UCL Human Resources


Procedure for right to work checks to prevent illegal working in the UK

Right to work checks required to prevent illegal working in the UK. (Including the use of online digital checks for British and Irish Nationals)



1. It is a requirement to undertake right to work RTW checks before a worker, voluntary worker (including honorary staff or visitors undertaking voluntary unpaid work) or an employee undertakes any paid or unpaid work for UCL. It is the department's responsibility to undertake all RTW checks where the worker is hired directly by UCL.

Indirect workers (e.g. temporary staff) supplied or paid by a recruitment agency including Unitemps and those that are part of Guidant, will also need a RTW check prior to commencement of their assignment, and the recruitment agency will conduct this. 

2. The Home Office guidance Right to work checks: an employers guide contains detailed guidance on how to conduct RTW checks and the lists of acceptable documents for manual RTW checks (contained at Annex A). The government has also published Code of practice for employers: avoiding unlawful discrimination while preventing illegal working, which is particularly useful for recruiting managers.

3. There are no exceptions or waivers to allow an individual to start work without a valid RTW check being in place.

4. Failure to conduct appropriate RTW checks may result in UCL being exposed to both civil and criminal liability for employing illegal workers. It may also detrimentally impact UCL's immigration sponsor licence. 

When right-to-work should be checked:

Before commencing work with UCL

5. RTW must be checked before a worker or employee does any work for UCL. This means the check must be conducted before the start date of employment. 

If a candidate requires sponsorship or is awaiting a valid RTW document, they must not start work until the visa (or other relevant work documents) is obtained and an RTW check is undertaken. Start dates should be delayed until the valid and verified RTW document is in place.

When changing jobs within UCL or when taking on a second job within UCL

6. If a worker, such as a casual, an agency worker, an honorary or any other type of worker, accepts an offer of employment at UCL, a fresh RTW check will need to be undertaken in advance of them commencing their new role.

7. When an employee is offered a different job within UCL (without breaking their continuous service) or they are offered a second job within UCL, the employing department will need to check that the employee does not have visa restrictions preventing them from undertaking the new type of work or from undertaking additional working hours.

The most effective way to undertake this check, without making any assumptions about an individual’s nationality or immigration status, is to take a copy of their passport and/or immigration status document or ask for their RTW share code and to check if there are any restrictions on the type of work or hours they can do. 

When the contract request is submitted, HR Services Compliance team will advise if a new RTW check is needed, or if an amendment to the visa is required. 

If a copy of their passport shows they are British or Irish then no further check will be needed (unless HR Services advise otherwise).

8. Where a sponsored worker is moving to a new role at UCL which may require a change of visa, the new visa must be obtained and a RTW check completed before the employee can commence employment in the new role. 

When a right to work is due to expire

9. If the RTW is time-limited, a fresh RTW check must be conducted before the expiry date of the permission to work. A copy of the updated right-to-work check should be emailed to HR Services to update the employee’s record. 

The four different ways to conduct a right to work check

10. There are four ways that UCL can carry out a RTW check.

  • A digital check for British and Irish nationals with a current passport/passport card. 
  • A manual check for British and Irish nationals without a current passport/passcard or for overseas nationals waiting to collect their BRP.
  • An online right to work check for overseas nationals using a share code.
  • Confirmation from the Home Office Employer Checking Service for overseas nationals in certain circumstances.

11. You should not make assumptions about an individual’s nationality based on their appearance, name or accent. You should ask them their nationality and immigration status and this will guide you to the appropriate type of RTW check to conduct.

How to conduct Right to work checks

Details of how to conduct the different types of check are set out below.

Online digital check for British and Irish nationals

12. This method is recommended for individuals who have a current in-date UK or Irish passport (or Irish passport card); a smart phone with aN NFC reader (if they have contactless payments they will have an NFC reader; and will not be commencing work within 5 working days.  Where they do not meet these requirements a manual check will need to be completed (see below for further details).

New hires through TalentLink

13. The recruiter should select one of the following applicable options in the ‘right to work status’ field when submitting the offer approval/contract on TalentLink:

  • British National – digital check pending.
  • Irish National- digital check pending.

14. The recruiter must then inform the successful candidate that they will be contacted by our Identity Service Provider, Experian, requesting their information for the check. The recruitment team will then liaise with HR Services to perform the check, and once successfully completed, HR Services will send the recruiter an email confirming that the right-to-work check has been successfully verified, which will be retained as a copy on the employee’s personal file (EDRM).  The successful candidate must not start work until this has been received.

Requesting an online digital check for British or Irish nationals who are appointed outside of TalentLink.

15. This method will be used for any appointments not processed through TalentLink but hired directly by UCL including honorary appointments, casual workers, one-off-workers, and Post-Graduate Teaching Assistants who hold a current in-date passport and will not be commencing work within 5 working days.

16. The recruiter must inform the worker that they will be contacted by Experian requesting their information for the check. The Department Administrator should input the individual’s details into the digital check request form below and submit the form to HR Services who will perform the online digital check.

