Coronavirus (COVID – 19) immigration guidance as at 30 July 2020

Apr 15, 2020

Updated 13 August 2020

Information provided by UKVI – United Kingdom visas and immigration


What can I do if my visa is expiring and cannot leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation?

Updated 30 July 2020

With travel restrictions being lifted globally visas expiring between 24 January and 31 July 2020 will no longer be automatically extended, instead people are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so or apply to regularize their stay in the UK.

There will however be a ‘grace period’. Those who have previously had their visas extended under the coronavirus concession have until the 31 August to make necessary arrangements to leave the UK.

During the grace period the conditions of stay will remain the same. So, if you were previously allowed to work, study, or rent accommodation you may continue to do so until the end of August.

You only need to contact the Home Office if you are unable to leave the UK by 31 August 2020. In this case you can request additional time, called ‘exceptional indemnity’ by contacting the coronavirus immigration team (CIT).  The indemnity acts as a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after your leave has expired but does not grant you leave. If you need to request exceptional indemnity you will need to provide details of the reason why you are unable to leave the UK and supporting evidence such as a confirmed flight ticket with a date after 31 August or confirmation of a positive coronavirus test result.

On the face of it, exceptional indemnity and the possibility to switch in country to a long-term UK visa from a category that would normally require an application from the individual’s home country only applied to those whose visas expired between 24 January and 31 July. However, UK Visas & Immigration have confirmed to the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) that it also applies to those whose leave expires in August.

If your leave expires after 1 September 2020 you can apply from within the UK where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country.

This concession is reserved for urgent cases , when for example you need to start a new job or course of study.

Applicants still need to meet all other requirements of their visa route and pay the relevant fees

Coronavirus (COVID – 19) immigration guidance

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Can I switch in country into a long-term visa category if I can’t make a new entry clearance application due to travel restrictions?

Updated 30 July 2020

You will be able to apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31 August 2020. This includes applications where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country.

You will need to meet the same visa requirements for that category and pay the UK application fee.

This includes those whose leave has already been automatically extended to 31 July 2020.

The terms of your leave will remain the same until your application is decided.

Please note “long term” here does not mean indefinite leave to remain. It includes for example switching from a Tier 4 (student) to Tier 2 (General) or from PBS dependent to Tier 2 (ICT), which would normally require a fresh application for entry clearance to be made from abroad.

If you wish to extend your leave under the same immigration route it is important to note that providing the details requested by the Home Office will not be considered a pending application under section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971 and you will therefore become an overstayer. In this case you will need to submit your extension application before the expiry of your current leave.

Coronavirus COVID19 immigration guidance

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Worried about your leave to enter or remain application for family or private life?

If you’re applying to enter the UK or remain on the basis of family or private life and are unable to meet the requirements of the Family Immigration Rules due to coronavirus, there are temporary concessions in place.
Up to 31 July 2020 applicants in the UK as a visitor or with leave of up to 6 months can switch into a family or private life route provided the requirements of the Immigration Rules are otherwise met.

If due to coronavirus travel restrictions you are unable to travel back to the UK and your leave has expired, a short break in continuous residence will be overlooked. You should make your next application as soon as possible.

If you are applying to remain in the UK on the basis of family or private life and have experienced a loss of income due to the pandemic temporary concessions will allow you to use income for the period immediately before the loss of income due to COVID-19, provided the requirement was met for at least 6 months up to March 2020.

If your salary has been cut as a result of being placed on furlough, the Home Office will take account of your income as though you are earning 100% of your salary.

If self-employed a loss of income due to the coronavirus between 1 March 2020 and 31 July 2020 will generally be disregarded, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications.

Are you in the UK on a fiancé or civil partner visa and your wedding has been delayed due to Covid-19?

If you’re here on a 6 months’ fiancé visa and your wedding or civil ceremony has been delayed due to coronavirus you can either request an extension until 31 July 2020 by updating your records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team, or apply to extend your stay for a further 6 months to allow the ceremony to take place.

What should I do if I am outside the UK and need to make an entry clearance application?

Many UK visa application centres (VACs) are closed or offering limited services.

For advice on visa services in your country contact:

  • TLS Contact if you are in Europe, Africa or parts of the Middle East
  • VFS Global for all other countries

In some areas the UK cannot send visa vignettes across some borders and routes due to border restrictions.

Some English testing centres are resuming services. For more information visit the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)’s website or contact your test centre.

What should I do if my 30-day entry vignette has expired?

If your 30 day entry vignette to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired, or is about to expire, you can request a replacement visa with revised validity dates free of charge until the end of the year.

