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Foreign nationals


Organisations are placed under a legal duty to prevent illegal working and can be subjected to penalties where they fail to do so. A criminal offence will be committed where an organisation employs an individual and they have ‘reasonable cause to believe’ they do not have the right to work in the UK.

On 31 January 2020, the UK officially left the EU as a result of the 2016 Brexit vote. From 1 January 2021, new immigration law came into effect as a result of the end of freedom of movement between the UK and EU. More information on Brexit can be found here.

To gain a statutory excuse against a civil penalty fine of up to £20,000 per worker, organisations are advised to carry out right-to-work checks in accordance with the Home Office’s three-step checking process. Organisations are encouraged to make offers of employment conditional upon the provision of satisfactory right-to-work documentation to ensure they secure the statutory excuse.  

Since 29 January 2019, organisations can rely on the Home Office’s online right to work checking service to be granted the statutory excuse. Where the service can be used to check an individual’s immigration status, no further documentary checks are required.

Since 1 January 2021, licenses will be required to employ all overseas workers through the new ‘skilled worker' route, including from inside the EEA and Switzerland.

Future developments

Changes to immigration health surcharge (IHS) system

Due to an anomaly in the Home Office system for calculating the immigration health surcharge for sponsored workers, many applicants have underpaid. This was fixed on 1 February 2022 to ensure the full amount of IHS is being paid. 

See further information in our in-depth section 

Care assistants, care workers and home care home workers eligible for the Health and Care Visa Scheme

In addition to being included on the scheme, care workers have also been added to the Shortage Occupation List, which should relieve pressure on recruitment in that sector. 

Right to work checks from 6 April 2022

Right to work checks are set to change from April 2022. 

The ability to manually check the status of those with a biometric residence card or permit, or frontier work permit, will be removed. From that date, only online checks will be possible. In order to complete these checks, the employer will need the individual's date of birth and right to work share code. 

Retrospective online checks for checks that were completed manually on or before 5 April 2022 will not be required. 

Expiration of share codes extended from 30 days to 90 days

On 17 February 2022, the Home Office extended how long a share code lasts for to 90 days, up from 30 days. This means that once the share code, which is given to employers to be used to establish an individuals right to work in the UK, is generated, it will remain valid for 90 days. Under the previous system, it would expire after 30 days and a new one would need to be generated. 

This therefore gives employers more time to complete right to work checks for applicants. 

Introduction of permanent digital right to work checks deferred to 30 September 2022

It was intended that temporary digital right to work checks would be replaced from 6 April 2022 by certified Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT), allowing for third party service providers to carry out digital identity checks. This has however been deferred to 30 September 2022. The temporary changes will remain in place until then.

Special measures for Ukraine nationals as a result of the Russian invasion

The UK government is in the process of updating immigration rules to allow those fleeing the crisis in Ukraine to come to the UK to live, work and study. See our in-depth section for more information.