UCL Human Resources


Guide to right to work checks

Right to work checks required to prevent illegal working

1. Right to work (RTW) document checks

1.1 It is a Home Office and statutory requirement that employers, including UCL, undertake RTW checks to prevent illegal working. Within UCL, it is the department's responsibility to check and copy RTW documents for any staff they intend to pay through the UCL payroll (unless the check is completed by Unitemps).  Staff that transfer department within UCL and do not break their continuous service, do not need to have their RTW rechecked.  Once the department submits the contract request, HR Services will alert the department, before the start date, if the member of staff is not eligible to undertake the work in the new department under their existing RTW status and therefore requires a new visa.  

1.2 This document explains the checks you must carry out to find out if a person has both the RTW in the UK and the right to carry out the type of work you are offering. This is a straightforward 3 step process that forms part of UCL’s recruitment and employment practices. Please note the additional documentation requirements for students.

1.3 The detailed government guidance Right to work checks: an employer's guide contains the lists of acceptable documents at Annex A.  Examples of what the documents should look like can be found in the withdrawn publication ‘Acceptable right to work documents: an employer's guide’. The government also issued a Code of practice for employers: avoiding unlawful discrimination while preventing illegal working, which is particularly useful for recruiting managers.

1.4 N.B. From 6 April 2022 onwards, those with a biometric document must have their RTW checked through the Right to Work checking service.

2. When right-to-work should be checked

2.1 RTW must be checked before a worker or employee does any work for UCL.  If the RTW is time-limited, it must be rechecked before it expires, to allow the person to continue working. 

2.2 If candidates will be attending UCL for an interview, it is normal practice to check the RTW documents for all candidates in-person at interview.  This prevents delays, as RTW should be checked before the employment contract request is submitted.  

2.3 If a candidate requires sponsorship or is awaiting a valid right to work document, they must not start work until the visa (or other relevant work documents) is obtained and an RTW check is undertaken.

3. How to conduct an in-person right to work check 

3.1 N.B. For Biometric Residence Card (BRC), Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) and Frontier Worker Permit (FWP), see section 4 below, as these types of right-to-work must be checked via the home office online system.

  • Step 1: You must obtain original documents from either List A or B of the acceptable documents at Annex A

  • Step 2: Check that the documents are genuine and that the person presenting them is the prospective employee or employee, the rightful holder, and allowed to do the type of work being offered.  The list of suitable documents is available from the Right to Work Checklist.  

  • You must check that the documents are genuine and that the person presenting them is the prospective or existing employee, the rightful holder and allowed to do the type of work you are offering. You must check that:

  • photographs and dates of birth are consistent across documents and with the person’s appearance in order to detect impersonation;

  • expiry dates for permission to be in the UK have not passed;

  • any work restrictions to determine if they are allowed to do the type of work on offer (for students who have limited permission to work during term-times, you must also obtain, copy and retain details of their academic term and vacation times covering the duration of their period of study in the UK for which they will be employed);

  • the documents are genuine, have not been tampered with and belong to the holder; and

  • the reasons for any difference in names across documents can be explained by providing evidence (for example, original marriage certificate, divorce decree absolute, deed poll). These supporting documents must also be photocopied and a copy retained.

  • Step 3: Make a clear copy of the document and write next to it ‘I confirm I have seen the original document on [DATE]’ and sign the first page of each copied document. 

4. How to conduct a Home Office online check

4.1 Settled Status or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme, Biometric Residence Card (BRC), Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) and Frontier Worker Permit (FWP) holders are only able to evidence their right to work using the Home Office online service. This means you cannot accept or check a physical BRC, BRP or FWP as proof of right to work.

Step 1: Use the Home Office online service.  The individual may provide the share code to you directly, or they may choose to send this to you via the service. If they choose to send it to you via the service, you will receive an email from right.to.work.service@notifications.service.gov.uk.

To check the person’s right to work details, you will need to:

• access the service ‘View a job applicant’s right to work details via GOV.UK

• enter the ‘share code’ provided to you by the individual, and

• enter their date of birth

It is not sufficient to simply view the details provided to the individual on the migrant part of the service and doing so will not provide you with a statutory excuse.

Step 2: Arrange a video call or meet with the worker.

  • Check that the person presenting them is the prospective employee or employee, the same person in the photograph, and allowed to do the type of work being offered.

Step 3: Save a copy of the profile page from the government’s online right-to-work check, and retain it securely.  

5. Which documents you must retain

5.1 You must copy and retain copies of:

  • Passports: any page with the document expiry date, the holder’s nationality, date of birth, signature, leave expiry date, biometric details, photograph, and any page containing information indicating the holder has an entitlement to enter or remain in the UK (visa or entry stamp) and undertake the work in question (the front cover no longer has to be copied).

  • All other documents: the document in full.

  • For online checks (using the government service) download and store securely a PDF of the ‘profile’ page confirming the individual’s right to work.

