Our recent experiences with the UKBA Employer Checking Service have been mixed and a Sky news article this week has also queried the performance levels of the service.
The UKBA Employer Checking Service provides employers with a ‘quick’ service confirming an Employee’s eligibility to work in the UK. The service can be used when checking a new hire’s eligibility or checking the status of a current employee. Employers can simply email an ‘Enquiry Form’ to UKBA and they will receive a written reply from the UKBA confirming the individual’s eligibility to work.
In our experience, this is really helpful in cases where UKBA records are up to date and they have the details of an employee’s outstanding UK Visa application. In this situation the positive response from UKBA will cover the Employer for up to a year.
However, in some situations the checking service may not be entirely accurate and indeed it could mistakenly highlight to UKBA that an Employee could be deemed to be working illegally thus placing the Employer in a dilemma as to whether the Employee can continue to work for them! This could happen in cases where for example, an Employee genuinely submitted a visa extension which was returned and declared invalid due to enclosing incorrect photographs. During this time the Employee’s previous visa may have also expired. The Employee may have submitted a new visa application but this may not as yet be showing on the UKBA system. The Employer is then informed by the Employer Checking Service that UKBA cannot confirm the Employee’s eligibility to work and that the Employer may be liable to a civil penalty. UKBA will also keep a log of these notifications which could then be used against the Employer if the Employee is later found to genuinely be working illegally!
In the situation described above the burden is shifted upon the Employer to obtain additional proof from the Employee that s/he can still work. Often a letter from the Employer’s Immigration Adviser to the relevant UKBA team can easily resolve the issue and provide reassuring written confirmation of the Employee’s continued permission to work in the UK.
A ‘negative’ response from the Employers Checking Service can therefore often create a ‘false alarm’ for an Employee and Employer. Whilst we would never discourage employers from using the service, we would however err on the side of caution if you are not sure about a particular employee’s right to work in the UK, particularly where it is an existing employee. In this situation it may actually be in an Employer’s best interests to engage assistance from their Immigration Adviser to immediately contact the relevant team at UKBA dealing with that Employee’s case rather than going straight to the Employers Checking Service.