Right to work checks

This page is an introduction to the purpose and process of carrying out right to work checks and links to further information on additional pages.

PLEASE NOTE: following consultation with the Immigration and Right to Work User Group, it is now mandatory for all staff whose job description includes checking right to work documentation to attend a Right to Work training session, if they have not already done so, before they carry out any right to work checks. Details of upcoming sessions and the booking form can be found at: http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/personnel/permits/sittrain/

What is a right to work check?

A right to work check is a Home Office process to establish that each employee/casual worker has the right to work in the UK.

Under the 2006 Immigration, Nationality and Asylum Act the University has a duty to prevent illegal working by carrying out document checks to confirm that a person has the right to work in the UK. All employees, casual workers and Tier 5 sponsored visa holders must have their right to work checked before they start work at the University. In addition, those with time- limited right to work in the UK (i.e. those who hold a ‘List B’ document such as a visa) must have a repeat check before their visa/document is due to expire.

The importance of correctly carrying out right to work checks is discussed further in our guidance on the Consequences of non-compliance.

Who needs a right to work check?

Right to Work checks, strictly in accordance with the Home Office guidance, must be made for:

  • All employees and workers who are paid through the payroll, including casual workers. Departments must enter right to work details into CoreHR, including for people paid through the casual payroll.
  • Tier 5 sponsored visa holders. Departments must enter right to work details into CoreHR.
  • Employed Tier 4 student visa holders. Most student visa holders have restrictions on the hours they can work, for full guidance see the additional requirements for employed student visa holders. A record of term and vacation dates must be kept and the student must complete the Tier 4 Student Employment Declaration (94kb) confirming they are not employed anywhere else in excess of their permitted hours. Where a Tier 4 visa holder is applying to switch into Tier 2 they are permitted to start work during their application for a Tier 2 visa. See Switching from a Tier 4 visa into Tier 2 General for additional information.
  • People doing work experience (except where the individual is under the age of 16).
  • Those undertaking unpaid work.

In addition to staff, departments and colleges should check and record the visa status of:

Copies of the passport and appropriate visa should be taken and retained for the duration of the visit.

Please see our RTW scenarios (179kb) guidance on right to work checks for different scenarios such as re-hiring previous employees, internal transfers, casual workers etc. for further information.

Who does not need a right to work check?

There is no requirement to carry out a right to work check for the following:

  • People providing a service for which they invoice the department or college  under a contract for services and for which they are self- employed according to HMRC rules
  • Academic and other visitors who are citizens of the UK/EEA or already in the UK on an appropriate visa.
  • Individuals invited to Oxford to carry out occasional  tasks for which they are unpaid but for which expenses may be reimbursed e.g. external electoral board members or committee members
  • Agency workers (right to work is checked by the agency)
  • Temps sourced through the University Temporary Staffing Service (right to work is checked and held by the Service)
  • Volunteers (voluntary activity must not amount to unpaid work, volunteer work or job substitution). In order to be considered as a volunteer: 
    • there should be no payment, other than reasonable travel and meals expenditure actually incurred (not an allowance for the same);
    • there should be no contractual obligations;
    • the service should not be a substitute for employment (i.e. fulfilling a role that a salaried worker would normally fulfil).

Biometric Residence Permits for overseas applicants

Biometric Residence Permits (BRP) (credit-card sized plastic visa cards) are now issued to those applying overseas for permission to stay in the UK for more than six months. The applicant will be issued with a 30 day vignette (visa in their passport) to enable them to enter the UK but they must then collect their BRP within 10 days from a designated Post Office.

A letter issued to the applicant along with their 30 day vignette details the designated Post Office and the date from which the BRP will be available for collection, based on the UK address and intended travel date listed in the visa application. The passport containing the vignette and the letter must be presented when collecting the BRP. If the applicant does not collect their BRP within 10 days they could face a financial penalty and have may have their visa curtailed. Guidance in relation to BRPs for overseas applicants, and the schedule for the international roll-out, can be found on the Home Office website.

When conducting a right to work check, departments/ colleges must ensure that a copy of the Biometric Residence Permit is taken (where the visa holder is expected to hold one), as well as the 30 day vignette showing the entry date stamp. Visa holders should be advised to collect their Biometric Residence Permit before starting work so that a right to work check can be completed in full as required.

