Preventing illegal working

immigration passport stamp

Employers must validate documentation from all prospective employees to ensure they are eligible to live and work in the UK. 

They are responsible for determining an individual's right to work in the UK by verifying specified documentation outlined in the NHS Employment Check Standards.

The three step process employers should follow is:

  1. obtain original versions of one or more of the acceptable documents
  2. take reasonable steps to check the validity of documents as described below, in the presence of the document holder
  3. make and retain a copy of the documents, and record the date the check was made. 

Find out more about the NHS Employment Check Standards.

Read detailed guidance from the Home Office (UK Visas and Immigration) on the role of employers when recruiting from overseas. This guidance covers the law, the checks required and penalties for not complying.

Document checks - what to do

  • Check an individual's biometric residence permit (if applicable) - you can do this using the UK Visas and Immigration online service.
  • Look at photographs to match identity.
  • Compare the date of birth with the individual's identity documents.
  • Check expiry dates of any limited leave to enter or remain in the UK are still valid.
  • Look at any government stamps or endorsements to ensure the individual is entitled to do the work being offered.
  • Seek further documentation if the applicant provides you with documents that have different names (marriage/civil partnership certificate, divorce certificate, deed poll, adoption certificate or statutory declaration).
  • Cross-reference dates with identity documents and work permits, or confirm by contacting appropriate embassies and consulates.

Copying and storing documentation

Employers are also required to copy and store employees’ documents in a format that cannot be subsequently altered, for example, a photocopy or scan. 

In the case of a passport or other travel document, the following parts must be photocopied or scanned:

  • any page containing the holder’s personal details - in particular, any page that provides details of nationality, his or her photograph, date of birth, signature, date of expiry or biometric details
  • any page containing UK government endorsements, noting the date of expiry and any relevant UK immigration endorsement which allows your prospective or current employee to do the type of work you are offering. 

Other documents should be copied in their entirety. This includes both sides of a biometric residence permit.

Employers should then keep a record of every document they have copied and the date the check was made. Copies of documents should be kept securely for the duration of the individual’s employment and for two years after their employment has ceased. Where an electronic copy is made of a document, this must be on a non-rewritable disk, such as CD-R.

Fraudulent documents

If an illegal migrant is employed because he or she supplied fraudulent documents that could not have been detected as fraudulent, employers can establish a statutory excuse against payment of a civil penalty. You must be able to show that you have followed due process in accordance with these regulations.

Further information on prevention of illegal working and the code of practice can be found on the UK Visas and Immigration website.

Advice for employers about complying with the law on preventing illegal migrant working is available from the UK Visas and Immigration employers’ helpline on 0300 123 4699.

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