Anyone wanting to work in the UK has to prove that they have permission to do so. This rule applies to everyone, including British citizens, non-UK citizens who live in the UK and people who come to the UK with a work visa.
For any other nationality, an online check must be carried out. Most individuals will be able to provide a share code which you can enter into the government website. The result will tell you whether the person has the right to work, and any restrictions or deadlines on their permission.
What is a share code?
A share code is a unique nine-digit code that the UK government provides to non-UK nationals to enable them to prove their right to work in the UK. It shows the type of work the employee is legally allowed to do and the length of time they can work for.
Non-UK nationals can apply for a right to work share code online if they have a biometric residence permit, biometric residence card, or passport or national identity card.
Employers in the UK can use a right to work share code to check the immigration status of a non-UK national applicant and to confirm that they have the right to work in the UK.
Share codes were introduced to simplify both the process for workers proving their right to work and for employers verifying an individual’s eligibility to work.
Employers should use the Employer Checking Service if right to work status cannot be verified electronically and give potential employees the opportunity to prove their right to work.
Who uses a share code?
Non-UK nationals who want to work in the UK will need a share code to prove their right to work to their employer or prospective employer. Employers then use the share code to check the individual’s immigration status and to confirm that they have the right to work in the UK.
Examples of workers who may need a share code include:
- EU citizens who are living in the UK after Brexit
- Non-EU citizens who are living in the UK on a visa
- Non-EU citizens who have permanent residence in the UK
- Non-EU citizens who are married to or in a civil partnership with a British or Irish citizen
Under new rules, BRP cards can no longer be used as evidence of right to work and are being phased out from 2024.
British and Irish passport holders must present their original passport to prove their eligibility to work. The passport can be valid or expired. Alternatively, those without a passport or passport card can prove their right to work with either their UK birth or adoption certificate, or their Irish birth or adoption certificate or their certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen.
How do share codes work?
Share codes are issued to workers, who then provide this to the employer to conduct an online check.
A share code is only one way to prove right to work. Employers can also accept other forms of acceptable documentation to conduct manual checks such as a passport, visa, or biometric residence permit.
They may also use the Employer Checking Service if the individual is unable to provide the relevant share code or documentation as proof of their immigration status and eligibility to work.
How to get a share code
To apply for a right to work share code, you must have a biometric residence permit, biometric residence card, or passport or national identity card. You can apply for a share code online on the GOV.UK website. There is no cost to apply for a share code.
To apply online, you will need to:
- Go to the GOV.UK website and search for “right to work share code”.
- Click on the “Apply for a right to work share code” link.
- Enter your personal details, including your name, date of birth, and passport number.
- Answer some questions about your immigration status.
- Create a password and confirm your email address.
- Review and submit your application.
Once you have submitted your application, you will receive an email confirmation. You will then be able to view your right to work share code online. You can also download and print your share code if you need to.
Your right to work share code will be valid for 90 days. After 90 days, you will need to apply for a new share code.
If you are unable to apply for a right to work share code online, you can contact the Home Office by phone or email.
It will not be sufficient for an employee to give their employer a printout or screenshot of the preview page of their right to work details. They must provide an employer with a share code, giving the employer permission to view their immigration status online, to enable them to independently access the employee’s right to work. The share code will be valid for 30 days.
How do employers use share codes?
For those workers who have settled status, they will not have a physical document to confirm their right to live and work in the UK because this will be held in digital format. This means that employers must carry out their check electronically by using the ‘Right to Work Checking Service’ at the gov.uk website. This service allows the worker to provide a prospective employer with a unique share code so they can view the workers’ right to work in the UK.
Information received from carrying out an online check is given in real-time, allowing the employer to instantly check the employee’s immigration status. Provided the records prove the worker has been granted settled status, and the employer is confident that the person in the photograph is the same person they plan to employ, they can proceed with the employment.
Once the check has been carried out, the employer should retain a record of the confirmation and retain this in the worker’s personnel records.
What information is visible to employers viewing a share code?
Employers checking a potential employee’s right to work in the UK can view the types of work they can do, how long they can work in the UK (if there is a time limit restriction such as in the case of international students who are only allowed to work 20 hours during term time), whether they can access healthcare services or apply for any state benefits, or if they can open a bank account or apply for credit in the UK.
Share codes can also be used to verify the right to rent.
Share codes for EU citizens
Since the end of EU/UK freedom of movement, the way EEA citizens and Swiss nationals have to prove their eligibility to work in the UK has changed.
