· 2 min read · Features

Taking immigration to the boardroom

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Events in 2012 such as Tesco being fined £115,000 for having illegal workers and the revocation of London Metropolitan University’s student licence has not surprisingly led to a general increase in anxiety for all licence holders, especially since the UK Border Agency is placing an increasing focus on compliance.

If you are currently working in HR and find yourself responsible for immigration compliance, including the up-keep of your company's sponsor licence, then there has never been a more pressing time to get the subject on the boardroom agenda. Failure to do so could lead to major implications for the company financially and reputationally should you suffer the same fate as London Met and have your licence revoked.

So what are the key issues that should be keeping senior management awake at night?

Compliance no longer simply equals visas

Compliance no longer simply means getting the right visas to enable your overseas migrants to work legally in the UK. The introduction of the Points Based System back in 2008 has meant that in addition, the onus to track and report on migrant activity now falls squarely to the employer. Under the UKBA's '5 Areas of HR' there are numerous requirements for employers to obtain and maintain detailed and accurate records relating to their migrants. Failure to do so can result in civil penalties of up to £10,000 per illegal worker and criminal penalties which include up to two years imprisonment.

Recruitment

You may already be familiar with the requirements of the Resident Labour Market Test, but have the strict requirements relating to advertising filtered down to your recruitment and resourcing teams? Perhaps more importantly, if your recruitment activity is outsourced, are you working with your third party to ensure that they understand and work with you to meet the requirements?

For example, are they aware that adverts must be placed in certain media if they are to be used to support the hiring of migrant workers? And that records must be kept relating to the advertising and candidates applying? If not, this could prevent the company from being able to hire a suitable migrant worker and/or lead to issues for the company's licence if picked up at a UKBA audit that such records have not been maintained.

Mergers & acquisitions

An even more obscure requirement is that the UKBA will want to hear about any M&A activity within your business. Failure to report this could again lead to the suspension or revocation of your licence.

Any such activity in the UK resulting in the transfer of staff places a requirement upon you to undertake 'right to work' checks on those employees transferred across within 28 days. Decisions will also need to be taken as to whether the acquired business should retain their licence (if they had one), or whether it should be surrendered and for that part of the business to be added to the acquiring company's existing licence.

For activity taking place overseas, this could again have an impact on your licence if it is not reported to the UKBA but you intend to transfer migrants from the newly acquired overseas business into the UK.

All eyes on….who?

It is quite possible that the Authorising Officer for the company's licence will be sat in that board meeting and they will not want all eyes to be on them should there be a risk to the licence. However, the only way to avoid this is to ensure that the matter is whole-heartedly escalated up and across the organisation.

The view that immigration compliance is a simple HR issue is a long-gone fallacy and it is undoubtedly time that the matter is understood and taken seriously at the highest corporate levels.

Alison Hutton (pictured), senior immigration consultant, Newland Chase