Previously, foreign nationals who held biometric cards could choose to demonstrate their right to work in the UK, either by showing an employer their physical card, or sharing their status via the Home Office's online service. This flexibility meant that employers and workers could choose between the relative simplicity of producing and checking a physical document in each other's presence and sharing immigration status online without having to meet in person.
However, from 6 April 2022 holders of biometric cards are only able to demonstrate their right to work in the UK using the Home Office online service. Employers are no longer able to accept physical cards for the purposes of a right to work check, even if the card shows a later expiry date.
Universities are therefore advised to familiarise themselves with the online right to work checking process and ensure that all staff responsible for checks are aware of how to check a job applicant's digital immigration status ('eVisa').
What About Remote Checks on British or Irish Passport Holders?
At present, the only way a British or Irish national can currently evidence their right to work in the UK is by presenting their physical documents to the employer. There is currently no online service available which employees can use in order to demonstrate their right to work in the UK. There is a COVID-19 concession currently in place which permits employers to check those documents using scanned documents and video calls. This concession was due to end on 5 April 2022 but has recently been extended and will now come to an end on 30 September 2022. The Government had previously indicated that it was looking at ways of allowing employers to conduct remote checks on British and Irish passport holders and now those details have been published.
The Home Office initially proposed that from 6 April 2022, British and Irish nationals would have the option to have their right to work checks conducted online. However, this date has now been pushed back to allow employers sufficient time to develop commercial relationships with identity service providers, make the necessary changes to their pre-employment checking processes and carry out responsible on-boarding of their chosen provider. In the meantime, employers can continue taking advantage of the COVID-19 concession and check right to work documents remotely or conduct the checks face-to-face.
In order for British and Irish passport holders to evidence their right to work online, the employer will need to have subscription with a certified Identity Service Provider (IDSP). The IDSP will - for a fee - act on behalf of the employer to carry out the right to work checks.
The Home Office has released details of the eligibility criteria for prospective IDSPs but the list of proposed IDSPs is still being compiled. The responsibility for the right to work check will still remain with the employer though, so if universities wish to use such a service they must first satisfy themselves that the checks are being conducted in accordance with the Home Office's guidance.
In a recent Immigration Update webinar we delivered for HEIs, we asked those attending whether they currently use external agencies and whether they were considering using an IDSP when this becomes possible. Of those who responded and knew about their institution's current arrangements for conducting background checks on new hires and plans to use an IDSP, 80% said they currently use external agencies to conduct background checks, but only 41% said they were considering using an IDSP to conduct checks on British and Irish passports.
It is perhaps a little early to assess what take up of IDSP services will be within the sector but our unscientific poll suggests that HEIs are not desperate to use this facility when it is introduced.