Can you work while waiting for a decision of your visa?
You have the right to work while waiting for a decision on your UK visa as long as you have applied to vary your leave or for a visa extension, and this was submitted before your current visa expires. Likewise, we are also often asked, “can I work while waiting for my biometric card?” If your visa extension has been submitted on time, you can continue work while waiting for your new biometric card (i.e. biometric residence permit). For information on how your employer can check your right to work while your application is being considered, see below.
The immigration rules (section 3c of the Immigration Act 1971) allow a migrant to remain in the UK without being classed as an overstayer. This only applies if they submit their visa extension application before their current visa expires. A person in this situation is subject to the same conditions (i.e., they can do the same things) as shown on their visa. Therefore, if they were permitted to work for a sponsored employer, they can continue to do so until they receive a decision from the Home Office on their application.
When you cannot work while awaiting a visa decision
A person may not be able to work while waiting for a decision on a visa in the following situations:
- They applied to extend their visa after their current visa expired
- They are no longer sponsored to work for their employer
- Their current visa does not provide permission to work
- They failed to comply with any conditions of their leave (e.g., if they worked in excess of the permitted number of hours or if they applied for public funds when not permitted to)
- If false information, false documents, or any form of deception has been used when submitting the visa application
- The applicant already had a pending application being considered by the Home Office.
- If there is an outstanding administrative review or appeal
It is important to be sure that you can work while waiting for a decision. Working without permission is a breach of immigration rules and may result in a refusal of your current and future immigration applications.
What if the decision on your UK visa is delayed?
In most cases, a person who is waiting for a visa decision and is able to work under the Section 3c rules (referred to as section 3c leave) will still be able to do so if the decision takes longer than expected (assuming the application has not been rejected as invalid). This is because section 3c leave lasts from when your application is received until you receive a decision, regardless of how long this takes. In most cases, you can expect to receive a decision from the Home Office on your application within 8 weeks. Unfortunately, delays can occur for a wide range of reasons outside the control of the applicant. This could be because the Home Office wishes to carry out additional checks before making a decision on your application.
Right to work check while the visa is being processed
All employers must check that their employees have the right to work in the UK. This can be done using the standard online right-to-work checking service1. A right-to-work check is carried out when a person starts work, and a follow-up is typically undertaken towards the end of the period of leave.
If an employee’s visa extension application is being processed and the employer wishes to carry out a right-to-work check, the member of staff may not have the documents to prove their eligibility to work. In this case, it is advisable to use the government’s online ‘Employer Checking Service’2. This is different from the standard right-to-work checking service and is specifically for employees who cannot show their documents or online immigration status because they have an outstanding visa application with the Home Office.
To use the Employer Checking Service, you will need to provide several items of information, including the employee’s:
- date of birth
- job title/role
- hours being worked per week
- UK home address
- Home Office reference number or case ID
1 GOV.UK: View right to work online
2 GOV.UK: Employee immigration employment status