I live in the UK, work in the IT industry, and I quite often get contacted by recruitment agencies asking me if I'd be interested in roles that they are recruiting for, etc.

I am currently looking for work, and recently had an interview with a small company that was arranged through a recruitment agency. The interview went well, and at the end of it, they said that they would like to hire me, but that they would go through the recruitment agency to do this.

Following that, I had a call from the recruiter who had put me forward for the role, asking how it went, etc. I said that it had gone well and that they had told me in the interview that they would be looking to bring me on. It was clear at this point that the recruiter hadn't yet talked to the company, but they said that they would need a copy of my passport before I could start working there.

Now, I am generally reluctant to hand out personal information to people when I don't see the need for them to have it, so I asked why they needed it, and all the recruiter could tell me was that it was part of their process, and to prove that I have the right to work in the UK.

Having never secured a role through a recruitment agency previously, I don't really know anything about this... all of the jobs I've had, I have secured myself...

Why do the recruitment agency need a copy of my passport? I would expect to have to provide it to my employer, but not to the recruitment agency....

Should I ask for more information about this, and ask to see the terms under which they will hold a copy of my passport? I have not signed any agreement at all with the recruitment agency. I did ask the recruiter to give a reason for why they would need it, and how long they would hold it for, but he wasn't able to give me a clear answer. When I asked if he could send me the terms and conditions under which they would hold a copy of my passport, he seemed to suggest that he would write something up to send to me, as if they didn't have this documentation to hand.

Should I be worried by this, or am I just being paranoid?


I should have mentioned, I am a British Citizen, and have lived here all my life. I understand the need for them to verify that I have the right to work in the UK, but it rang alarm bells for me when I asked them about what they do with the information. They did say that they wouldn't pass it on to any other companies/ individuals, but all I've got as an assurance of that is the word of the one recruiter that I've spoken to... I also asked could I request for that information to be deleted/ removed once it had been processed and passed to the employer, and his answer seemed to be "no, we'll keep it on record"... I would have thought that they couldn't deny my request to have that information removed once they have verified my right to work in the UK, as they no longer have a purpose to hold it?

  • It is OK to be paranoic with your private information. What is your question though? Should you hand it? Only if you're comfortable with that. Do you have background details on what they do with those copies? How do they store and dispose them? Probably you won't ever get to know. – user49901 May 8 '17 at 16:40
  • By refusing to delete the information when no longer needed, that recruiter is breaching the UK data protection act. gov.uk/data-protection/the-data-protection-act Is the recruiter outside Europe? Is this why he's not aware of the law? If he's not, that's one more reason he can't handle your data. Your data can "not [be] transferred outside the European Economic Area without adequate protection" ("adequate protection" which I'm willing to bet he's probably unaware of as well). – Stephan Branczyk May 9 '17 at 22:09

My understanding with hiring in the UK is that government directives require the hiring body to verify your eligibility to work. I think a copy of the passport has become a standard formality, though I saw this interesting column on using DoB to age-discriminate.

I would be reluctant to hand over any identification to a recruiter or agency with no job offer or prospect on the table, however, the key here is your employer has offered you a job and is going through the recruitment agency to get the hiring process done. The employer would have obtained these documents, anyways, but at this point it seems like a checkbox for the recruiting agency to move ahead.

Of course, don't do anything you're uncomfortable with, but also realize there may be no other option (that doesn't involve even more sensitive docs, at least), if you want to move ahead with this employer.

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Personal Opinion: I wouldn't

(Note: I've worked in the UK as an EU citizen with the right to work there. Can't recall giving my passport to a recruiter at an given time. Did to my employer, real estate agents, and banks, though. And National Insurance, most likely.)

In my opinion my employer would be allowed to get a copy of my passport once we're far along enough in the recruitment process. I would never give it to the recruitment agency. I guess you could if you wanted them to take care of formalities for you and make your life easier, but I find that rather unpleasant, considering I even generally decline to give my passport details to hotels when I travel.

There's an article of the Telegraph on the issue of showing or not showing your passport on request (2010-12-03, so slightly outdated already and laws surely have been amended in various ways).

An important bit is this:

Changes to immigration law in 2008 mean that employers have to be able to show they’ve done the necessary checks to prove that a potential employee has the right to work in the UK. If they don’t, they can face fines of up to £10,000 per illegal worker.

But note the term employer. As far as I understand it, except if your employment status is carried by the recruitment agency, you should NOT feel obligated to give it to them.

Yet again, as mentioned earlier regarding convenience for you, maybe it's out of convenience for the employers who go through this agency and want to let them handle as much of the background work as possible.

I'd recommend to discuss it with them and see if it's a show-stopper or not.

Government Checklists and Regulations

Regarding what the employer can request, I'd recommend to check this governmental page: https://www.gov.uk/check-job-applicant-right-to-work.

Check Conditions for Yourself with this Official Tool!

There's also this tool to check which documents need to be requested by the employer and under which conditions, so check it out for yourself!


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  • This sentence is kind of awkward to read as written. I'd consider moving the "except" clause to the end of the sentence. As far as I understand it, except if your employment status is carried by the recruitment agency, you should feel obligated to give it to them. – psubsee2003 May 8 '17 at 18:43
  • Most importantly, it's wrong, as there's a not missing. Thanks for bringing my attention to it. – haylem May 8 '17 at 18:44
  • psubsee2003, You forgot the NOT as in "you should NOT feel obligated to give it to them." – Stephan Branczyk May 9 '17 at 21:35
  • My two take aways from your posted regulations. The regulation mentions the employer needing that information, not the 3rd party recruiter. Also, only the original documents must be presented, not their copy or their scan. The employer must check the originals. If the recruiter asked you to email that information to them, then that would be a second reason not to provide it for them. – Stephan Branczyk May 9 '17 at 22:02

The recruitment agency is "marketing" you to the end client. It'd be really stupid for them to go through all the work of getting you interviewed, generating paperwork, and so forth to find out in the end that you're actually not qualified to work in your locale. A passport proves your work status very, very easily.

If you've got some other legal, commonly accepted means, they may have an open ear to it.

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  • The guy has lived and worked all his life in the UK. Either he's lying about that, or he's not. Chances are, there is a 99% chance he's telling the truth. However in case he's lying, the original document must be checked and that check must be done in person (to make sure he looks like the picture in his document). Also, the recruiter does not seem to be aware of the local data protection law, which makes it likely the recruiter is doing all of this remotely and potentially illegally (from outside Europe). In my opinion, it would really be stupid to send that recruiter a copy of his passport. – Stephan Branczyk May 9 '17 at 22:40

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