigration compliance is regularly needed and many people need some understanding of this.

The consequences of getting this wrong are extremely serious. Losing a sponsor licence means that, not only is it no longer possible to sponsor staff but that those you alreadysponsor need to leave as well. The fines for having employed illegals workers are now enormous, with companies liable for £60,000 penalties if hiring people without the correct permission to work. It is no wonder immigration is often regarded as like Pandora’s Box in HR teams;  better not to check what’s there for fear of the outcome!

Our immigration guide is an attempt to update busy HR  practitioners on this. Each article in the following six weeks will contain downloadable resources to help you make the relevant assessment. We will highlight common pitfalls of trying to Introduce a practical immigration policy that we have seen in practice, together with examples of organisations managing this well.

Firstly, have you read enough Sponsor Guidance to know what the five core immigration compliance duties are? Click here for your downloadable reference guide.

Simon Kenny
Partner - Immigration
Simon Kenny, immigration lawyer who helps with individual immigration applications, permission to work, illegal working penalties and sponsor licence suspension. He specialises in Skilled Worker and sponsor licence applications, right-to-work processes and defences to civil penalties