Top tips for measuring immigration compliance cost, return and performance levels

There is clearly value to any organisation of avoiding non-compliance with its immigration duties and the resulting consequences - civil penalties, operational disruption, reputational harm.

Beyond this, in support of demonstrating value and return on a wider global mobility programme, immigration compliance offers significant scope for cost tracking and performance measurement.

We take a look at how organisations can approach measuring immigration compliance.

The fundamentals

Start with the basics! Do you have policies and procedures specifically covering immigration compliance? And importantly - how regularly are you reviewing these?

Regular and in-depth immigration audits are the basis of any effort to measure compliance. Benchmark (against past performance, Home Office standards), analyse, compare, identify trends, manage risk, close gaps.

Fundamentally, the Home Office uses audits as a measure of compliance. And with unannounced inspections increasingly favoured by the Home Office, from a risk management perspective, auditing will improve your ability to remain compliant.

What better measure of immigration compliance than a successful Home Office visit or renewed sponsor licence?

On a strategic level, audits also indicate the extent to which your policies are aligned to your organisation's commercial needs - now and in the future. For example, if the organisation is pursuing a growth strategy within a specific emerging market, have the compliance risks been identified and addressed? Demonstrate value by foreseeing issues, presenting workable solutions and averting problems.

Coverage

Is immigration compliance covering all mobile populations within your organisation?

You can only build an accurate picture of activity if you are measuring it all! At any one time, you are likely to be dealing with various types of mobility, from long-term deployments through to short-term trips, and the growing range that sits in-between. Each type of mobility carries specific risks, requirements and costs which as an organisation you need to understand.

For example, if your organisation has a sizeable business travel budget, does immigration compliance activity equate in its level of focus on and support for business travelling employees?

Segmentation will enable you to compare relative costs of the various types of mobility, the resource drain, the returns (eg were the assignment objectives met?). This level of insight can again help shape mobility strategy. For example, as an organisation you may be seeing an increased proportion of assignments aborted prior to travel, which may be indicative of a need to look at your candidate selection process to identify potential deal-breakers before investment.

Engagement and adoption

How well adopted is immigration compliance across the organisation?

The key here is to look beyond HR and global mobility function. Travelling employees, Board level management, PAs, tax, finance, legal - everyone!

Are some parts of the organisation engaging with the mobility function than others? Do you record attendance at compliance training/webinars? Are people accessing the relevant policies on your intranet?

Understanding levels of engagement assists in risk profiling, cost management and cost attribution. It can also demonstrate where progress has been made in addressing compliance risks, where for example you can show increased take up in compliance related services and resulting decrease in issues arising.

Taking engagement full circle, ensure you reach out for feedback from employees. For example, for travelling employees, immigration compliance can seem an unwelcome distraction from the core commercial purpose of their trip. Delivering a supportive service that enables travel while removing the burden on employees will increase the likelihood of the employee buying-in to compliance protocol.

Pre-travel

This is perhaps the most obvious head of measure. The administration behind arranging and facilitating overseas travel enables global mobility, delivered through effective approaches to immigration compliance.

Again, focus on the basics. How do your employees arrange business travel? Do you have standard pre-travel processes? Are these automated? Are these integrated with other internal functions? Maximum impact requires collaboration with other departments such as tax, legal, payroll, to provide credibility and impact from a cross-functional perspective.

What data are you capturing at the initial stages? This could include monitoring frequency of travel, duration. How long is it taking to process each category of permit?

Do you carry out a pre-travel risk assessment as standard? Create a risk profile for each traveller in the context of their travel requirment - dependants, eligibility, skills, nature of visits, duration ect in the context of local immigration rules- and address the areas identified, update and log.

Seeking investment approval for new systems to enable data capture and analysis is without doubt a substantial challenge in most organisations. Mobility teams should be positioning their business case around measures that can be utilised for strategic insight for the organisation to identity areas of value.

You should see demonstrable results from an immmigration compliance perspective against measures such as faster processing times, reduced spend on fast-tracked services, fewer instances of visa refusals.

While overseas

How do you stay in touch with overseas employees? Are you tracking employee movement while abroad?

There are two key benefits here.

First, that travelling employees and particularly those on assignment, feel they remain supported and able to call on advice and support when required, to maximise completion assignment completion rate.

Second, specifically looking at compliance, you must ensure employees remain within the permissions of their visa category while abroad. This means both making employees aware before they travel of the specific permissions they have under their visa, and keeping ongoing contact.

On return

Tracking post-assignment movement of employees also offers insight into the return on investment of the assignments themselves, and more - such as the success (or otherwise) of your talent retention efforts and repatriation processes.

For example, tracking the rate or path of progression of returning employees. If you are seeing a high proportion of employees leaving the organisation shortly after a return from overseas assignment, you may have a problem with your repatriation strategy. It's something most organisations seek to avoid, as you are essentially investing in personnel who then take that enhanced experience and multi-cultural insight elsewhere.

It can be as simple as seeking feedback on employees' return for indicators of service level, morale and success of the assignment in meeting the preagreed objectives.

Immigration compliance as a measure of success

By measuring immigration compliance activity and its impact, employers can approach mobility strategy from a more informed position, with a view to managing risk, demonstrating value and return.