Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006

Employers have a statutory obligation to ensure eligibility of employees to work in the UK prior to employment. It is an offence to employ a worker aged over 16 who has:

• no leave to enter or remain in the UK, or

• no valid leave or is subject to a condition precluding him or her from taking up the employment, and

• no way of meeting conditions specified by the Secretary of State.

The Home Office publishes guidelines at organisations/uk-visas-and-immigration

Acceptable document

Although it is an offence to knowingly employ someone ineligible to work in the UK, it is a defence for the employer to show that they have checked an original of one of a series of documents, and kept a copy or approved record. The Home Office provides lists of accepted documents that show a right to work, which include:

an official document showing the employee’s National Insurance number, e.g. a P45 or a P60

the employee’s British, EEA or Swiss passport showing right of abode in the UK or an entitlement to readmission to the UK a passport showing a Certificate of Entitlement issued by or on behalf of the UK, certifying right of abode in the UK, although these are being phased out and replaced by the biometric residence permit (BRP) issued to non-EEA nationals the employee’s UK or Republic of Ireland birth certificate the employee’s certificate of naturalisation or registration as a British citizen.

Employers need to take care that they are not perceived as discriminating when asking for these documents and establishing the legality of the employee’s work status. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a relevant Code of Practice.

The CIPD has a range of useful guidance with links to Home Office guidance at overseas-workers.aspx

Commonwealth citizens

Commonwealth citizens with UK grandparents and Commonwealth citizens on working holidays can also work in the UK without a permit, though either an ancestry visa or a working holiday visa must be held.


The Training & Work Experience Scheme (TWES) is an employer-led scheme (individuals cannot obtain their own TWES permits) which allows foreign nationals to get work experience at the beginning of their careers. They must be learning skills which can be put to good use overseas, the training should be of a type not readily available in the individual’s home country, and the work experience or training must be for 30 hours or more each week, and of a fixed duration.


Non-EU students are allowed to do holiday or spare time work provided:

• they have a valid student visa in their passport

• university students work no more than 20 hours per week in term-time (a limit, not an average)

• further education students work no more than ten hours per week in term-time (a limit, not an average)

• they don’t pursue a career by filling a permanent vacancy.

They also have the following rights:

• during their holidays they may work in excess of 20 hours each week

• they can also undertake a work placement as a ‘sandwich student’ as part of their study, the work:study ratio should be 50:50.