Background checks for overseas employees – what businesses need to know

In a wide variety of employment settings, DBS checks play an absolutely essential role. They help to keep the workplace a safe space, ensuring the safeguarding of vulnerable individuals and the protection of sensitive information. 

For overseas employees, however, the process of carrying out a criminal background check is somewhat more complicated compared to UK residents. 

Here, we take a look at some of the different requirements when it comes to employing and vetting overseas candidates.

Who needs a background check?

Background checks, commonly carried out by the DBS (disclosure and barring service) in the UK, are a legal requirement for a wide variety of roles. In areas with a high professional standard, such as accountancy and law, a standard check is often required. 

In areas where an individual will spend time in an unsupervised capacity with vulnerable individuals, such as in childcare and healthcare, they will likely need to pass an enhanced check. However, getting those checks carried out on overseas employees can be problematic.

The problem with overseas applicants and DBS checks

The main issue with overseas applicants is that a DBS check is unlikely to be able to uncover their criminal history if they have one. This is because the DBS only has access to records in the UK; if the individual in question has a UK record, it will show up. Otherwise, it will go undetected.

If the position the applicant is looking to fill requires a criminal background check, you will have to obtain it from the candidate’s country of origin. 

Exactly how you’ll have to do this will differ depending on the exact country, however, the DBS does have a list to help you go about the process. If the candidate has spent time in the UK as well as overseas, then you will possibly have to carry out both a DBS check and a criminal background check from the country they’ve spent time in.

Right to work in the UK

It’s also an employer’s responsibility to ensure that all candidates have a right to work in the UK. For overseas employees who don’t have an NI number, this requires going through their original documents, ensuring that they’re valid with the candidate present, and then making copies of the document. 

It’s an employer’s duty to then keep copies of those documents for two years after the employee has stopped working for the company.

DBS checks for UK residents currently in the USA

If the candidate in question is a UK resident but is currently abroad, then it is possibly still appropriate to just carry out a DBS check

You will likely need them to send their identification documents to you in the post to confirm their identity, possibly along with a live video chat; in certain situations, it might be necessary that they return to the UK to provide the documents.

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