Eligibility to Work in the UK (Acceptable Documents)

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UK employers have a legal obligation to check the eligibility to work of all individuals they employ. While it can be a challenge for employers to keep up to date with their immigration compliance duties under the prevention of illegal working regulations, failure to comply can result in Home Office enforcement action and in some cases, criminal sanctions against the employer.

 

Who is eligible to work in the UK?

An individual is eligible to work in the UK if they are a citizen of Britain or if they hold valid settled status in the UK. For non-UK residents, the right to work will be determined by their immigration status and any restrictions imposed on them by their grant of leave.

For example, those holding valid leave under a work visa are only permitted to undertake the type of work allowed under their visa category for the time period granted under the visa, while individuals with indefinite leave to remain are not subject to UK immigration or work limitations, and their eligibility to work in the UK is indefinite.

Regardless of an individual’s nationality, race or immigration status, in the UK all workers must provide evidence to a prospective employer confirming their right to work. This includes British and Irish citizens, and EU nationals.

Employers must implement a system for conducting the prescribed Right to Work document checks consistently, and which does not discriminate unlawfully against or apply only to individuals of certain nationality or race.

 

Changes in EU worker right to work acceptable documents

Following the end of the Brexit transition period, eligible EU nationals and their family members had until 30 June 2021 to make an application under the EUSS for pre settled or full settled status.

EU nationals must now present proof of their status under the EU Settlement Scheme or, if they came to the UK after 1 January 2021, proof of an appropriate work-based visa under the points-based system. EU nationals are no longer allowed to rely on their passport or National Identity Card to prove their eligibility to work in the UK.

Where a right to work check confirms that there is a time limit on the EU employee’s right to work in the UK, a follow-up check should be carried out prior to the expiry date. This could be, for example, where they only have pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or they have been granted limited leave to remain under the points-based system.

 

Right to work checks 

Following changes to the right to work regime in 2022, there are now three ways that an employer can carry out compliant eligibility to work checks:

 

Digital right to work checks 

Employers are now able to use Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT) through an IDSP to conduct digital identity verification on British and Irish citizens who hold a valid passport (including Irish passport cards).

 

Employer Checking Service 

The Home Office’s Employer Checking Service allows employers to verify the eligibility to work for workers with certain types of immigration status that can be checked online, such as status under the EU Settlement Scheme. The online checking service requires the individual to provide a share code to the employer before a check can be made.

Employers are only be able to verify the right to work status of Biometric Residence Card (BRC), Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), and Frontier Worker Permit (FWP) holders using the Home Office online service; physical BRPs, BRCs, and FWPs are no longer be acceptable as proof of right to work.

Employers should also use the online service to check an employee’s immigration status in any of the following circumstances:

  • The employee cannot show you their documents because of an outstanding appeal, review or application with the Home Office
  • The employee has a Certificate of Application less than six months old
  • The employee has an Application Registration Card
  • The employee is a Commonwealth citizen who started living in the UK prior to 1988

 

Please note, in the event that you are requesting a check in circumstances where the prospective or existing employee has a Certificate of Application less than six months old, or an Application Registration Card, you will need to see the original version of the document.

Where an online check is not possible, the employer should conduct a manual check.

 

Manual document checks

In order to meet your duties, you can only accept documents from the relevant Home Office guidance list to verify eligibility to work. There are three lists, which apply depending on the individual’s immigration status.

 

List A right to work documents for individuals with a permanent right to work in the UK

After the initial pre-employment check, you will not be required to carry out any further Right to Work checks on this person, as your organisation will have a continuous statutory excuse for the full duration of the person’s employment with you.

  • A passport (current or expired) showing the holder is a British citizen or a citizen of the UK and Colonies having the right of abode in the UK.
  • A passport or passport card (in either case, whether current or expired) showing that the holder is an Irish citizen.
  • A document issued by the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey or the Isle of Man, which has been verified as valid by the Home Office Employer Checking Service, showing that the holder has been granted unlimited leave to enter or remain under Appendix EU to the Jersey Immigration Rules, Appendix EU to the Immigration (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Rules 2008 or Appendix EU to the Isle of Man Immigration Rules.
  • A current passport endorsed to show that the holder is exempt from immigration control, is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK, has the right of abode in the UK, or has no time limit on their stay in the UK.
  • A current Immigration Status Document issued by the Home Office to the holder with an endorsement indicating that the named person is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK or has no time limit on their stay in the UK, together with an official document giving the person’s permanent National Insurance number and their name issued by a government agency or a previous employer.
  • A birth or adoption certificate issued in the UK, together with an official document giving the person’s permanent National Insurance number and their name issued by a government agency or a previous employer[footnote 1] .
  • A birth or adoption certificate issued in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland, together with an official document giving the person’s permanent National Insurance number and their name issued by a government agency or a previous employer.
  • A certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen, together with an official document giving the person’s permanent National Insurance number and their name issued by a government agency or a previous employer.

 

List B right to work documents for individuals with a temporary right to work in the UK

List B Group 1 

Employers have a time-limited statutory excuse which expires when the person’s permission to be in the UK expires. You should carry out a follow-up check when the document evidencing their permission to work expires.

