Beyond Compliance – Hidden Practicalities of being a Tier 2 Sponsor
| Naomi Goldshtein

Beyond Compliance – Hidden Practicalities of being a Tier 2 Sponsor

Over the last three month period, the UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) will have received a high number of sponsor licence renewal applications. Although not guaranteed, the filing of a renewal can often prompt a UKVI compliance visit, especially where the UKVI have not visited the sponsor in the previous two years. As part of our compliance function, we offer sponsors the opportunity for Fragomen to complete a mock compliance audit. This has been incredibly popular as many of our clients, despite holding a sponsor licence for eight years, have never experienced a UKVI compliance audit.

The majority of our UK clients are sponsor licence holders and we recommend that they review their immigration compliance processes at regular intervals. This not only provides reassurance to HR and Global Mobility Managers but also identifies any weaknesses which could place the licence at risk. For many of our clients, losing the ability to sponsor non-EEA nationals would be catastrophic to their business, restricting the UK businesses access to global talent for a period of up to two years and inflicting damage from a reputational standpoint.

I am often asked: what are the common issues I come across at an audit? Yes, there are the common failings of late reporting and missing documentation from files, but a more recent trend is the impact of a decentralised delivery of sponsor immigration compliance processes. This is often seen when a business separates functions between local HR, local line managers, Global Mobility and/or a shared services centre, whilst the corporate centre remains ultimately accountable to the UKVI for all processes. There is obviously no right or wrong structure here, but when a sponsor has split responsibility between such functions, of late the importance of these business areas operating in sync has come into greater focus.

A sponsor licence is held by one entity. As such, where a sponsor defaults in a compliance obligation within one area of the business, this will increase the risk of a sponsor being deemed non-compliant overall. From the mock audits Fragomen’s Compliance Team completed in 2016, we have noted variations in immigration compliance processes that are so great within one business, that despite HR, for example, delivering an A* performance, the lack of processes in place by global mobility or local line managers (or vice versa) would likely lead to the downgrading or in a worse case scenario suspension of a sponsor licence.

Often where non-compliance in sponsorship duties is identified, this can easily be rectified. Where there is segregation of responsibility for businesses migrant population, a budget friendly approach can be as simple as knowledge sharing. Increased communication within the business allows internal processes to be standardised and incorporated into the sponsor’s “best practice” operations. We work with many of our clients to overcome this internal challenge, specifically when there is more than one business unit assuming responsibility for the sponsored migrant population.

As we saw in 2012/2013, if the trend of post licence compliance visits following the filing of renewals is repeated, as we start 2017 it is important for sponsors to be “audit ready” and assure themselves that immigration compliance processes are operated consistently across the business. Over the coming weeks, we will be posting a number blogs to refresh sponsors of their compliance obligations. If you have any questions or if you would like to engage the services of the Fragomen Compliance Team please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected].