Recruiting workers from outside the UK has become harder since Brexit, but employers with skilled jobs are still looking for the best talent around the globe to fill vacancies. Despite this, a recent survey has shown that around half of the members of staff arriving from overseas have no background vetting at all, compared with three quarters of staff from the UK. As well as putting companies at risk of employing illegal workers, there are several other drawbacks to this strategy.

Right to Work

The main risk factor in employing staff from overseas is that they do not have the legal right to be in the UK in the first place or work here. The legal situation here is strange; it is not a legal requirement to check nationality of staff. However, it is illegal to employ illegal workers, so checking up on nationality and visa status has become the default position for most employers. If you don’t bother to check up on the status of your workers, you will have no defence as an employer if it is later found that the person is in the UK illegally. If you have checked and have proof that someone has showed you a forged or altered document, you will probably be able to avoid a fine.

Validating Qualifications

Every country around the world has a different education system and this is perhaps what is putting off employers from verifying degrees or school-leaving qualifications. Employers are put off doing this for many reasons: language barrier when trying to talk to schools or universities overseas, the time constraints, the general difficulty of knowing where to start in an unfamiliar qualification. But if you are employing for a position where the qualification is critical to someone’s success in the role, then there should be a process for checking properly.


Candidates who have recently arrived in the UK or are still overseas at the time of application will quite naturally give names and addresses of referees in their home country. If these referees don’t speak English, getting a reference can be tricky. Furthermore, other countries may have different laws and policies about what can be said in a reference for a job, and they have no obligation to comply with any requests from a British employer.

Contract Versus Permanent

The employment survey also highlighted a huge discrepancy between temporary or contract workers, and permanent employees. A much lower percentage of contractors were screened when compared with full-time staff. This situation has become even more muddy with the increase of remote working during the pandemic, where employers have not been able to meet with staff and verify identity in person. Many contractors wish to take on a job in the UK but work remotely from their home country. This situation is not unusual but can open up a whole can of worms in terms of tax liability, employed or self-employed status, and illegal working. Always get specialist legal or HR advice in these situations.