FAQs: Identity checks

FAQs - identity checks

Common questions and answers on the practical and operational issues of conducting identity checks. 

Q. Can we accept a passport that has expired? 

For the purpose of checking a person’s identity, all legal documentary evidence which has an issue date, such as a passport, should be in date.

For clarity, there are a small number of exceptions to the valid and current rule for right to work checks, rather than identity checks. These exceptions include a UK/EEA passport and an EEA national identity card; please consult the UK Visas and Immigration employer’s guide for further information if you are unsure what can be accepted.

In August 2020, this rule changed to allow employers to accept expired passports, within six months of their expiration date, as proof of identity. This change was made in line with other parts of the system in recognition that the COVID-19 pandemic was causing delays to the processing of UK passport applications. The change will remain until further notice.

Q. On occasions, applicants are unable to provide us with the documents prescribed in the identity check standard, what should we be looking for in such cases?

The lists of acceptable documents outlined within our identity check standard are based on the baseline requirements initially outlined in 'Her Majesty's Government Minimum Requirements for the Verification of the Identity of Individuals' issued by the cabinet office.  However, it is important to stress that there is no definitive list of acceptable documents for the proof of identity. 

The key aim of an identity check is to determine that the identity being used is: genuine, belongs to a real person, and the applicant presenting themselves at interview owns and is rightfully using that identity. Wherever possible, employers should always try to obtain the recommended range of documents however, there will be exceptional circumstances where this may genuinely prove difficult.  For instance, this might arise where recruiting applicants from overseas who are unlikely to be able to provide documentation issued in the UK. Similarly, UK based citizens may also struggle to provide certain documentation in their own right because they live with their family or share accommodation with friends.

In such cases, employers must make a risk-based judgement against the job role and what documentary evidence the applicant can provide to seek the necessary assurances. As a minimum, employers should seek a range of documents that enables them to corroborate the applicant’s full name (forenames, last name and any other names the individual wishes to be known by), photograph, signature, date of birth and full permanent residing address.

It is important to note that some documents will be more reliable than others. The most reliable documents are those that are issued by a trustworthy and reliable source, are difficult to forge, and hold a valid and current date. Ideally the document will have required some form of verification of identity before being issued (for example, a passport, or a driver's licence).

Documents downloaded from the internet are difficult to validate because they have no form of security marks that can be easily identified and checked.  Any such documentation should not be accepted in isolation, it will be important that employers are vigilant in cross-referencing information with other official documentary evidence provided by the applicant. 

When considering appointing applicants from overseas, as a minimum employers should consider what personal photographic documentary evidence the individual has been able to provide, and aim to verify their permanent residing address overseas. This might include a bank statement, tenancy agreement or evidence of home ownership, which may be cross-referenced with other official documentary evidence that can corroborate their address. In such cases, employers should consider prescribing a period of time by which individuals are required to present further evidence of their permanent residing address once settled in the UK. 

In all cases, employers will be required to evidence that their recruitment processes in regard to verifying a person's identity are as robust as they can be, so they should therefore keep a record and retain information detailing all checks undertaken, documentary evidence seen and verified, and the basis of their decision to appoint or not.

Q. Can employers use the online Verify system on the government website to confirm an applicant's identity?

Electronic systems such as Verify can only validate information against an authoritative source. It does not offer the full verification process that an employer is required to undertake to assure themselves about the identity of an individual, and that the documents have actually been accredited and belong to the person presenting themselves.

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