If an EEA or Swiss citizen was resident in the UK before 31st December 2020, and successfully applied under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) before the 30th June 2021 deadline, they should hold either settled or pre-settled status. Valid status under EUSS provides individuals with the right to continue to live, study and work in the UK, and the right to access healthcare services and state benefits. This is compared to EU citizens coming to the UK after Brexit, who in most cases have to apply for a visa.
Settled status applies to EU individuals if they, at the time of their application for settled status, lived in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years. This gives that person permission to stay indefinitely in the UK free from immigration controls.
Pre-settled status applies to those people who were unable to meet the continuous residence requirement. Although this will still enable them to live and work in the UK for an additional 5-year period. They also have the option to switch to settled status as soon as they have been continuously resident in the UK for 5 years.
How to prove EU settled status
Employers are legally required to check an individual’s immigration status before they employ them. In a lot of cases, the potential employee can choose to either provide the employer with the physical documentation so the employer can carry out a manual check of their right to work, or the worker can agree to give them a share code to enable the employer to conduct an online check.
Those who hold EU settled status will not have physical documentation confirming their permission to live and work in the UK indefinitely because this will be only held in a digital format. This means that an employer must conduct their right to work check electronically using the online Home Office “Right to Work Checking Service” on the gov.uk website. This online service allows the employee to provide their employer with a unique share code so the employer can view and check their right to work in the UK.
Workers can prove their right to work to an employer by sharing the share code. This is made up of 9 alphanumeric characters, e.g. 9DT-5RG-6JM. To create a share code, a worker will need either a biometric residence permit number (also known as a visa), biometric residence card, national identity card or passport. This is created by using one of the following: a UKVI account, if the worker has settled status under EUSS, or they have a biometric residence permit.
Employers must legally copy and store an electronic or hard copy of the online service’s response for the length of the worker’s employment and for a period of at least two years following it.
How to prove pre-settled status
To prove pre-settled status, the employee should follow the same process as that of someone with settled status. Even though someone with pre-settled status does not have permission to remain in the UK indefinitely, it does not mean they do not have the right to work. However, this right is time-limited, so an employer may need to carry out further checks during the course of their employment before the employee’s permission expires.
Pre-settled status gives someone the right to live and work in the UK for 5 years from the grant of their application. This means that someone with pre-settled status will have to apply for settled status before the end of that 5-year period, or, as soon as they meet the qualifying 5-year continuous residence requirement. Once they prove settled status, an employer will not need to carry out any further checks.
Proving eligibility to work & unlawful discrimination
Employers must carry out right to work checks without discriminating against potential or existing employees.
Employers should not impose excessive requirements or single out individuals because of their nationality or race, as this may constitute unlawful discrimination.
For example, employers should not assume that simply because someone is not from the EU, they do not have settled or pre-settled status. The EUSS applies to a broad range of people, including EEA nationals and Swiss citizens from all over the world, and this should be taken into consideration.
If the employer has to carry out follow-up checks to ensure stability in their workforce, they should do so in a non-discriminatory way.
Employers should use the Employer Checking Service if right to work status cannot be verified electronically and give potential employees the opportunity to prove their right to work. They should also not discriminate against those workers with an outstanding valid application for EUSS status.
Employers should not refuse to employ an EEA or Swiss citizen on the basis of the employee being unable to provide physical evidence of their immigration status, simply because EU settled status is held in digital format.
Where an employer identifies someone without the right to work, and the worker does not make an EUSS application within 28 days (after being given appropriate notice and signposting as to how to go about doing this) the current Home Office guidance is that the employer must take steps to end their employment in accordance with UK right to work laws.
Share code FAQs
What is a share code?
Share codes are a combination of 9 letters and numbers that can be obtained by accessing online records of your immigration status. It shares details of the types of jobs you can do, and how long you can work in the UK. It is valid for 30 days.
Who needs a share code?
Share codes enable non-UK nationals to quickly and easily demonstrate their right to work in the UK to prospective employers.
What is a Home Office Share code?
It is a code that is generated by migrant workers to prove their immigration status to others, for example employers.
Can I enter the UK with a share code?
No. To get a share code to prove your right to work in the UK you will need to access the online Home Office ‘view and prove your immigration status’ webpage at gov.uk.
How many share codes can I have?
Each share code is valid for 90 days and can be used as many times as needed during this period. There are no limits to the number of share codes you can apply for.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.