What happens at a Tier 2
sponsorship visit from
the Home Office?

The number of UK companies who are currently registered as Tier 2 sponsors of migrant workers has just reached the 30,000 mark. Each of them is liable to receive a visit from the Home Office’s UK Visa and Immigration department (UKVI) at some stage.  

If you have not yet had your visit, or you are thinking of becoming a Tier 2 sponsor, here are the three things you must know.

1.  Why will the Home Office visit?

There are two reasons:

  • to assess your company before issuing your Tier 2 sponsor licence, or
  • to make sure you can maintain your responsibilities after you become a sponsor.

In both cases, it is normal for uniformed offices from UKVI to attend your premises with the sole purpose of assessing your ability to maintain compliance as a trusted sponsor of migrant staff.

Pre-licence assessment visits

As part of the initial application process, the UKVI will assess whether a pre-licence visit to your company is required. If such a visit is deemed necessary, this will delay the application process as the licence will not be awarded until the UKVI officers conduct a check of your business’s trading premises and can determine the following:

  • You have a genuine need for a licence and do not pose a threat to immigration control
  • The number of migrants you plan to sponsor is appropriate to the size and nature of your business
  • All of your current employee’s right-to-work documents are valid and you have systems in place to verify the status of any non-EU nationals you are already employing
  • Existing HR systems will allow you to carry out Tier 2 sponsor duties effectively
  • You intend to sponsor (Tier 2) migrant workers at the correct pay and skill level.

Information acquired from a pre-licence visit will be used to determine whether a sponsorship licence is awarded to your company.

Post-licence assessment visits

At some point during the 4 year life-cycle of a Tier 2 licence, sponsor holders should expect to receive a UKVI compliance visit. Post-licence visits are conducted to ensure the business is maintaining its duties and responsibilities as a sponsor. During such a visit, the UKVI officers will focus on checking:

  • Your observance of the Tier 2 sponsor rules especially in relation to the issue of certificates of sponsorship to migrant workers
  • If your sponsored migrant staff are complying with the conditions of their leave to remain in the UK – they may want to interview them directly
  • Whether key updates to your migrant workers’ original employment and conditions have been communicated to the UKVI
  • Whether you existing HR systems continue to allow you to carry out your Tier 2 sponsor duties effectively
  • How well you are maintaining records and documentation in relation to your Tier 2 sponsored staff.

Information acquired from a post-licence visit will be used to determine whether your company’s sponsorship licence should be maintained.

2. When will a visit take place?

It entirely depends. Most visits are undertaken without notice; occasionally they are planned.

Unannounced visits

You must allow UKVI staff access to any of your premises to see your normal working environment. If you don’t, you will be deemed to be non-compliant and your licence could be refused or revoked.

If your key personnel are not present on the day they arrive, the Home Office will continue with their visit and ask to speak to an owner, a director or someone involved in the day-to-day running of the business.

Pre-arranged visits

If you know someone from Sponsor Operations is coming, you have a chance to make sure that key members of staff are present and prepared for interview, and that any documents the UKVI needs to see are available.

3. How long will a visit take? 

Compliance officers estimate it takes two to three hours to carry out their necessary audit.

Smith Stone Walters Audit and Compliance Management Service 

Talk to us about supporting your organisation in complying with your duties as an employer of an expatriate workforce. Our bespoke immigration audit service will be tailored to meet your business needs and budget while helping you to avoid incurring penalties.

Our dedicated team of UK immigration specialists will ensure that you maintain ongoing compliance under the points-based system. Should we identify any issues with regard to non-compliance, our staff will work with you to improve your processes.

Whether you require a peace-of-mind soft audit or a fully outsourced compliance and document retention solution, we have all the answers.

Further reading:

How to behave during a compliance visit

Right to work checks and migrant interviews


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