The Home Office has stated that from 1 October 2022, the adjusted manual right to work check process will end. UK employers have been able to use this since 30 March 2020 to deal with difficulties in handling original documents that arose due to the pandemic. In this article we answer some common FAQ about this development.
Are adjusted checks really ending on 30 September 2022?
The Home Office originally intended to end adjusted manual checks after 16 May 2021. The end date has since been deferred four times. The most recent deferral happened on 22 February 2022, setting the end date of 30 September 2022.
At the time of the most recent deferral, the Home Office stated an intention to give employers time to establish commercial relationships with identity service providers (IDSPs) for the purpose of completing digital checks on valid British and Irish passports (including Irish passport cards), or to put measures in place to enable 'face to face' document checks if they do not wish to use an IDSP.
Although employers have appreciated the convenience and low cost of not being required to review original documents for manual right to work checks, this was only ever intended by the Home Office to be temporary because using copies carries a much higher risk of document fraud.
On the other hand, employers requested a digital solution that would enable them to move away from manual checks altogether. This has not been delivered, because IDSPs cannot be used to replace all manual document checks. There has also been a delay in the providers becoming certified, with the first identity document validation technology (IDVT) products only going live at the end of July 2022. Lastly, choosing and onboarding a provider may be costly and not straightforward.
Many employers may still feel they are not ready or willing to return to fully compliant manual checks, however whether there will be representations from business that results in a further deferral appears unlikely. Employers should therefore prepare operationally for adjusted checks to end as scheduled.
Can we still check the appearance of the individual using a video call?
Unless the Home Office changes their guidance to the contrary, it will still be allowable to check the visual appearance of the person presenting for work using a live video call after the adjusted process ends. This will apply for manual checks and online checks.
The Home Office's current guidance is silent on whether video call is acceptable for reviewing whether the appearance of the person presenting for work is consistent with the image and biographic details on the IDVT report produced following a digital check of a British or Irish passport by through an IDSP. We have asked the Home Office for clarification on this point, particularly because the guidance on adjusted checks contemplates 'face to face document checks' for employers not using an IDSP. However, requiring an in-person check would be inconsistent with what is allowed for manual checks, so it is likely that video calls are accepted.
What do we need to do differently once adjusted checks have ended?
The key change is that for manual right to work checks, the employee of the business who is doing the check will need to have sight of the physical documents relied on.
Manual right to work document endorsements should also revert back to the standard wording, no longer mentioning COVID-19.
What should we do to prepare for the return of standard manual checks?
We would suggest the following:
- Provide staff responsible for right to work checks with refreshed training, including a reminder that since 6 April 2022, holders of biometric residence permits, biometric residence cards and frontier worker permits must have their right to work checked using the Home Office's online system;
- Ensure that there is a process in place to handle original documents for manual right to work checks, including for receipt, review, storage and return as applicable;
- Decide whether and to what extent to use an IDSP to carry out the identity verification element of right to work checks for holders of valid British or Irish passports – see our earlier article for some of the relevant considerations;
- Determine a policy on whether the visual check of the person presenting themselves for work will be carried out in-person, via live video call or a combination, and put appropriate resources and recordkeeping in place to do this; and
- Ensure that from 1 October 2022, endorsements on copies of manually checked original documents are changed to reflect that the original document has been sighted.
We will be discussing right to work checks in the context of sponsor licence compliance in our webinar, Sponsorship of Workers in the UK, on 28 September 2022. For further information and to book, click here.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.