To make a request, contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre. You will need to include your name, nationality, date of birth and your GWF reference number with ‘REPLACEMENT 30 DAY VISA’ in the subject line. If you have already contacted the Help Centre about your visa, please let them know in your email.

You will be contacted when the VACs reopen to arrange for a replacement visa to be endorsed in your passport.

You will not be penalised for being unable to collect your BRP while coronavirus measures are in place.

This process will be in place until the end of 2020.

What should I do if my UKVICAS appointment for biometric enrolment has been cancelled?

As of 26 March 2020, all biometric enrolment centres have been closed.

If you are affected by the resulting cancellation of an appointment you do not need to do anything. Sopra Steria will continue to monitor the situation and will update you when the service recommences.

Once you have submitted your online application the terms of your leave will remain the same as they were at the point of the application. Not being able to attend or book an appointment will not affect your immigration status in the UK.

For employers

How do I carry out right to work checks?

During the pandemic

As of 30 March 2020, the following temporary changes have been made:

  • Checks can now be carried out over video calls
  • Job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
  • Record the date you made the check and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”
  • Employers should use the Employer Checking Service if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents. If the person has a right to work, the Employer Checking Service will send you a ‘Positive Verification Notice’. This provides you with a statutory excuse for 6 months from the date in the notice.
  • If the worker has a current biometric residence permit or biometric residence card or status under the EU Settlement scheme you can use the online right to work checking service while doing a video call – the applicant must give you permission to view their details

After the COVID-19 measures end

The Home Office will let you know in advance when these measures will end. After that date, you should follow the checking process set out in right to work checks: an employer’s guide.

You will be asked to carry out retrospective checks on existing employees who:

  • started working for you during these measures
  • required a follow-up right to work check during these measures

You should mark this check: “the individual’s contract commenced on [insert date]. The prescribed right to work check was undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19.”

The retrospective check must be carried out within 8 weeks of the COVID-19 measures ending. Both checks should be kept for your records.

The Home Office will not take any enforcement action against you if you carried out the adjusted check set out in this guidance, or a check via the Home Office, and follow this up with the retrospective check.

If, at the point of carrying out the retrospective check, you find your employee does not have permission to be in the UK you must end their employment.

Coronavirus COVID19 immigration guidance

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How do I continue to comply with my Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 sponsor duties during COVID-19?

Tier 4 Students

Sponsors are not currently required to report student or employee absences related to coronavirus, which they have authorised.

Sponsors may allow students to start their studies before their visa application has been decided if:

  • sponsors are a Tier 4 sponsor (other than a Tier 4 Legacy Sponsor)
  • sponsors have assigned the student a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
  • the student submitted their application before their current visa expired and has shown their sponsor evidence of this
  • the course they start is the same as the one listed on their CAS
  • the student has a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if required

A sponsor’s reporting responsibilities start from the date that sponsors issue the CAS, not from the date their application is granted.

If the student’s application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused, sponsors must terminate the student’s studies.

Sponsors also do not need to withdraw sponsorship for:

  • Affected students unable to attend for more than 60 days
  • Employees who have exceeded 4 weeks of absence without pay

Decisions on whether to withdraw a student from their studies or terminate an employment are for sponsors to make. The Home Office will not take any compliance action against students or employees who are unable to attend their studies/work due to the coronavirus outbreak, or against sponsors which authorise absences and continue to sponsor students or employees despite absences for this reason.

The Home Office will keep this under review, especially if the length of absences means a potential repeat of period of studies become necessary.

You can continue to sponsor existing Tier 4 students who are continuing their studies through distance learning, or starting a new course, whether they’re in the UK or another country.

You can also start sponsoring new students who will start studying through distance or blended learning in the 2020-2021 academic year, provided you intend to transition to face-to-face learning as soon as it is possible to do so.

If a student has permanently withdrawn from their studies or deferred their studies for reasons unrelated to coronavirus, you must report this as usual.
You do not need to withdraw sponsorship for new students who have been issued a Tier 4 visa but are distance learning because they have been unable to travel to the UK.
If a student stops engaging with their distance learning, whether overseas or in the UK, you must withdraw sponsorship immediately.

