Ensure your workers are eligible to work in the UK

Check a job applicant's entitlement to work in the UK


A new immigration system applies to people arriving in the UK from 1 January 2021. EU citizens moving to the UK to work will need to get a visa in advance. Employers need a sponsor licence to hire most workers from outside the UK. See employing EU citizens in the UK.

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

You can:

You do not need to do checks for existing employees from the EU, EEA or Switzerland if they came to the UK before 1 July 2021.

Irish citizens can use their Irish passport and passport card to prove their right to work.

You’ll also need a sponsor licence to employ EEA and Swiss citizens coming to the UK to work from 1 January 2021.

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 where they’re from. Sign up for email updates about the right to work policy.

Checking the applicant’s original documents

Because of coronavirus (COVID-19) there are temporary changes to the way you can check documents. Read guidance about the adjusted process, including asking for documents digitally, making checks on a video call, and what to do if someone cannot provide any accepted documents.

  1. Ask to see the applicant’s original documents.

  2. Check that the documents are valid with the applicant present.

  3. Make and keep copies of the documents and record the date you made the check.

What to check

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

Read the guidance on how to carry out right to work checks.

Follow-up checks

If your employee’s right to work is time-limited, you’ll need to check their documents again when it’s due to expire.

Taking a copy of the documents

When you copy the documents:

  • make a copy that cannot be changed, for example a photocopy
  • make sure the copy is clear enough to read
  • 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
  • they’re a Commonwealth citizen who’s been living in the UK since before 1988

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 right to work checks employer guidance if you need more help.

You can also contact the Home Office.

Employer Enquiry helpline
Telephone: 0300 790 6268
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.

Business helpdesk

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

Educators helpdesk

  • Home Office Employer Enquiries
    0300 123 5434