UKVI advocate a three step check to conduct a right to work check: obtain; check and copy.

The first step: obtain, seems simple enough, but you do have to receive an acceptable document from the list produced by UKVI. The document needs to be original and it needs to be given to an employee who is checking for rght to work on behalf of their employer. Typically this would be an interviewer, or HR staff member.

The second step: check, requires some skill as UKVI require the checker to conform the documents are genuine and really do belong to the person presenting them. None of us like staring at people, so the comparison of photographs and person can be intimidating. And that is without considering that some document don’t contain a photograph, or any other description which can help connect the document to the person (think birth certificate or NI proof).

So UKVI outline that a check is, confirming photographs and dates of birth (if present) are consistent across documents and with the person’s appearance; that any expiry dates on immigration permission have not passed; any work restrictions do not prevent the type of work you are offering; that name differences have been explained. So, nothing to do with the genuineness of the document then …

Finally, as a one liner, UKVI say you must check the documents are genuine, have not been tampered with and belong to the holder. Unfortunately there is no further guidance on how to do this, or, indeed, what it means.

We know that the expectation is fairly low, and it would only be a problem if there were obvious signs of fakery. At this basic level, this means checking the picture, looking at security features such as a watermark, and generally getting a feel to see if the document looks and feels like a quality document. This can be challenging, particularly when aced with unfamiliar documents from countries using non-modern documents.

The third step: is to take a copy. Fairly straightforward – there are specific parts to copy, but otherwise as long as you take a good clear copy, then this part can be achieved with minimal hassle. There is no requirement to copy in colour (or black and white) but the copy must be clear to read.

Most importantly, you must be able to prove that the document was checked and copied before employment starts. Therefore you must hold a record of when the check was made. Often this is by signing and dating a copy, with a suitable declaration “I confirm this is a true likeness…” However, electronic scan and storage is perfectly allowable as long as you still have the secure (ie unalterable) copy and date stamp.

And finally…an additional fourth step:  Frequently we see ID checks conducted as a stand alone part of the process and with little connection to the recruitment of the individual. EG – the receptionist takes the copy of a document whilst the candidate is waiting for the interview. The receptionist has no knowledge of the applicants background, application form, CV etc. The interviewer or HR staff, who do have that knowledge might not consider the ID document against known information.

So step 4 is simply, consider the documentation seen in the context of ALL information you have on the candidate. For example, is it realistic that they have held a visa for 5 years, yet have no employment history in the UK? Or perhaps the passport looks immaculate and brand new, yet is supposedly several years old; or perhaps the name is spelt differently in the passport and on the CV?

We call these triggers, and it is not possible to list them. Simply it is about the consideration of the whole circumstance, and if something is unexplained we suggest further questions are asked. If the questions can’t be satisfactorily resolved, then I would suggest recruitment needs to be paused whilst consideration is given to those questions.

Passport Proven is an online system which facilitates the 3 step process by validating the passport (ie taking the worry of step 2 away); it also provides a report with an image of the document meeting the requirement of step 3. We can’t do step 1 for you (we would if we could!) but we can help train you in the best way of protecting your business against the consequences of illegal workers.