In March 2020, the Home Office introduced a concession allowing employers to carry out adjusted right to work checks by viewing scanned copies of passports/visas and video calls for employees working remotely rather than the usual requirement to check original documentation. That was originally due to end in summer last year but was extended until this April and now there is an update confirming that adjusted checks are permitted until 30 September 2022. The extension ties in with plans to enable employers to use Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT) to carry out digital right to work checks from 6 April on British and Irish citizens who hold a valid passport. The Home Office update indicates however that the necessary IDVT arrangements may not be fully in place by that time. The extension therefore ensures (according to the Home Office Office) that:
“employers have sufficient time to develop commercial relationships with identity service providers, make the necessary changes to their pre-employment checking processes and carry out responsible on-boarding of their chosen provider”
“the right to work scheme continues to operate in a manner which supports employers to implement long-term, post-pandemic working practices. It also provides opportunity for employers to put measures in place to enable face to face document checks if they do not wish to adopt digital checks for British and Irish citizens with a valid passport (or Irish passport card).”
What is IDVT?
IDVT will enable employers to use certified identity service providers (approved private sector businesses) to carry out identity checks on their behalf for candidates and employees who are not able to use the Home Office’s current online right to work checking services (including British and Irish citizens) because they do not hold an online immigration status or a biometric residence permit/card. It will still be possible to carry out checks on original passports in the traditional way (known as ‘manual checks’) but the Home Office appears confident that the use of IDVT “will help to support long-term post pandemic working practices, accelerate the recruitment and onboarding process, improve employee mobility and enhance the security and integrity of the checks.”
Subject to this not falling foul of the same gremlins as seem to bedevil most of the Home Office’s major IT programmes, this is a welcome development for the many employers concerned about how they would perform right to work checks on those not eligible to use the online checking service (such as British and Irish citizens) once the checks concession was removed. Non-British/Irish citizens with an online immigration status (for example, under the EU Settlement Scheme) or in possession of a biometric residence permit/card have been able to prove their right to work online since January 2019 so the changes will not affect them.
Who or what is a certified identity service provider and what will their role be?
Employers will be required to use certified identity service providers to carry out IDVT right to work checks on British and Irish citizens. Changes to the right to work regulations (yet to be published) will make it a legal requirement for them to apply identity evidence verification criteria set by the Home Office. The employer will be required to:
- ensure the identity service provider is certified to the required standards
- provide appropriate training and guidance to its staff, for example, on what information they must obtain from an identity service provider to confirm verification of identity, what the information can be used for, and what other requirements they still need to fulfil to establish eligibility to work
- discharge their duties in accordance with Home Office’s right to work complete identity evidence verification criteria and in accordance with existing wider right to work legislation and guidance.
We will provide updates on the relevant legislation and guidance as and when they become available.
To become certified, wannabe identity service providers must meet the criteria in the UK Digital Identity and Attributes Trust Framework (currently still in a first stage industry prototype and not expected to move to the live phase until after the legislation is passed which will be, “when parliamentary time allows”) and meet the requirements in Appendix F of the Home Office’s Employer Right to Work Checks Supporting Guidance. Employers can choose to undertake digital identity verification checks using their own processes but they will need to obtain certification as an identity service provider – at first glance, the certification process appears complex both technologically and administratively. Organisations interested in becoming certified identity service providers can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. A list of certified providers will be available here but there are none currently in place.
While a brave face is being put upon it, the extension of the adjusted right to work concession is clearly indicative of the Home Office having too much to do in relation to IDVT checks to meet the 6 April target. That is not least in relation to the development of the entirely fundamental definitive user-friendly guidance for employers and list of certified identity service providers to carry out the IDVT checks on their behalf.
We are running an immigration update webinar covering this and other UK immigration developments on 22 March 2022 from 12.30 to 1.30pm GMT, anyone interested in attending can register here.
In the meantime, employers are urged to re-familiarise themselves with existing right to work check processes in order to protect themselves from potential illegal working civil penalties.
If you have any questions relating to the IDVT checks, right to work issues generally or other immigration matters, please contact your usual Squire Patton Boggs business immigration team member or Annabel Mace, partner and Head of UK Immigration.