Employing overseas nationals and obtaining permission to work in the UK

Under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 we have a legal duty to prevent illegal working by checking documents to confirm that everyone we employ (including people from the UK) has the right to work in the UK.

If we employ an illegal migrant worker we could be fined up to £20,000 per illegal worker and if they are knowingly employed there could also be an unlimited fine and/or a prison sentence of up to two years.

  • We have to check certain documents so we can establish a 'statutory excuse' against liability for payment of a civil penalty if someone is wrongly employed.
  • We also have a responsibility to track and monitor the immigration status of migrant workers once they are employed and report unauthorised absence.
  • Checks need to be carried out for every person that we intend to employ, regardless of their race, ethnicity or nationality to avoid any potential discrimination. The Home Office has a code of practice on complying with the law without discriminating.

Where can I go for help?

  • These pages contain guidance about how we can make sure we aren't employing anyone illegally and the processes we have to follow and checks we need to carry out.
  • If you can't find an answer to your query, you can contact your Faculty/Service HR Manager/Officer and/or the International HR team.
  • UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), which is part of the Home Office, has information on its website.
  • UKVI also has an Employer Checking Service which you can use to check the status of anyone who currently has an application or appeal being considered by the Home Office and has provided a ‘holding letter’ confirming this.

Who is entitled to work in the UK?

The following groups are considered to be 'settled workers' who aren’t subject to immigration control and therefore have no restrictions on working in the UK:

  • British citizens
  • European Economic Area (EEA) nationals.  Member countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia (with effect from 1 July 2018), Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom
  • Close family members of British and EEA citizens: spouses, civil partners, durable partners (ie living together for at least 2 years), dependant children and parents who have an existing right to work in the UK (Dependant or EEA family member visa)
  • Citizens of Switzerland
  • Individuals with permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain in the UK
  • Commonwealth citizens who are allowed to enter or to remain in the UK on the basis that a grandparent was born here (Ancestry visa)
Other groups (visa nationals) require permission to enter and work in the UK under the Home Office Points Based System. Higher education-relevant visa types are:
  • Tier 1 (General) - this is an historical visa and is no longer issued
  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)
  • Tier 1 Post Study Worker visa - this is also an historical visa and is no longer issued;
  • Tier 2 (General) 
  • Tier 4 (General) - a student visa which entitles the holder to work on a part time basis (limited to a maximum of 20 hours per week during term-time)
  • Tier 4 (Doctorate Extension Scheme)
  • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange)
  • Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme
Short term visas are also available:
  • Standard visitor - academic or business routes (6 months or up to 12 months)
  • Permitted Paid Engagement (up to 1 month)
  • Short term study (6 months or 11 months)

What documents do I need to check?

We have a legal duty to check that all our employees have the right to work in the UK before they start work. Checks must be carried out before they begin their employment. This can be on their first day but, if it is, it should be before they start working.

Step 1

Ask your potential employee to provide the required original documents from List A or List B from the download below.

The UK Visa and Immigration has full guidance on required documents including sample copies.

Step 2

You must be satisfied that your potential employee is the rightful holder of the documents, that they haven’t been tampered with and that they allow them to do the work offered.

All documents submitted should be originals, and you need to check that:

  • photographs in documents are consistent with their appearance;
  • dates of birth are consistent with their appearance;
  • expiry dates of any limited leave to enter or remain in the UK haven’t passed;
  • UK Government stamps or endorsements allow them to do the type of work;
  • the documents are genuine and have not been tampered with and belong to the holder;
  • if two documents are presented which have different names, they have a further document which explains the reason for this (e.g. marriage certificate, divorce document, deed poll, adoption certificate or statutory declaration).

Step 3

Make a photocopy of all of the pages which give the individual’s personal details (a copy of the front cover is no longer needed).  In particular, copy any page that provides details of name, nationality, photographs, date of birth, signature, date of expiry and biometric details. For list B make sure a copy of both sides of the Biometric Residence Permit are taken.


  • Copies must be signed and noted as verified copies of the original documents; and
  • Copies should be sent to Central HR with the appointment information where they will be retained.

If you aren’t sure if they are permitted to work in the UK, contact HR for advice.

Where it is confirmed that they aren’t permitted to work in the UK, we won't be able to continue to employ them.

Changes to report to UK Visas and Immigration

Under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 we have a number of responsibilities to track and monitor migrant workers.

  • If a sponsored migrant doesn't come in on their first day of work you must report this immediately to your local HR Manager/Officer. They will try to contact them to find out the reason for non-attendance. If they won't be starting work or if there is no response, the Central HR team will report this to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) within 10 working days.
  • If a sponsored migrant is off work for more than 10 working days without permission you must report this immediately to your local HR Manager/Officer. The Central HR team will report this to UKVI.

The Central HR team will automatically let UKVI know:

  • If a sponsored migrant’s contract of employment is terminated early (including resignation or dismissal);
  • If we stop sponsoring a migrant for any other reason (for example if they move into an immigration category that doesn't need a sponsor);
  • If there are any significant changes in a migrant’s employment circumstances (for example a change in the length of contract, job or salary - this doesn't include annual pay increases).

We need up to date contact details (including home address and phone number) for all migrant workers. Make sure that any changes are made in the SAP HR system by either your Faculty/School/Service HR contact or the Central HR team.