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Biometric residence permits and right to work checks

Current regulations impose a statutory obligation on all employers to prevent illegal working in the UK. This obligation is met by an employer carrying out document checks on the applicant. There is an increased use of biometric residence permits (BRP) in the UK and this note is intended to help employers with satisfying their legal obligations.

Why is this important?

Employers are currently under a legal obligation to check all applicants that they have the right to work in the UK. If the checks are carried out correctly and it is subsequently found that an employer has inadvertently employed an illegal worker, then this will establish a ‘statutory defence’ and reduce the possibility of a fine of up to £20,000 being imposed.

What is a biometric residence permit (BRP)?

The BRP is a residence permit which shows a migrant’s biographic details (name, date and place of birth) and biometric information (facial image and fingerprints). Importantly for an employer, the BRP is proof of the holder’s right to stay, work or study in the UK.

What checks need to be carried out if a BRP is presented?

The key point is to remember the purpose of the check: to ensure that the holder has the right to work in the UK. There are counterfeit BRP in circulation so to ensure the checks are carried out correctly the following checks of the BRP should be carried out:

  • Examine the permit. Has it been tampered with? Is it clean and in good condition?
  • Check the permit number. Look at the number displayed on the front of the BRP in the top right hand corner. The number should begin with two letters followed by seven numbers. The number in the top right hand corner should be ‘flush’ with the card and should not be raised at all.
  • Check the picture. This should always be in grey scale format. Remember as part of your rights to work checks, an employer should always make sure that the holder of the BRP appears to be consistent with the image in the BRP.
  • Check the ‘tactile feature’. This is on the rear of the BRP. If you turn the BRP over, you will see that there is a raised design incorporating the four national flowers of the UK. You can see this by shining a light across the BRP and/or by running a finger over the design.
  • Feel the permit. It should be thicker than a photocard driving licence and it should make a distinctive sound when it is flicked. Do not bend or fold it.
  • Check the biographical details. In other words, check that the name, date of birth and photographs are consistent with the person whose BRP you are checking.
  • Check the immigration conditions. These are shown on the front and back of the permit. If the holder has the right to work it will be stipulated. Take care: some BRPs will limit the number of hours the holder can work. If so, the hours limit must be adhered to.

What if the employer has any questions?

If there are concerns about the BRP, then there is an online checking facility available. You can find further details at


This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.

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