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Check Your Job Applicant's Right to Work

There are several ways for employers to check whether a job applicant has the legal right to work in the United Kingdom.

You can avoid prosecution for employing illegal workers by checking a potential employee's eligibility (e.g. the original documentation or their right to work share code).

Viewing Someone’s ‘Right to Work’ Details

Employers can view a job applicant’s right to work details to check they can work legally in the United Kingdom.

Using a share code (e.g. A1234567G), you can view information online about your potential employee, such as:

  • Various types of work they have permission to do.
  • Their time limit for working in the UK (if applicable).

It may be necessary as a job applicant to prove your right to work to an employer using an official identification document (e.g. your passport or national identity card).

Even so, employers have other methods for checking a job applicant’s right to work in situations where there is no share code available.

Check an Applicant’s Eligibility to Work

Before you employ a job applicant, you must check and confirm they have the legal right to work in the United Kingdom.

As an employer, you can achieve this by checking (either):

  • A job applicant’s right to work using their share code (see above).
  • A potential employee’s original documentation to make sure it gives them the right to work in the United Kingdom (further details below).

Note: The penalties for employing illegal workers are severe (e.g. for not carrying out a right to work check).
Furthermore, employers must not discriminate against staff members because of the country they came from.

Employing EU, EEA, and Swiss Citizens

The rules for making right to work checks may differ for citizens of the EU, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein from the 30th of June 2021.

How to Check they have the Correct Documents

  1. Employers should ask to see the job applicant’s original documentation.
  2. Confirm the documents are genuine and valid (in the presence of the applicant).
  3. Keep copies of all documents and record the date they were checked.
  4. Perform any necessary follow-up checks if a potential employee’s right to work is time-limited (e.g. recheck the documents before expiration).

Be sure to check :

  • All documents are genuine and original (not changed) and they belong to the person who supplied them to you.
  • Dates of birth and photographs are consistent on all documents (showing a resemblance to the applicant).
  • The expiry dates for the applicant’s right to work in the United Kingdom are valid and they have permission to perform the type of work you are offering them (including any limit on hours worked).
  • Some evidence of their study and vacation times (applicable for students).
  • The job applicant has some supporting documents if any of them show different names (e.g. a marriage certificate or a divorce decree).

Note: The Home Office has further guidance for employers who need to carry out right to work checks during the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

Taking Copies of Documents

  • Make sure photocopies are complete, and:
    • Cannot be changed.
    • Are clear and legible.
  • Copies of passports should:
    • Be of pages with the expiry date and the applicant’s details (e.g. date of birth, nationality, and photograph).
    • Include any relevant endorsements (e.g. a work visa).
  • Copy both sides of biometric residence permits and residence cards (biometric format).
  • Keep copies of all documentation during their employment and for a further two (2) years if they stop working for you.

Note: Another section explains more about data protection and following data protection law when running a business.

If a Job Applicant Has No Documents

The Home Office would need to check immigration employment status of your employee (or potential employee) if they (any):

  • Are unable to show you their documentation because of an outstanding appeal, administrative review, or application with the Home Office.
  • Are a Commonwealth citizen living in the United Kingdom since before 1988.
  • Have an Application Registration Card or a Certificate of Application (less than 6 months old).

Application registration cards and certificates of application must state permission for the work offered by the employer. It is common for these types of documents not to allow the person to perform work duties.

You can use the Employer Checking Service (ECS) to ask the Home Office to check an employee’s or potential employee’s immigration status.

Following that, you would receive a ‘Positive Verification Notice’ from them with confirmation on the applicant’s eligibility to work in the United Kingdom. Be sure to keep this important document on file.

Checking an Applicant’s Document

Employers can check if a document allows someone to work in the United Kingdom to find out:

  • What kinds of documentation permits someone to work in this country.
  • What the right to work check involves for the different types of documents.

Note: Temporary changes may affect the way you check documents (due to the coronavirus outbreak). For example, you can ask for digital versions and carry out the checks on a video call.

Checks an Employer Can Make

There are several other important checks that employers can run on job applicants to make sure they are allowed to work in the United Kingdom.

Important: The maximum fine for not being able to show evidence that you checked an employee’s right to work in the UK is £20,000.

EU Citizens and Non-EU Families

The documentation used to prove EU citizens (and their family members) can work in the UK expires 31st of December 2020.

EU citizens and their families can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (settled and pre-settled status) to prove they can continue working in this country.

Requesting Criminal Record Checks

Employers can request a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check on potential employees. In some cases, more detailed checks are available for certain roles (e.g. childcare, healthcare).

There is an online tool to help employers in England and Wales find out what level of DBS check you can get when recruiting a new staff member.

Note: The ‘rehabilitation period’ means telling employers about your conviction is not required (for most crimes). Employers must also meet certain criteria to check a person’s spent criminal record for a job. It is against the law to refuse to employ someone because they have a spent conviction.

Asking for Health Checks

In some circumstances, employers can ask successful candidates to undergo a health check before they hire them. Typical examples include times when:

  • Health checks are a legal requirement (e.g. eye tests for drivers of commercial vehicles).
  • It is a requirement of the job (e.g. insurers stipulating health checks for cycle couriers).

If so, the offer letter should include any relevant information about the required checks. You should also get written consent from the candidate before asking for a report from their doctor.

Even so, job candidates can demand to view the report supplied by their doctor. They can also withhold it or ask for certain changes to be made.

Important: Another section explains more about discrimination policy and equal opportunities during the recruitment of new staff members for the workplace.

Data Protection for Businesses

It is important for employers to follow all the rules on data protection when handling personal details and information from job applicants.

How to Get Further Help

Employer Enquiry Helpline (Home Office)
Telephone: 0300 123 5434
Monday to Thursday: 9am to 4:45pm
Friday: 9am to 4:30pm
UK telephone call charges

Note: UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) provide further guidance for employers explaining how and why they need to conduct a right to work check.

Application questions asked by business owners (or representatives) or Tier 1 investors:

Business Helpdesk
Mail: [email protected]

Application questions made by educational providers or Tier 4 sponsors:

Educators Helpdesk
Mail: [email protected]

Note: The information given in this section is part of the step by step guide to employing someone and the responsibilities for employers.

Check a Job Applicant’s Right to Work Documents for United Kingdom