Employment and pensions

Immigration Update: Compliance - accurate data is crucial

Published on 16th Sep 2021

With the ending of many Covid-19 restrictions, the Home Office has confirmed that compliance audits have resumed. The Home Office would also appear, in the meantime, to have increased data sharing, especially with other government agencies, which will place compliance at the forefront of many sponsors minds. We have developed an interactive compliance guide to help UK sponsors.

Recent developments in the UK's Immigration Rules and policy updates show a subtle – but significant – shift in UK Visas and Immigration's (UKVI) thinking. It is clear that compliance with the Immigration Rules as well as the myriad of sponsorship duties placed on employers will be scrutinised. Furthermore, the grounds for refusal of applications are also moving away from defined concepts to a more vague "persistent offender" category. This comes as Covid-19 restrictions in the UK are slowly easing, which This is allowing UKVI staff to restart compliance visits.

While none of these changes are by themselves particularly large or significant, they are helping to create a very tight regime that allows the UKVI to penalise both employers and individual workers. There are two immediate consequences of this approach. Firstly, the compliance obligations on employers and individual applicants are now so high, it is very easily possible to be innocently non-compliant for only minor issues. Secondly, by increasing the likelihood of non-compliance, the UKVI is storing up evidence to justify application refusals, compliance audits, licence revocations etc.

There is a belief that these increased compliance obligations are necessary for UK government messaging regarding immigration and how it relates to Brexit. In 2016, the "taking control of our borders" slogan was a central part of the Brexit campaign. But, the amendments to the Immigration Rules in December 2020 have meant that the ability to secure a work permit that leads to staying in the UK permanently is quicker, cheaper and easier than at any time previously. That is at odds with any notion of restricting overseas workers.

By making compliance thresholds so high, the UKVI has given itself the ability to penalise employers and individuals so that it can be seen to be taking a hard line – even this mostly involves companies that have not kept records up to date rather than serial and criminal evaders of the work permit process. (Also, the UKVI rarely turns up for investigations alone, aside from standard compliance audits. By making companies declare PAYE details for employees, HMRC can be expected to be involved.)

These developments underline the message that compliance is crucial and that employers and employees must be diligent and vigilant in making sure that records held and information passed on to the UKVI remains accurate. Consequently, we have developed an interactive compliance document that covers in-depth the main obligations for businesses, including right-to-work checks, record-keeping and sponsor licence management. When compliance is so important and the consequences of even minor innocent failure are so big, it is vital to have tools that keep records up to date.

Please do get in touch to schedule a call to discuss how we can help you stay on top of your compliance obligations.

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* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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