Checking a job applicant's right to work documents

You must check that a job applicant is allowed to work for you in the UK before you employ them.

  1. You must see the applicant’s original documents.

  2. You must check that the documents are valid with the applicant present.

  3. You must make and keep copies of the documents and record the date you made the check.

You could face a civil penalty if you employ an illegal worker and have not carried out a correct right to work check.

You must not discriminate against anyone because of their race.

Check with the Home Office if the applicant is a Commonwealth citizen but does not have the right documents - they might still have the right to work in the UK.

Checking the documents

You need to check that:

  • the documents are genuine, original and unchanged and belong to the person who has given them to you
  • the dates for the applicant’s right to work in the UK have not expired
  • photos are the same across all documents and look like the applicant
  • dates of birth are the same across all documents
  • the applicant has permission to do the type of work you’re offering (including any limit on the number of hours they can work)
  • for students you see evidence of their study and vacation times
  • if 2 documents give different names, the applicant has supporting documents showing why they’re different, such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree

Further checks

You’ll have to make further checks on your worker if they have a limited right to work in the UK.

Taking a copy of the documents

When you copy the documents:

  • make a copy that cannot be changed, for example a photocopy
  • for passports, copy any page with the expiry date and applicant’s details (for example nationality, date of birth and photograph) including endorsements, for example a work visa
  • for biometric residence permits and residence cards (biometric format), copy both sides
  • for all other documents you must make a complete copy
  • keep copies during the applicant’s employment and for 2 years after they stop working for you
  • record the date the check was made

Make sure you follow data protection law.

If the job applicant cannot show their documents

You must ask the Home Office to check your employee or potential employee’s immigration employment status if one of the following applies:

  • you’re reasonably satisfied that they cannot show you their documents because of an outstanding appeal, administrative review or application with the Home Office
  • they have an Application Registration Card
  • they have a Certificate of Application that is less than 6 months old

Application registration cards and certificates of application must state that the work the employer is offering is permitted. Many of these documents do not allow the person to work.

The Home Office will send you a ‘Positive Verification Notice’ to confirm that the applicant has the right to work. You must keep this document.

If you need more help

Read the guidance if you need more help.

You can also contact the Home Office.

Employer Enquiry helpline
Telephone: 0300 123 5434
Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4:45pm
Friday, 9am to 4:30pm
Find out about call charges

For application questions as a business (or representative) or a Tier 1 investor, contact the business helpdesk.

For application questions if you’re an educational provider or Tier 4 sponsor, contact the educators helpdesk.

  1. Step 1 Check your business is ready to employ staff

  2. Step 2 Recruit someone

    You need to advertise the role and interview candidates. You can use a recruitment agency to do this or do it yourself.

    1. Find out about recruiting someone yourself on Acas
    2. Find out about using a recruitment agency

    As an employer you must make sure you recruit employees fairly.

    1. Avoid discrimination during recruitment
    2. Make your application process accessible for employees with disabilities or health conditions
  3. and Find out if they need a DBS check

    You may need to check someone's criminal record, for example, if they'll be working in healthcare or with children.

    1. Find out if you need a DBS check
    2. How to do a DBS check
  4. Step 3 Check if they need to be put into a workplace pension

    1. Assess if they need to be put into a workplace pension

    You have ongoing responsibilities to check if your employees need to be put into a workplace pension scheme.

    1. Check what your ongoing responsibilities are
  5. Step 4 Agree a contract and salary

  6. Step 5 Tell HMRC about your new employee