  • A current passport endorsed to show that the holder is allowed to stay in the UK and is currently allowed to do the type of work in question[footnote 2].
  • A document issued by the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey or the Isle of Man, which has been verified as valid by the Home Office Employer Checking Service, showing that the holder has been granted limited leave to enter or remain under Appendix EU to the Jersey Immigration Rules, Appendix EU to the Immigration (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Rules 2008 or Appendix EU to the Isle of Man Immigration Rules.
  • A current immigration status document containing a photograph issued by the Home Office to the holder with a valid endorsement indicating that the named person may stay in the UK, and is allowed to do the type of work in question, together with an official document giving the person’s permanent National Insurance number and their name issued by a government agency or a previous employer.

 

List B Group 2

Employers have a time-limited statutory excuse which expires 6 months from the date specified in your Positive Verification Notice. This means that you should carry out follow up checks before this notice expires.

  • A document issued by the Home Office showing that the holder has made an application for leave to enter or remain under Appendix EU to the immigration rules on or before 30 June 2021 together with a Positive Verification Notice from the Home Office Employer Checking Service.
  • A Certificate of Application (digital or non-digital) issued by the Home Office showing that the holder has made an application for leave to enter or remain under Appendix EU to the immigration rules (known as the EU Settlement Scheme), on or after 1 July 2021, together with a Positive Verification Notice from the Home Office Employer Checking Service.
  • A document issued by the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey or the Isle of Man showing that the holder has made an application for leave to enter or remain under Appendix EU (J) to the Jersey Immigration Rules or Appendix EU to the immigration Rules (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Rules 2008, or Appendix EU to the Isle of Man Immigration Rules together with a Positive Verification Notice from the Home Office Employer Checking Service.
  • An Application Registration Card issued by the Home Office stating that the holder is permitted to take the employment in question, together with a Positive Verification Notice from the Home Office Employer Checking Service.
  • A Positive Verification Notice issued by the Home Office Employer Checking Service to the employer or prospective employer, which indicates that the named person may stay in the UK and is permitted to do the work in question.

 

No right to work

Employers face significant enforcement action, and potentially criminal sanctions, if they knowingly employ an individual who does not have the right to work.

Non-UK residents must ensure they hold valid immigration status which allows them to work. This means applying to the Home Office for a visa. You cannot employ an individual until they have permission to work.

You cannot employ, or continue to employ, someone if they cannot prove their right to work.

In cases where the individual cannot provide documentation showing their eligibility to work in the UK, you should ask the Home Office to check the individual’s status and seek a Positive Verification Notice to confirm that the applicant has the right to work, which you should retain as proof you have complied with the requirements.

In some cases, not having the correct documents can potentially be a fair reason to dismiss employees, but the employer should proceed with caution and take legal advice to ensure the dismissal is not unlawful or unfair.

You may also need to take action if an employee loses their right to work.

 

Allegations of illegal working

The penalties for employing illegal workers and for failing to properly check eligibility to work in the UK can be severe, including a substantial fine for each worker found to be unlawfully employed by our organisation. If you are found to have employed someone you know did not hold the right to work in the UK or had reasonable cause to believe they didn’t you can be sent to jail for five years and forced to pay an unlimited fine.

You will also be penalised if you did not carry out the necessary checks or did not check them properly before offering employment. In these cases, you are likely to get a referral notice and may be required to pay up to £20,000 for each worker found to be employed illegally. The levels of fines are increasing from the start of 2024 to £45,000 per illegal worker for a first breach, and up to £60,000 for repeat breaches.

You will have 28 days to respond if you are found liable and can object to the decision.

 

Need assistance?

The consequences of employing illegal workers are severe and costly. Avoiding Home Office scrutiny and penalty warrants the effort and investment in ensuring continued compliance with your immigration and prevention of illegal working duties.

DavidsonMorris’ team of UK immigration lawyers specialise in helping employers meet their right to work duties. We offer an immigration audit service to review existing processes and procedures and identify areas of risk and weakness to be addressed when verifying eligibility to work in the UK. We can support with implementing effective and compliant systems when checking an individual’s eligibility to work in the UK.

We also provide training for HR, managers and those responsible for onboarding new employees to ensure a consistent approach to meeting your duties.

If you are facing allegations that your organisation has breached its duties, we can help with your next steps. If you opt to challenge a civil penalty, we can provide guidance throughout the process. 

For specialist right to work expertise, speak to us.

 

Eligibility to Work in the UK FAQs

What counts as proof of eligibility to work in the UK?

There are three ways an employer can verify right to work; they can use the online checking service, or carry out an authorised digital check or conduct a manual document check.

Who is eligible to work in the UK?

You are eligible to work in the UK if you are a British citizen, a person with settled status in Britain, such as ILR or EU settled status, or if you have valid immigration status which allows you to carry out the work in question, such as a Skilled Worker visa.

How do you get a UK work permit?

Workers have to apply to the Home Office for permission to work in the UK, usually under a visa or other work immigration route. Common work permits include the Skilled Worker visa, Health & Care Worker visa, and the Global Talent visa. Different visas allow different types of work and each has its own eligibility requirements which the applicant must satisfy.

Last updated: 8 August 2023

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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