If for any reason a visa holder is unable to collect their Biometric Residence Permit before they commence work, the department/college may rely on the 30 day vignette as proof of right to work (assuming it is valid) only up to the expiry date of this temporary visa. The visa holder should be advised to collect their Biometric Residence Permit as soon as possible and before the 30 day vignette expires and present it to their department or college as proof of continued right to work. In these circumstances, departments and colleges must complete an initial right to work check on the 30 day vignette and a repeat right to work check on the Biometric Residence Permit before the 30 day vignette expires.

Departments and colleges will recognise those applicants from overseas who should have a Biometric Residence Permit by the expiry date of their vignette (visa in their passport). Those who should be issued with a Biometric Residence Permit will have a visa in their passport valid for only one month.

UK visas or Indefinite Leave to Remain in an old passport

Changes to the right to work rules in 2014 mean that UK visas and Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the form of a vignette (paper visa) which is not in a current passport cannot be accepted as evidence of right to work in the UK.


  • even if the expiry date of a previous passport has not yet passed it is no longer current if a new passport has been obtained.
  • endorsements under EEA (European) immigration rules where the individual is the family member of an EEA national, such as a Residence Card, Accession Residence Card, Derivative Residence Card, or Permanent Residence Card, can be accepted  as evidence of right to work whether in a current or expired passport, as long as they have not expired and are presented along with a current passport in the latter case.

In order to evidence right to work those with a UK visa or ILR in a previous passport will need to submit a ‘Transfer of Conditions’ (TOC) or ‘No Time Limit’ (NTL) application to the Home Office, respectively, to have their vignette re-issued in the form of Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) (plastic visa card).

Standard postal TOC and NTL applications can take 8 weeks to process but applications can be submitted in person for an additional priority fee. If an application is made in person the new BRP should be issued within 2-3 weeks and you will then be able to complete a right to work check so that the individual can start work. 

Home Office guidance on applying to have a visa or ILR transferred to a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), and links to the TOC and NTL application forms can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/transfer-visa

If a standard postal application is submitted the applicant should receive a letter from the Home Office within a 1-2 weeks acknowledging receipt of the application. If this letter is presented you can then use the Home Office’s Employer Checking Service (ECS) to verify that an application has been submitted to have the vignette issued as a BRP and that the applicant has right to work while the application is being processed. As you should have the letter verified by the ECS within 2-3 weeks and the individual can start work it is normally only necessary for an application in person to be made, at increased cost to the applicant, where they have urgent travel plans.

Further information can be found in our step by step guide to the Employer Checking Service.

PLEASE NOTE: The individual must not be permitted to undertake any work until they are able to present their visa re-issued as a BRP, or the Home Office letter acknowledging an application has been verified through the Employer Checking Service. Further information on the Employer Checking Service can be found in our guidance on How to complete a right to work check.

Right to work checks for academic appointments

As each academic division administers personnel files for academic appointments in slightly different ways the responsibility to carry out right to work checks and retain records may be assigned differently within different divisions. We recommend, therefore that departments discuss this issue with their divisional office to ensure that practices are consistent within each division and that all parties are clear where responsibility lies for ensuring that:   

  • evidence of right to work data for all staff is available for inspection,
  • a List of all List B staff with the expiry dates of their visas is maintained,
  • repeat right to work checks are carried out for List B staff,
  • right to work data for all new starters and all those with List B documents is entered into CORE

It is recommended that, even if initial right to work checks are done in the divisional office, departments keep a copy of all right to work checks. Where a copy is held in departments it should be noted on the copy where the original check is stored.

Casual payment process

The casual payment process enables the Staff Immigration Team to undertake routine monthly checks to ensure that all casual workers have a valid Right to Work check included on their CoreHR record, and to monitor the weekly working hours undertaken by casuals on a Tier 4 visa to ensure they do not exceed the maximum hours imposed by their visa.

This process requires any Tier 4 student who plans to work more than 20 hours in any week to email Tier4casualpayments@admin.ox.ac.uk to provide SIT with their name, student number and course and if a PGR student, a scanned copy of the letter from their doctoral supervisor providing the dates that they are ‘on holiday’ from their research studies. This will allow SIT to authorise the payment. If you know any Tier 4 student who will be working over 20 hours in a week, please make them aware of this change. All Tier 4 students have also been informed of this requirement.

Casual pay requests will not be processed for individuals with incorrect or incomplete right to work information in Core HR, or where there are questions over Tier 4 hours. If pay is stopped the Staff Immigration Team will inform the department why this has happened and a correct casual payment request will need to be resubmitted in the following month.