Covid-19 and UK immigration: Home Office temporarily relaxes right to work check procedure

01 April 2020

As Covid-19 forces the UK and much of the world into social isolation, employers have been adapting to the new reality and rapidly updating their processes for onboarding new employees.

A fundamental part of the onboarding process is a right to work check in order to prevent illegal working. A valid check allows employers to establish a statutory excuse against a civil penalty should the worker not in fact have the right to work or lose the right to work without the employer's knowledge.

Usually, a right to work check requires the original document to be presented by the employee and inspected by the employer before employment commences. A copy of the original document is signed and dated for the records.

The Home Office has released updated right to work check guidance and they can now be completed over video call without the original documents present. A retrospective check of the original documents must be completed within eight weeks of the end of the temporary measures.

Conducting a right to work check during the temporary Covid-19 measures

The new process is as follows.

  1. Ask the worker to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app.
  2. Arrange a video call with the worker – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents.
  3. Record the date you made the check and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to Covid-19”.
  4. If the worker has a current biometric residence permit or biometric residence card or status under the EU Settlement Scheme you can use the online right to work checking service while doing a video call - the applicant must give you permission to view their details.

After the Covid-19 measures end

The Home Office will let employers know in advance when these measures will end. After that date, employers should follow the normal right to work check procedure by handling original documents and meeting with the employee (either in person or via video link)

Employers will be asked to carry out retrospective checks on existing employees who:

  • started working for you during these measures; and 
  • required a follow-up right to work check during these measures.

You should mark this check: "The individual’s contract commenced on [insert date]. The prescribed right to work check was undertaken on [insert date] due to Covid-19.”.

The retrospective check must be carried out within eight weeks of the Covid-19 measures ending. Both checks should be kept for your records.

This is welcome news for employers but care should be taken to undertake the follow-up check within eight weeks of the end of the temporary measures.

Advice for employers carrying out right to work checks during the coronavirus pandemic