Previously only issued to migrants applying to extend their stay in the UK, the Biometric Residence Permit (“BRP”) is now being rolled out for all non-EEA migrants entering the UK.
As of 31 May 2015, migrants from 67 countries are required to obtain a BRP as part of the visa process, including Australia, Canada, China, India, Pakistan and the USA. From 31 July 2015, it will apply to migrants from anywhere in the world.
New applicants, and existing migrants looking to renew their visa, will be required to provide biometric information (fingerprints and a digital photograph) as part of their application, which will be used to generate the BRP if they are successful.
How does this affect employers?
Employers are required to carry out “right to work” checks on their employees and the worldwide rollout of the BRP scheme ought to make that process more straightforward and easy to manage in the long term. Businesses that fail to undertake these checks could face a fine of up to £20,000 if they are subsequently found to have illegal workers among their staff. In certain circumstances, directors could face prosecution.
It is therefore really important to do the check and to get it right. Checking the validity of documentation is key and, with the rollout of the BRP scheme, eventually every migrant worker will have the same type of documentation, making this process easy and quick.
The Home Office have issued a guidance document that employers can refer to, clearly setting out how the BRP should appear. Its design is set by EU regulations; it is a credit-card sized document that clearly sets out the holder’s name, photograph and details of their immigration status, as well as having a number of security features. They have also set up an online checking service to confirm whether a presented BRP is valid.
Where’s the catch?
A migrant is required to collect their BRP upon arrival in the UK (within ten days), so prior to entry they will be issued with a short validity vignette in their passport to confirm their right to enter the UK.
As such, there will be circumstances in which the migrant worker commences employment prior to collecting their BRP.
What should the employer do in these cases?
Unfortunately, this will require two separate right to work checks.
The first must be carried out when the employee starts work, whereby his/her passport should be checked and the vignette authorising entry to the UK should be examined and a copy taken for the company’s records. However, the vignette expires after 30 days, so it is imperative that the company undertakes a further right to work check on or immediately after this date, to ensure that the employee remains entitled to work.
If the employer is not 100% satisfied with the validity of the BRP, or wishes to have the peace of mind of a Home Office-approved check, they should also use the online “right to work” checking service. Given the simplicity of this facility, our advice would be to check every BRP in this manner and to retain evidence that this check has been done. The service does not, however, negate the obligation on an employer to carry out visual checks of the original documentation and this should always be carried out in addition.
Make a careful note of the expiry date on the BRP (when taking a copy for your records) and ensure that your employee’s right to work is checked just beforehand – it is easy for workers’ immigration status to change and for this to be overlooked by employers but with a £20,000 fine and potential criminal sanctions for directors should illegal working be found to be taking place, this is a risk that ought to be minimised by sensible and pro-active administration.
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