Immigration Update: Digital Right to Work Checks for British and Irish nationals

From 6 April 2022, the Home Office is introducing a number of changes to right to work checks.

One of the key changes is the introduction of a new digital right to work check for British and Irish nationals.

At a time where remote working has become the norm for so many businesses, this will be a welcome change for many employers, as it will mean that right to work checks do not have to be carried out in person or involve checking physical documents.

The digital checking tool for British and Irish Nationals

Identification Documentation Validation Technology (IDVT) is a technology that establishes the authenticity of documents such as passports and biometric residence permits for identity verification purposes.

From 6 April 2022 employers can engage certified Identity Service Providers (IDSPs) to use the new technology to complete the identity verification and eligibility element of right to work checks for British and Irish citizens who hold a valid passport.

The new process will enable prospective employees to use IDVT to upload an image of their identity document or to read the biometric chip. The technology will then be used to check the data captured, which may include comparing the captured image with a live video stream of the individual.

We anticipate that the Home Office will publish further details of the new IDVT process in due course.

Why are right to work checks important?

If employers conduct right to work checks in line with Home Office guidance, they will establish a statutory defence against liability for civil penalties of up to £20,000 per illegal worker, in the event they are found to have employed someone who doesn’t have the required right to work in the UK or to carry out the work in question, because of their immigration status.

For employers to be able to rely on the checks carried out by an IDSP to prove right to work and obtain a statutory excuse, a valid British or Irish passport must be checked and linked to the verified identity. The employer will also need to confirm that the image provided to the IDSP is a true likeness of the prospective employee, which can be done either face to face or via video call.

Employers should note that the Home Office’s updated guidance makes clear that employers who use IDVT provided by an IDSP will still ultimately be responsible for each right to work check carried out.

Do we have to carry out online right to work checks for all new employees?

Employers will still have the option to carry out a manual right to work check for British and Irish nationals.

However, manual right to work checks will no longer be acceptable for most non-UK nationals.

From 6 April 2022, Biometric Residence Card, Biometric Residence Permit and Frontier Worker Permit holders will no longer be able to present these physical documents in order to evidence their right to work in the UK. Instead, these individuals must evidence their right to work via the Home Office’s online service.

Further information on these changes can be found in our recent update here.

How can we prepare for these changes?

In advance of the changes taking effect on 6 April 2022, we recommend businesses update their internal policies and procedures for carrying out right to work checks.

Organisations should also ensure that all employees who are authorised to carry out right to work checks receive appropriate training and are equipped with the knowledge and materials they need to ensure the business is complying with its duties,  to limit the risk of penalties.

For advice on carrying out right to work checks, or any other immigration queries, please contact Kirsty Cooke, Laura Wonnacott, Ellen Parker or another member of Ashfords’ Immigration Team.

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