What is the change? More employers are getting a surprise knock on the door from the Home Office. The Home Office has always maintained the policy and power to conduct unannounced audits, but we are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of spontaneous (versus pre-arranged) visits in search of employment visa violations.

What does the change mean? Companies are strongly urged to strategize with BAL in preparation for such a visit, as it is likely that they will no longer be notified before a Home Office audit.

  • Implementation timeframe: Immediate.
  • Visas/permits affected: All visa categories for non-European Economic Area workers.
  • Who is affected: Sponsoring employers of non-EEA workers.
  • Impact on processing times: No impact.
  • Business impact: Businesses can face fines, lose their ability to sponsor non-EEA nationals and suffer risks to reputation, for employment visa infractions.
  • Next steps: Clients should work with BAL to strategize and potentially perform an internal audit of their foreign workers, employment visas and other record-keeping practices.

Background: Since the points-based system was adopted, the U.K. Border Agency has hinted that it could conduct impromptu visits. However, it has typically favored pre-arranged visits with low-risk companies, thereby giving companies time to prepare for an audit.

But that appears to be changing. In the past few months, BAL has noticed an increase in unannounced visits by the Home Office. Officers may arrive without warning and ask to inspect human resources files. Last month, The Independent reported that Home Office inspectors raided the Oxford Street offices of the upscale international fashion magazine Monocle, and asked its 140 employees to show their visas.

Employers are required to maintain visas for non-EEA workers and comply with record-keeping and reporting requirements. Employers that are found in violation of their sponsor duties can be fined and penalized in their ability to sponsor foreign workers.

BAL Analysis: Employers are strongly encouraged to review their employee files and policies and processes so they will not be caught off guard if Home Office inspectors show up without warning.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact

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