How to check a job applicant’s right to work

20 September 2017 | Jonathan Martin

All employers need to ensure that their employees have permission to work in the UK. Those who fail to do so could face a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per employee for employing illegal workers, or face imprisonment or an unlimited fine, if employers knew or had reasonable cause to believe an employee did not have the right to work in the UK. Under new powers the business could be closed or face a court compliance order, individuals can be disqualified as directors, and emploers are likely to lose the ability to sponsor migrants.

All employers should be aware of the latest Home Office Guidance, which was updated in August 2017.

In summary, all potential employees must be asked for proof of their entitlement to work. To ensure no candidates are discriminated against, all job applicants should be treated in the same way at each stage of the recruitment process.

To establish their right to work:

  • ask for their original documents confirming the right to work;
  • check that the documents are valid, genuine, original, unchanged and belong to the person who has given them to you;
  • check that photos and personal information are the same across the documents;
  • check the dates allowing work have not expired, and whether there are any restrictions on the types of work and the hours they can work;
  • take copies of the documents, and record the date the check was made; and
  • if an applicant cannot show their documents check with the Home Office at

The lists of documents that are acceptable are set out in Lists A and B in the Guidance, and cover passports, ID cards, biometric cards, and a variety of other documents. List A has documents held by people with a permanent right to work in the UK and List B contains a range of documents that may be accepted from a person who has a temporary right to work in the UK. For those in List B, employers will need to check their status again during the employment, when the permission they have is due to expire. They will need to record this date.

The changes from previous guidance related to:

  • Application Registration Cards being issued as biometric documents containing an expiry date;
  • advice in respect of people claiming to be EEA family members with a right to work;
  • advice in respect of voluntary work;
  • illegal working measures introduced by the Immigration Act 2016, including closure notices and compliance orders and immigration checks for taxi firms and licensed premises serving late-night refreshment; and
  • the employment of international students.

The full guidance is set out here.

How can we help?

Abbiss Cadres is experienced in making and advising on the full range of immigration applications, including applying for a business to obtain a Sponsor’s License, which enables organisations to bring workers into the UK.

For further information, contact Jonathan Martin on +44 (0)20 3051 5711 or at


Content is for general information purposes only. The information provided is not intended to be comprehensive and it does not constitute or contain legal or other advice. If you require assistance in relation to any issue please seek specific advice relevant to your particular circumstances. In particular, no responsibility shall be accepted by the authors or by Abbiss Cadres LLP for any losses occasioned by reliance on any content appearing on or accessible from this article. For further legal information click here.

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The author

Jonathan Martin
Senior Consultant
Business Immigration
Global Mobility
D: +44 (0) 207 036 8397
T: +44 (0) 203 051 5711
F: +44 (0) 203 051 5712

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