Employers who want to avoid the possibility of a fine for hiring an unauthorised migrant are well advised to carry out right to work checks. Such checks are not mandatory, but where companies do carry them out, the Home Office advises that “all potential employees, including British citizens” be checked to avoid discrimination. As a result, inspections of passports or other ID are built into the hiring processes of firms across the land.
At present, there are three possible ways of carrying out these checks:
- Online right to work checks, where the employer looks the person up in a Home Office immigration database.
- Manual right to work checks, where the employer inspects physical ID documents.
- Virtual (or “adjusted”) right to work checks, introduced during the pandemic, where a scan or photo of the ID is allowed instead of the physical document.
This is changing from 6 April 2022. In summary:
- Migrants who have a standard work or residence permit can only be checked online, not manually. This applies to people with a biometric residence card, biometric residence permit or frontier worker permit. For more details, see Annex E of the employer’s guide, which was updated on 17 January.
- Adjusted right to work checks will no longer count. These were always intended as a temporary concession to the pandemic, but were extended several times as the coronavirus situation dragged on. They will end, for real this time, “on 5 April 2022 (inclusive)”. See Annex D.
- In place of the adjusted checks, a new system of digital checks is being introduced as an alternative to manual checks. This still involves people submitting “images of their personal documents” rather than bringing in the original, but using “Identity Document Validation Technology” instead of a scan or copy. See Home Office press release and policy paper.
The new digital checks are aimed at British and Irish citizens. Online checks don’t work for non-migrants — i.e. the majority of workers — because they won’t show up in Home Office immigration records. If the adjusted checks had been simply abolished without being replaced, employers would have been back to checking most of their new employees manually. This new digital validation system maintains a remote alternative.
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation, which appears to have been involved in or consulted on digital checks, says the Home Office intends to charge for them: “This could vary from £1.45 to £70 per check”. It doesn’t seem that digital checks will be compulsory, so employers would be able to opt for manual checks if they begrudge the cost. This and other details should be addressed in “changes to legislation” — presumably to further amend the Immigration (Restrictions on Employment) Order 2007 — before the system is rolled out.
So, broadly speaking, from 6 April 2022, right to work checks on most migrants will be online (and free) and checks on British or Irish nationals will be manual (and free) or digital (and maybe charged for).