Tier 2 and Tier 5 workers

Sponsors may allow employees to start work before their visa application has been decided if:

  • sponsors have assigned them a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
  • the employee submitted their visa application before their current visa expired
  • the role they are employed in is the same as the one on their CoS

Sponsors reporting responsibilities for an employee start from the date the sponsor have assigned them a CoS, not from the date that their application is granted.
Sponsors will not be able to report information to the Home Office using the sponsor management system. They must however ensure that they record and maintain all the relevant information set out in the sponsor guidance on their own systems. Any changes that will impact the eventual consideration of the migrant’s visa application should be updated on the Certificate of Sponsorship, as normal.

If the employee’s application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused, sponsors must terminate their employment.

 

UKVI sponsor licence concessions – scanned documents accepted

Updated 30 July 2020

If you are applying for a sponsor licence or renewing your existing licence under the Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 5 categories you can continue to submit scanned documents as supporting evidence.

The Home Office may still write to you to request original or certified documents. Your application will be refused if you do not send the evidence or documents requested or contact the Home Office for an extension within the given time limit.

On-site visits have been suspended during the pandemic. However, if a visit is needed, the application will not be decided until the Home Office is in receipt of the compliance visit report.

Current arrangements will apply until 30 September, when they will be reviewed.

Doctors, nurses and paramedics working for the NHS

An individual’s visa will be automatically extended by one year if it is due to expire before 1 October 2020. Family members with a visa due to expire before 1 October 2020 will also have their visa extended

The extension is free, and they will not have to pay the immigration health surcharge

Individuals do not have to apply. The Home Office will contact NHS employees to identify staff eligible for this extension. The individual and their employer will be notified if they have received an automatic extension

There is no longer a limit on the number of hours an individual can work or volunteer each week if they work for the NHS as a doctor, nurse or paramedic and they are a:

  • Tier 4 student
  • Tier 2 worker and their NHS job is a second job
  • Visiting academic researcher
  • Holder of a short-term visa and are permitted to volunteer

If an individual is a pre-registration nurse currently in the UK, the deadline for them to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been extended to 31 December 2020.

If you will be working at a different NHS site than your usual place of work because of coronavirus

You can work at any NHS hospital during the coronavirus outbreak if your sponsor can maintain their sponsorship duties.

Sponsors will not need to notify UKVI of the change in your place of work.

If you are a non-EEA family member of any NHS worker, including support staff, or a healthcare or social care worker who has died as a result of coronavirus, you will receive immediate indefinite leave to remain, free of charge.

Your family member must have been working for the NHS in any role or working for an independent health and care provider, including the social care sector.

You do not need to do anything to receive this status. UKVI will contact employers to identify those eligible and will arrange for you to be issued with indefinite leave to remain.

Student / employee absences

Sponsors are not currently required to report student or employee absences related to coronavirus which they have authorised.

Sponsors also do not need to withdraw sponsorship for:

  • Affected students unable to attend for more than 60 days
  • Employees who have exceeded 4 weeks of absence without pay

Decisions on whether to withdraw a student from their studies or terminate an employment are for sponsors to make. The Home Office will not take any compliance action against students or employees who are unable to attend their studies/work due to the coronavirus outbreak, or against sponsors which authorise absences and continue to sponsor students or employees despite absences for this reason.

The Home Office will keep this under review, especially if the length of absences means a potential repeat of period of studies become necessary.

Employees working from home

You do not have to notify the Home Office if you’re sponsoring employees who are working from home due to coronavirus.

Other changes to their working arrangements must still be reported as usual.

If you cannot pay the salaries of sponsored employees because you’ve temporarily reduced or ceased trading

You can temporarily reduce the pay of your sponsored employees to 80% of their salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is the lower.

Any reductions must be part of a company-wide policy to avoid redundancies and in which all workers are treated the same.

These reductions must be temporary, and the employee’s pay must return to at least previous levels once these arrangements have ended.

If you have issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) or a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) and the sponsored employee or student has not yet applied for a visa:

The employee or student will still be able to apply for a visa.

The start date for the course or employment stated on the CoS or CAS may have changed. The Home Office will not automatically refuse such cases.

For example, they may accept a CoS or CAS if they have become invalid because the employee or student was unable to travel as a result of coronavirus. This will be considered on a case by case basis.

What do I do if I am on a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa and my business has been disrupted?

You no longer need to employ at least 2 people for 12 consecutive months each. The 12-month period you are required to employ someone for can be made up of multiple employees across different months.

Time when your employees were furloughed will not count towards the 12-month period.

If you have not been able to employ staff for 12 months in total by the time your visa expires, you will be allowed to temporarily extend your stay to give you time to meet the requirement.

 

Migrate UK can help with all your questions.

Contact us on 01235 841 568 or email info@migrate-uk.com

Coronavirus COVID19 immigration guidance

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