Right to Work Check – Everything You Need to Know

All employers have a legal obligation to perform a right to work check, regardless of the candidate’s race, nationality, or ethnicity.

Even if it can be assumed that the candidate has the right to work in the UK, employers must perform these checks.

Failure to perform this check can lead to hefty penalties.

Right to Work Check Infographic

What is the right to work check process?

Employers follow a 3-step process to perform these checks:


Obtain original versions of one or more acceptable documents


Check the document’s validity in the presence of the holder*


Make and retain a clear copy, and record the date the check was made†

*amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the government have issued temporary adjustments to right to work checks. This includes verifying a candidate’s identity over a video call and allowing them to send documents via email or an app. These adjustments can be found in full here.

†All employers must have a GDPR-compliant process for dating and filing right to work check documents. There is free software available, which can assist in both background checks and data processing.

What are right to work documents?

The right to work process involves checking documents which can range from a passport, biometric residence permit, an immigration status document, residence card, to name a few.

The documents required vary depending on nationality.

British citizens can prove their right to work with one of the following:

  • Full UK birth/adoption certificate
  • UK passport
  • Certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen


  • A document with their National Insurance number (issued by either a Government agency or a previous employer)

Citizens from Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man

Citizens from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man can prove their right to work with an official document with their National Insurance number, along with a Birth or adoption certificate. This legislation comes under the Common Travel Agreement (CTA).

For EU, EEA or Swiss citizens (up until June 30th 2021):

After June 30th 2021, the nature of these checks will change for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. Follow this link to learn what will change.

A full guide of the documents required can be found here (page 31).

What do employers need to check?

There are several factors to consider when assessing evidence, which include:

  • The documents appear to be genuine and belong to the applicant
  • Dates have not expired
  • Photos of the applicant are the same
  • Date of birth is the same

What are the penalties for employing illegal workers?

An employer who dismisses their obligations may be subject to a maximum civil fine of £20,000 per individual and/or a criminal sanction of an unlimited fine or imprisonment of five years.

How is Brexit affecting right to work checks?

If you are employing EU, EEA or Swiss citizens, you must perform these checks in the same way until 30th June 2021. Click here for further information on Brexit’s affect on right to work checks.

Online right to work checking service

From 30th June 2021, the only way to check the immigration status of any new EU/EEA/Swiss employees will be through the online checking service.

This system, provided by the Home Office, will give employers access to up-to-date, real-time information about a migrants’ right to work.

It also applies to non-EEA nationals who hold a biometric residence permit or biometric residence card.

The candidate provides their information to the system and will be provided with a code.

The code is then sent to the employer, who will assess the system and verify the candidate’s right to work.

Is a driving licence proof of right to work in UK?

A driving licence is not valid proof of right to work in the UK. This is because driving licenses can be obtained easily without a permanent visa.

How long does a right to work check take?

A right to work check can take minutes or significantly longer depending on the individual and the documents provided.

How long do employers keep right to work documents?

Employers keep these documents for the duration of an employee’s employment.

Additionally, even if an employee has left an organisation, employers may keep these documents for auditing purposes, which can be a period of between 2 to 6 years (depending on the industry).

What can employers do to ensure compliance?

It is vital that employers follow the 3-step process, ensure they are checking the right documents, and filing everything correctly.

Filing, dating, and keeping records of right to work checks can be an arduous task.

There is also the challenge of performing these checks alongside other vital checks; including DBS checks, credit checks, sanctions, etc.

There is software available that can save time, money, and other resources. One of which is Employment Check Lite, offered by EBC Global.

Employment Check Lite

Employment Check Lite is a secure, fast, and robust platform that offers instant employment checks. It is free to use and has helped all our clients manage, certainly right to work checks, but also the application process. Learn more about Lite here.

Employment Check Pro

There is also Employment Check Pro, which contains 100s of functions which has helped our clients manage their employment background checks. Pro is designed to help companies with specific compliance or referencing background check requirements. Not only is it secure, but its also fast and fully GDPR-compliant. Pro adds value to both the organisation and the candidate. Save time and reduce paperwork; all whilst maintaining compliance. Learn more about Pro here.

It is recommended for employers to follow the practices outlined by the Home Office to ensure best practice

For updates, news, and important information regarding all types of employment background checks, be sure to bookmark our blog.