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Employers now have longer to set up post-pandemic digital right to work check systems – all you need to know

Updated 23 February 2022

The Home Office this week announced that employers will have more time to implement long-term post-pandemic right to work check practices.

UK employers at present have three ways to conduct checks on a job candidate’s right to work: looking the candidate up on the UKVI immigration database in an online check; inspecting their physical ID documents in a manual check or thirdly, the remote checks introduced as a concession during the coronavirus pandemic, whereby employers are able to use a scan or photo of a candidate’s ID where they would ordinarily meet them face to face with the actual document.

The latter COVID measure was due to run out on 5 April, at which point employers would have to choose between in person checks for British and Irish citizens and using a certified identity service provider (IDSP) using Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT) (see below). The Home Office have now extended the remote pandemic checks until 30 September 2022. (NB: from 6 April 2022, all biometric card holders will evidence their right to work using the Home Office online service only.)

Firms now have more time to carry out an appropriate preferred supplier selection process to find an IDVT certified provider, including comparing the costs they will charge. Companies will have a few more months before choosing between returning to face-to-face checks or finding a permanent digital service provider.

The Home Office says that the new September date gives employers a longer transition period to “implement long-term, post-pandemic working practices”.

Below is a summary of the latest details we have on the all upcoming changes to right to work checks that employers must prepare for. If you want assistance, training or a new bespoke policy for your firm please contact please call us on 0207 033 9527 or email vanessa@vanessaganguin.com.

What are the key changes to right to work checks for biometric card holders and when will they commence?

From 6 April 2022 employers will no longer be permitted to accept some physical documents as evidence of right to work. This includes Biometric Residence Permits (BRP), Biometric Residence Cards issued to family members of EEA migrants under the EU Settlement Scheme and Frontier Worker Permits for EEA migrants. Employers will instead be expected to use the free UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) online checking tool for all biometric card holders. Employers will no longer be able to accept a physical card for the purposes of a right to work check even if it shows a later expiry date.

Where someone is employed on or before 5 April 2022 and checks were made at the time using a physical document, employers will not need to do retrospective checks, although follow-up checks will still be required where someone has limited permission to stay in the UK.

What are the key changes to right to work checks for British and Irish citizens and when will they commence?

For British and Irish citizens – those unable to be checked on the free UKVI online portal, there will be a range of certified identity service providers (IDSPs) which will use Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT) to conduct right to work checks and right to rent checks online too.

The UKVI have set in motion upcoming changes to the way in which employers will be able to check a prospective employee’s right to work in the UK. The changes are part of the Government’s digital identity framework. Landlords, letting agents and employers will be able to use new technology from certified providers to digitally carry out right to work and right to rent checks.

A Home Office concession had allowed companies to use remote checks instead of seeing job candidates in person during the pandemic. This has now been extended until 30 September 2022. After the extensions to the temporary COVID-19 measures proved popular, especially with many working from home and in hybrid arrangements, a permanent system for such remote digital checks has been outsourced to IDSPs. These certified companies will be able to obtain the documents that evidence prospective candidates’ identity, check their genuineness and history. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is proposing that IDSPs will be able to use IDVT to conduct DBS checks too as part of the Government’s framework for digital ID checking.

More details are due to be released before April. For more details on this and any other compliance issues, please call us on 0207 033 9527 or email enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.

How much will remote right to work checks by identity service providers cost?

Unlike the free UKVI service for holders of digital immigration status / BRPs, outsourced IDSPs will charge employers for their services. According to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), which has been campaigning for quick and easy digital checks to become a permanent feature, and have been consulted by the Home Office, there will be a price of between £1.45 and £70 per check.

The REC has complained about the cost of IDVTs – potential extra costs for businesses already dealing with National Insurance hikes and rising inflation. They have warned of a two tier system where people in the UKVI database can be checked for free, yet checks on British and Irish job candidates could altogether cost UK firms millions of pounds every year. It appears that the cost may depend on the Level of Confidence (LoC) to which these service providers are certified. A list of certified IDSPs will be published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, along with their certified LoC.

Whether using an IDSP or not, employees’ right to work check and illegal working will remain the employer’s responsibility. So, for example, it will be on the employer to make sure they are using a certificated IDSP or that the image in the ID is that of their new employee.

Will employers still be able to conduct manual right to work checks for free?

Employers will still be able to do manual checks meeting prospective employees face to face if they do not wish to pay for the service providers. These can conducted in person with a candidate, or on a video call if they have sent you their original documents by post or courier, so long as an employer can check the actual physical documents in their hands. Employers may not rely on a scan or copy of the documents, or just seeing them on a video call.

Initially it will only be possible to conduct right to work checks on valid British passports, valid Irish passports and valid Irish passport cards using IDVT. Therefore, if an individual wishes to rely on an expired British or Irish passport (or passport card), the employer must undertake a manual check instead of using an IDSP. So unless the pandemic concession for remote checking is extended yet again which is unlikely, these checks must be undertaken using the original, physical document.

Digitalisation of UK immigration

Over the last couple of years, there have been a number of changes to the process by which employers are expected to check a prospective employee’s right to work in the UK. These have partly been driven by the practicalities of the COVID-19 pandemic and partly by the increasing digitalisation of the UK’s immigration system.

Digitalisation has been a goal for the UKVI for a number of years, beginning with the option introduced in 2018 for employers to check immigration status online, instead of using a physical document if a person holds a BRP.  EEA and Swiss migrants granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme or who have come to the UK since Brexit are now often given completely digital status (e-Visas) with no physical visa documentation. Towards the end of 2021 this was extended to some non-EEA Skilled Worker applicants in the UK. UKVI aims to do away with physical immigration documents entirely by the end of 2024.

The requirement from April to check digital status of BRP holders rather than the BRP itself represents the next step in UKVI’s ongoing digitalisation of the UK’s immigration system. While it may be seen as a step forward, as employers don’t need to check a physical document, it should be noted that this has been possible since 2018 so removing the choice of checking the BRP in fact removes flexibility. There are also ongoing concerns about the lack of physical documents for migrants, as have been raised repeatedly in relation to EEA citizens after Brexit. Some migrants rights groups have warned that this could lead to discrimination and another Windrush scandal in the making.

To discuss right to work checks and employer liability further, or to find out how we can help you, please call us on 0207 033 9527 or send us an email at enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.