6. Verifying right to work in the UK – Employer Checking Service

6.1  There are certain circumstances when UKVI requires additional confirmation that a person has the right to work in the UK. Please contact HR Services who will undertake the additional checks via the Employer Checking Service if the employee or applicant has:

  1. Provided a Certificate of Application which is less than 6 months old and which indicates that work is permitted; or
  2. An Application Registration Card stating that the holder is permitted to undertake the work in question. If the card contains an expiry date, this date must not have expired. Any work will be restricted to employment in a shortage occupation; or
  3. An outstanding application which was made before their previous permission expired or has an appeal or administrative review pending; or
  4. Presented information indicating they are a long-term resident of the UK who arrived in the UK before 1988 but cannot provide acceptable documents

6.2. A person in the above categories may only commence work once UCL has received a Positive Verification Notice from the Employer Checking Service.

7. If the job applicant or existing worker cannot show their documents

7.1 Managers must instruct HR Services to contact the Home Office Employer Checking Service. If the person has a right to work, the Employer Checking Service will send a ‘Positive Verification Notice’.  This provides UCL with a statutory excuse for 6 months from the date in the notice.

8. What if someone does not have the right to work?

8.1 If someone does not have the right to work they cannot commence employment.  If they are being sponsored by UCL for a visa they will need to wait for the visa, and a right to work check then needs to be undertaken before commencing employment.

9. Follow-up checks and expiry of right to work

9.1 For List A documents a follow-up check is not required.  For List B – Group 1 a follow-up check is required at the point of the expiry date on the right to work documentation. For List B, Group 2 documents e.g. a Certificate of Application or an Application Registration Card combined with a Positive Verification Notice (valid for 6 months), a follow-up check must be completed shortly before the Positive Verification Notice expires. 

9.2 Prior to expiry of an individual’s right to work, HR Services will contact the Departmental Administrator to request up-to-date RTW evidence. Evidence (e.g. a copy of the application) must be emailed to HR Services confirming one of the following:

  • A request to extend the Certificate of Sponsorship has been submitted; or

  • They have submitted an application for extension of a visa that will allow them to continue paid work; or

  • They have submitted an application for permanent leave to remain; or

  • They have been granted permanent leave to remain.

HR Services will verify this from the Home Office Employer Checking Service.

9.3 When permanent leave to remain is granted, a certified copy must be submitted to HR Services.

9.4 If none of the above are confirmed on or before the expiry date of the right to work, the employee’s employment will be terminated with immediate effect as it is a criminal offense to employ people without the right to work.

10. Checking right to work for "as and when" workers and one off workers

10.1 As and when workers:

Departments and Unitemps must check and copy right to work documentation for as and when workers (casuals) in the same way they would for an employee.

10.2 One off Workers

In accordance with the Guidance on Contracts for Services (Workers), individuals who undertake a short-term one-off duty are able to receive up to three payments in any one tax year.Providing the work they are undertaking on each occasion is linked to the same engagement, only one right to work check is required. Subsequent right to work checks are necessary if the individual undertakes a new short-term one off duty (at the start of the new engagement) or before they are engaged by UCL in another capacity (e.g. an As and When worker). 

You are required to submit the copied documentation to HR via Department Transactions. 

Old paper copies must be securely stored in the department for 24 months after the worker’s engagement, for audit purposes.  Unitemps will conduct right-to-work checks for all the staff that they process.

11. Checking right to work for student visas

11.1 Overseas students on a student visa studying at below degree level, will be permitted to work up to 10 hours per week during term time and full time during the college vacation.

11.2 Overseas students studying at degree level or above, will be permitted to work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full time during the university vacation.

11.3 Overseas students studying at postgraduate level do not have a university vacation and therefore cannot work over 20 hours per week at any point throughout the year.   A ‘week’ is defined in Immigration Rules as “a period of seven days beginning with a Monday”.

11.4 It is the department’s responsibility to ensure that students are not allocated more hours than they are permitted to work. Departments should keep an up-to-date record of all allocated hours and should check with the student that they have not undertaken any additional work elsewhere during the relevant period to ensure the maximum hours are not exceeded.

11.5 Please note that for overseas students on a student visa there is a requirement to obtain and retain academic term and vacation dates alongside the other document checks which must be obtained and retained annually. Please state in writing which establishment the student is studying at when submitting the right to work documentation to aid the annual checking process. A Term Dates Form template for use is available


 11.6  Some student visas read 'limited leave to remain. No work without permission of the secretary of state.' This visa is acceptable and does not require permission to work up to 20 hours during term time and full-time in holidays as long as we know they are students.

12. False documents

12.1 If someone gives you a false document or a genuine document that does not belong to them, you should report the individual to HR Services who will contact UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).

13. How to process/retain/dispose of copies of RTW documents.

13.1 Please securely destroy copies of identification documents that you hold for unsuccessful candidates. You must also delete any identification documents for the appointed candidate once it has been submitted to HR Services via Department Transactions.

13.2 If you hold any copies of documents via email, ensure that you delete them and empty your deleted items folder. Any identification documents sent by email should be password protected and the password emailed separately. Please see the UCL Secure Data Disposal Guidelines for advice on how to securely destroy data.

Updated April 2023
HR Employment Policy Team