IDVT Online Request Form (Appointed outside of Talentlink)

17. Once the department receives an email confirmation of the online digital check this should be attached in the Departmental Transaction to set up the individual on MyHR.

Manual right to work checks

18. This type of RTW check must be used for British or Irish nationals who do not have an in-date passport or Irish passport card; or do not have a smart phone with an NFC reader; or who are a voluntary worker (excluding honorary staff) and/or who will be commencing work within the next five working days. OR

as an initial check on a short-term entry clearance vignettes where an overseas national is waiting to collect their BRP.

19. A manual check must be done with the original document in your possession, although the identity verification may be done in person or via a video call. It will also apply in a small number of other circumstances, including initial checks on short-term entry clearance vignettes where an individual is waiting to collect their Biometric Residence Permit, or where the person has a current passport endorsed to show they have indefinite leave to remain:

20. To complete a manual check, you must: 

Step 1: Obtain original documents from either List A or B of the acceptable documents at Annex A and have it in your possession. Photocopies, scans or video images of documents will not suffice. 

Note: in specific circumstances – eg, if an individual is unable to provide the document listed, or where this is required in addition to seeing the relevant original document -  a Positive Verification Notice must be received from the Employer Checking Service.  Further details on using the Employer Checking Service are set out below.

Step 2: Check that the original documents are genuine and that the person presenting them (either in person or on a video call) 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:

  • 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, gender reassignment records, or deed poll). These supporting documents must also be photocopied, and a copy retained.

Step 3: Make a clear copy of the document ensuring all the specified pages of the document are copied. Write next to it ‘I confirm I have seen the original document and conducted the right to work check on [DATE]’ and sign the first page of each copied document with your name and signature. 

Unless the document in question is a passport, all pages and both sides of any cards must be copied.

If the document is a passport, the following pages of the passport should be copied:

  • any page containing the holder’s personal details such as their photograph and nationality.
  • any page containing the holder’s signature; and
  • any page containing the expiry date.

Step 4: Attach the verified right to work document to TalentLink or MyHR (DT) as appropriate.

Online right to work checks- overseas nationals

21. This type of check will apply to individuals who have obtained immigration permission to live and work in the UK.  Individuals who have a digital status (eVisas), a Biometric Residence Permit, a Biometric Residence Card, or a Frontier Worker Permit must have their RTW checked using their share code through the Right to Work checking service.  UCL is not permitted to accept any physical documents (including Biometric Residence Permits) from these categories of individual as evidence of a person’s RTW.

22. The online RTW check comprises three steps, as set out below. 

Step 1: The individual may provide a share code to you (the hiring department) 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 RTW details, you will need to:

These steps must be done within 90 days of the share code being generated.  After inserting UCL’s name, you will be presented with a screen with a photograph of the individual with details of their RTW.

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

  • Check that the individual has the right to work in the UK, is permitted to undertake the work in question, and that the photograph produced as part of the online check is that of the individual.
  • To support UCL’s approach to detecting impersonation, we recommend that you obtain a clear copy of the individual’s passport, including any page with the document expiry date, the holder’s nationality, date of birth, signature, biometric details and photograph. Check that the photographs and dates of birth are consistent across documents and with the person’s appearance.

Step 3: Save a copy of the profile page from the government’s online right-to-work check, ensuring the two check boxes are completed and retain it securely, along with a clear copy of the individual’s passport.  In respect of students who have a time limited RTW, you must also obtain and retain a copy of evidence setting out the term and vacation dates for the course they are taking.

Step 4: Attach the verified share code to the TalentLink contract request or MyHR (DT) as appropriate.

Step 5: Enter the details from the individual’s passport into the relevant fields on TalentLink which are required to request the contract. 

Employer Checking Services check- overseas nationals

23. The Employer Checking Service (ECS) allows UCL to confirm a person’s RTW in specific circumstances if they cannot show their documents or online immigration status.

24. This could be, for example, because: 

  • the person’s ‘digital profile is not yet enabled’.
  • UCL is seeking to rely on a Positive Verification Notice specified in the List B - Part two as part of a manual check.
  • An individual has an outstanding appeal, review or application with the Home Office.
  • An individual arrived in the UK before 1989 and does not have documents to prove their RTW.

25. The check is run by completing an online form.  Permission should be obtained from the individual before submitting the ECS check. Once submitted, you should expect to receive a response from the ECS service within five working days, although it can sometimes take longer than this.

26. The two responses you can expect to receive from an ECS check are:

  • Positive Verification Notice. This will confirm that an applicant has permission to work and provide a statutory excuse for six months from the date of the notice.  It will also set out any restrictions on employment; or
  • Negative Verification Notice. This will confirm that a person does not have permission to undertake employment. In some cases, the Negative Verification Notice may provide a neutral response (i.e., the Home Office is unable to confirm the position regarding RTW).  If you receive a Negative Verification Notice, or a neutral response, you should immediately contact hr-services@ucl.ac.uk  to seek advice. 

Repeat right to work checks

27. If an individual requires a repeat RTW check HR Services will contact the Departmental Administrator to request up to date RTW evidence.  Repeat checks must be conducted before the expiry date recorded from the initial check and relevant documents from the repeat check must be emailed to HR Services before the expiry date recorded from the original check.

