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The right to work in the UK

Spring 2007

With the growth in migration and the accession of two new member states of the European Union on 1 January this year, it is more important than ever that employers know how to check that potential employees are entitled to work in the UK. Failure to check means you run the risk of a criminal record and unlimited fine.

British citizens are entitled to work in the UK without restriction – but you need to see proof of citizenship, such as a passport. The same goes for Commonwealth citizens with a right of abode in the UK, and for nationals of Switzerland and the European Economic Area (the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), except for Romania and Bulgaria.

However, nationals of eight countries that joined the EU on 1 May 2004 – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia – have to register with the Home Office within one month of starting work with you. They cannot register in advance, because they need to provide evidence of their employment to register.

Romanians and Bulgarians now have the right to live in the UK but need authorisation to work before taking most jobs. Very broadly, the employer first has to apply for approval of the employment under the work permit arrangements; the individual then has to apply for an Accession worker card.

There are a few other groups of people who can work without a permit, such as those entering under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme. In other cases, you may be able to obtain a work permit from the Home Office’s Immigration and Nationality Directorate, proving that it is essential to recruit the overseas national and there is no suitable person available from the UK or European Economic Area.

Hilton Sharp & Clarke