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Immigration updates during the pandemic - Tier 2 Migrants, furlough leave and other updates
We set out below some of the most common FAQs for employers and visa holders in light of the most recent Home Office updates on the coronavirus pandemic.
What should I do if a visa is due to expire soon?
- Anyone in the UK whose leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 30 May 2020 will have their permission to stay in the UK extended to 31 May 2020. They must contact the Home Office via a dedicated email address (CIH@homeoffice.go.uk) to be issued with the extension.
- Until 31 May 2020 short term visa holders can switch their permission to a long-term visa from within the UK, instead of being required to make the application from their home country.
- Nurses, doctors and paramedics working for the NHS will have their visas automatically extended to 1 October 2020.
Can visa applications still be submitted?
- All overseas UK visa application centres are closed for applications until further notice.
- All visa application centres in the UK are also closed for applications.
We advise employers, and employees due to make an application, to seek advice on how closures and automatic extension of leave applies to them.
Can a Tier 2 Migrant be placed on furlough leave?
- Employers can reduce the salary of their sponsored employees to 80% of their usual salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is lower. This must be a part of a company-wide policy to avoid redundancies in which all employees are treated equally.
- Payments made under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme are not considered a prohibited public fund under the immigration rules and therefore do not breach visa conditions.
I’m on a Tier 2 visa, can I volunteer?
- Tier 2 migrants are permitted to undertake voluntary work in any sector. They must not be paid for their work other than reasonable expenses.
- They may volunteer whilst on furlough leave if they do not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation.
How do I complete a right to work check and comply with social distancing measures?
- The Home Office published updated right to work guidance on 30 March 2020, which can be accessed here.
- In summary, from 30 March onwards checks can be carried out by video call with the applicant sending scanned copies or photos of their documents to their employer.
- Online checks can still be made where an individual has been issued with a Biometric Resident Permit (BRP) or has been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
- Importantly, retrospective checks will need to be carried out within eight weeks of the current measures ending. This only applies to right to work checks where the original documents were not checked and the online service not used.
Do I still need to report changes to the Home Office for Tier 2 workers??
- There is no requirement for sponsors to report absences or working from home arrangements due to Covid-19.
- Unpaid leave of four weeks or more is permitted without report or withdrawal of sponsorship.
I have been issued a 30-day entry visa but cannot travel to the UK before it expires. What do I do?
- Under normal circumstances you would be required to apply for a new 30-day visa. It remains to be seen whether the Home Office will offer any relaxation of this requirement.
- We advise anyone in these circumstances to get in touch for advice on the options available to them.
Do Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) deadlines still apply?
- The Home Office recognises that the start date stated on the CoS may have changed and therefore will not automatically refuse cases where the start date is outside the permitted time frame.
- The Home Office will accept CoSs (on a case by case basis) where it has become invalid because the employee was unable to submit an application or travel as a result of the outbreak. There is an additional measure in place now for restricted certificates of sponsorship.
- Therefore, the Home Office will not penalise employers or employees if start dates are delayed due to the viral outbreak.
I am a Tier 2 Migrant switching employer, can I start my new role?
- Whilst we recommend that you complete the application process as far as possible, you will not be able to book and attend an appointment to complete submission of the application.
- Applications will not be processed until an appointment is attended and so, for the time being, applications are not being decided.
- You are tied to the conditions of your existing permission until your switching application is granted. You therefore are not permitted to start your new role until your application has been approved.
- We do not yet know when UK application centres will be reopened, or if the Home Office will introduce an exclusively online process to enable applicants to complete their applications.
Please get in touch for advice on possible options available to you if you are affected by this.
I am a UK visa holder outside of the UK and cannot return, will my absence affect my ability to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain or British Citizenship?
- Although the Home Office is yet to provide guidance on this, it is expected that absences due to coronavirus will be disregarded for the purpose of ILR and British Citizenship.
- Applicants should maintain a detailed record of their absences and evidence to demonstrate that their absence (or inability to travel to the UK) was due to Covid-19.
My documents are being returned to my office which is now closed. When can I expect them to be redirected?
- Redelivery of documents which require a signature (such as returned passports or newly issued BRPs) are subject to severe delays as couriers must first confirm any change of address with the Home Office.
If you are waiting for a redirected BRP to start a new role, your start date may have to be delayed until your BRP arrives.
Articles and commentary by our legal experts on the impact of Covid-19 are all available here.