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Home Office amends 141,000 EU citizens immigration records

The Financial Times recently reported that 141,000 EU citizens living in the UK have suddenly had their online immigration applications updated as refused.

Find this report here.

Prior to this change, their status was reported as having a Certificate of Application. In some cases, the refusal was issued as early as June 2021 but the person’s online immigration status was not updated to reflect this. The Home Office confirmed that refusals were communicated to the EU citizens at the point the application was refused. The issue is that as their online status was not amended, these EU citizens would have been able to access work and benefits in the UK when they may not have had the legal right to do so.

For employers of these EU citizens, they can be assured that if they conducted a correct right to work check, in accordance with Home Office guidance, they will have established a statutory excuse against a civil penalty for illegal working. Guidance confirms that all employers should obtain their employee’s acceptable documentation prior to their employee starting work and retain a copy on the employee’s file. For prospective employees who provided a certificate of application, employers must have conducted an Employers Checking Service check and receive a Positive Verification Notice before hiring or retaining the employee.

A Positive Verification Notice will be provide a statutory excuse for a period of six months. Where employees have a time limit on their permission to be in the UK which has been established by undertaking the right to work check, a follow up check should be conducted prior to the permission expiring.

The Home Office’s failure to update migrant’s records in a timely manner raises questions as to whether the “digital by default” immigration service will be effective and sustainable. The Home Office have previously claimed that their online right to work system is provided in real time, directly from their systems but it seems this was not the case for 141,000 people.

If you have any questions about how this may impact your business, or whether your right to work checks have been conducted correctly, please get in touch with a member of our Immigration Team.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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