The UK Border Agency’s (UKBA’s) Sponsor Management Unit is the agency authorized to conduct audits of UK companies registered as Licensed Sponsors. Obtaining a sponsor license from the UKBA qualifies a UK company to file Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) on behalf of foreign national workers who are not nationals of the European Economic Area or Switzerland.  The UKBA’s Sponsor Management System requires that the UK company designate an Authorizing Officer responsible for maintaining the company’s immigration compliance records, ensuring appropriate CoS applications are submitted to the UKBA and regulating internal enforcement of the company’s immigration policies.

Agreeing to undergo a labor audit by the UKBA is one of the conditions for a sponsor license. An audit generally means both a physical audit of the company’s immigration compliance files, site inspection and possible interviews of select foreign workers.  For companies, what a labor audit means is that a Licensed Sponsor does the following:

•           Continues to have systems in place to enable the company to meet the sponsorship duties;

•           Complies with the sponsorship duties and the specific requirements for the tier(s) (i.e., categories of work authorization) licensed for; and

•           Complies with the work permit arrangements and other immigration-related legislation.

In exchange for expedited processing of certain CoS applications to meet a UK company’s foreign labor needs, the UKBA expects Licensed Sponsors to voluntarily police and enforce all applicable immigration compliance requirements.  Authorizing Officers are reminded of their legal responsibility to follow the UKBA’s policy of “self-certification” by reviewing with the UKBA what records and policies are appropriate for maintaining the company’s license.

When a company is selected for a labor audit, a UKBA officer will typically forward a notification letter setting a mandatory inspection date and time at the company site.  Authorizing Officers and designated company HR representatives can expect an audit letter requesting a combination of requests for written documentation (e.g., updated staff lists confirming specific data on all foreign national workers; organization charts evidencing lines of responsibility and supervision; contracts of employment for all foreign workers, etc.) and a possible request to interview certain foreign workers.

To prepare for audits, clients considering a sponsor license application are urged to work with a qualified UK immigration provider to review the company’s qualifications for a license and confirm if the company has the appropriate personnel and systems in place to maintain its license. For clients notified of an audit, the Authorizing Officer and HR should work with their UK immigration provider (if applicable) to conduct an advance internal audit of files and to also confirm availability of those employees identified for interview.