Coronavirus and the UK immigration system (as of 31 March 2020)
Right to work checks
As the labour market collapses under the weight of pandemic restrictions, the Home Office emphasises that employers must still carry out checks on the immigration status of employees to see if they have the legal right to work in the UK.
But those checks can now be carried out remotely. Guidance published on 30 March says that employees can submit a copy of their passport or ID rather than the original, and verify it by showing the employer the original on a video call.
An accompanying press release says that the changes are “effective immediately”.
The process for conducting a right to work check during the pandemic is as follows:
- Ask the worker to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app
- Arrange a video call with the worker – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents
- Record the date you made the check and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”
- If the worker has a current Biometric Residence Permit or Biometric Residence Card or status under the EU Settlement Scheme you can use the online right to work checking service while doing a video call – the applicant must give you permission to view their details.
If the above is not possible, use the Home Office Employer Checking Service.
When the emergency is over, employers will have to re-check people hired under the temporary procedure.
Right to rent checks
Much the same procedure applies for landlords checking the immigration status of new tenants:
- Ask the tenant to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app.
- Arrange a video call with the tenant – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents.
- Record the date you made the check and mark it as “an adjusted check has been undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”.
Chai Patel of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants says that “this will probably increase further the racial discrimination faced by ethnic minority Brits and migrants under right to rent. Landlords are iffy enough about non-British passports in person, likely to be even more cautious on Skype”. The Home Office says that employers should “take extra care to ensure no-one is discriminated against”.
Posted on Mar 30, 2020.