28. HR Services Compliance team may also request a repeat RTW check if there is no evidence on the employee’s EDRM personal file.

29. A repeat RTW check will be required if the employee changes jobs within UCL or takes on a second job within UCL and has visa restrictions.

30. Digital checks – no repeat check is required for British and Irish passport holders who have undergone a digital check and who remain continuously employed at UCL.

31. Manual checks – a repeat check will be required where the initial check identified that the person has a time limited RTW or if they change jobs within UCL or take on a second job within UCL.  For List B – Group 1 a follow-up check is required prior to the expiry date on the RTW documentation. For List B, Group 2 documents, a follow-up check must be completed before the Positive Verification Notice expires.  A repeat check will usually involve a new online check see below. No repeat check is required where an initial check involved a List A document and the document was filed on EDRM. 

32. Online checks- a repeat online check will be required where the initial check identified that the person has a time limited right to work or if they change jobs within UCL or take on a second job within UCL.  No repeat check is required where there is no expiry date for the individual’s permission to work and the document was filed on EDRM.

33. If a valid up to date right to work document is not received on or before the expiry date of the person’s current immigration permission, it may be necessary for the employee’s employment to be terminated.

34. However, if at the expiry date, there are reasonable grounds for believing that the employee has applied to extend their permission and that the application is outstanding and not yet decided, UCL is allowed a further 28 days from the expiry date in which to conduct a check by using the ECS and is able to continue employing pending the ECS check outcome.  Specific advice must be obtained from HR Services in these circumstances. 

Checking right to work for one-off workers

35. One-off workers must undergo a RTW check before each engagement. In accordance with UCL’s Guidance and Procedures on Engaging Employees, Workers and Third-Party Suppliers, 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 of the three occasions is linked to the same engagement, only one right-to-work check is required. The RTW document must be uploaded via Department Transactions. 

36. A new RTW check is required if the individual undertakes a new or different short-term one-off duty, or before they are engaged by UCL in another capacity (e.g., an As and When worker). 

Checking right to work for student visas

37. In addition to conducting a RTW check as detailed above, it is the department’s responsibility to ensure that overseas students do not work more hours per week than they are permitted to work.  Please refer to UCL’s guidance Working in the UK during your studies for details on student visa weekly work restrictions which are calculated on a weekly basis.

38. A ‘week’ is defined in Immigration Rules as “a period of seven days beginning with a Monday”.

39. Departments must obtain and retain evidence of the overseas student’s term dates and holiday dates. Please see the information and form to complete on overseas students term dates.  UCL term dates can be found here.

40. Departments must keep an up-to-date record of all hours worked each week, the name of the overseas student’s College/University and their academic term dates and holiday dates.  Any additional hours worked elsewhere must also be recorded, and combined with work at UCL, must not exceed the weekly maximum hours.

41. A Student Visa Timesheet of Worked Hours template may be used for this purpose. Any alternative recording system must capture the same information.

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

42. To comply with GDPR legislation, all paper or digital copies (including email attachments) of RTW checks must be destroyed once HR Services have received it either by email or via Department Transactions. Local copies should not be retained.  The exception is for visitors doing voluntary unpaid work.  Their RTW evidence should be kept in the department and destroyed once the visitor leaves UCL. 

Failure to follow this procedure

43. Failure to undertake a valid RTW check before engaging a worker or before engaging them in a different role may lead to disciplinary action against the employee who was responsible for the RTW check. Disciplinary action may lead to the termination of their employment or appointment.  It may also have an impact on the individual who may not have the appropriate RTW and could lead to UCL rescinding their employment offer, unenrollment from their student course, a restriction on them entering the UK, and/or deportation. 

Reporting a breach

44. If this procedure is not followed as detailed above, this must be reported to the HR Services Compliance Team immediately via hr-services@ucl.ac.uk. They will investigate and take any appropriate action.

Further questions

Departments should contact hr-services@ucl.ac.uk with any queries that are not covered in this procedure.


Appendix 1 If a right to work check is unsuccessful.

If the check doesn’t work or there is an issue:

If the information is not completed by the successful candidate and their start date is in less than 5 days, HR Services will ask the hiring department to perform a manual check.

If the candidate cannot show their documents or online immigration status

Please contact HR Services who will undertake an additional check via the Employer Checking Service if the employee or applicant has:

  • a digital or non-digital Certificate of Application that says you need to ask the Home Office to check their RTW; or
  • an Application Registration Card; or
  • have an outstanding appeal, review or application with the Home Office; or
  • arrived in the UK before 1989 and do not have documents to prove their immigration status or RTW.

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

Unsuccessful likeness check

If UCL cannot verify a true likeness of the individual when performing the right-to-work check, secondary evidence may be requested. If the secondary evidence cannot be verified, UCL may rescind the offer of employment.

False documents

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).

If someone does not have the right to work

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

If an individual does not have the RTW, UCL may rescind any offer of employment/engagement or terminate any contract of employment/engagement.