Coronavirus #COVID-19 Update – Immigration
LAST UPDATED, 22 May 2020
Currently, there is a lot of uncertainty and concern in respect of the situation created due to the pandemic generated by COVID-19 virus. Our immigration lawyers have been braving a wave of phone calls from existing and new clients alike, seeking advice and information in respect of their immigration status. Given the volume of such queries, our immigration lawyers have complied a list of Frequently Asked Questions in hopes of alleviating some of your concerns and bringing some clarity to you in these uncertain times.
If you are looking for family law related Covid-19 updates, you can find it here.
We also would like to remind you that our offices remain operational and we will continue to provide all our services to the public. We have put in place the following measures to ensure that we continue our operations and remain compliant with Government advice on avoiding all non-essential social contact:
- all appointments and consultations are conducted via modern means of communication (emails, phones, videolinks);
- all document exchange is done through our secure client portal or through email. We are following the highest cyber security standards available, so that you can rest assured that your documents are safe.
- all the work, whether working on your application or submitting it, is done online, ensuring there are no delays to your matter.
COVID19 Update – Immigration FAQ
Who is eligible for NHS Front line worker extensions?
Home Office has announced automatic visa extensions for all NHS front line workers whose visa is set to expire before 1 October 2020.
All doctors, nurses and paramedics working for the NHS whose visa is set to expire before 1 October 2020, will have their visas automatically extended for another year, without any need to make an application or pay any fees. The same will apply to their family members.
What other changes have been announced in respect of NHS workers?
In a move to further assist the NHS with the stuff shortage, the Home Secretary has also announced that the limits to the hours that doctors and nurses in training can spend working, will also be lifted. The Home Office has now also lifted time limits on those who work for NHS as their supplementary employment.
Moreover, the nurses who have pre-registered and according to the rules in place where required to sit their first skill test within 3 months and pass it within 8 month, will have this period extended to the end of this year, irrespective of their own registration date.
My leave is due to expire and I cannot leave due to travel restrictions
As of 24th March, the government has announced that they will extend the leave for all those whose leave has expired or is due to expire during the period of 24th January and 31 July and who are unable to leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation rules.
ATTENTION: You will need to apply for this leave by contacting Corovavirus Immigration team by filling this form. .
You will need to provide the following:
- your full name
- date of birth
- your previous visa reference number
- reasons why you cannot go back to your home country
You will be told when your visa has been extended. Your visa will be extended until 31 July 2020, this date however is under constant review and you should keep checking the updates.
If your visa was previously extended until 31 May, you DO NOT need to apply again and your visa will be automatically extended until 31 July 2020.
If you were leaving the country so you can make an entry clearance application because your visa type did not allow you to make an in-country application, you are now allowed to make that application from the UK, if your leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020. You still need to meet all the relevant requirements and pay relevant fees. Please see the questions in respect of making in country applications and the application centre closure for further guidance.
If you intend to remain in the UK you need to make an extension or other leave to remain application, as you would do normally. The above scheme does not apply to those who intend to continue to live in the UK.
I am due to make or have already made an extension application, will COVID-19 outbreak affect me?
If you have already made an application or require to make one, you should proceed as usual. The online forms are open for submission. You will, however not be able to book an appointment at this time and are advised to keep checking the online portal and book an appointment once the application centres re-open. The Home office has announced that the inability to book an appointment and submit your biometrics will not affect the validity of your application. You can read more about leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain applications during the coronavirus pandemic here.
If you need to make an extension and you do not make it, you will become an overstayer and there will be no defence that this occurred during the outbreak. Speak to our lawyers if you require assistance in making an application.
I am on Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa and my business is affected by Covid-19, can I furlough my workers?
The Home office has made some concessions in respect of job creation. The requirement of employing at least 2 people for continuous 12 month period has been relaxed and any combination of time amounting to 12 months can be used.
While you can furlough your workers, the period the workers were i such a position, will not count towards the 12 months period.
In circumstances when your visa expires and you are not in position to show 12 months in total for 2 positions, you will be allowed to temporarily extend your stay to meet this. There is yet no indication on how this extension will work. It is clear, however that you will be required to show that the jobs you were relying on were disrupted by Covid-19 pandemic.
Our employees/students are unable to return to work due to the outbreak. What to do?
The Immigration guidance issued by the Home Office on 17th February has acknowledged that during the period of outbreak some sponsored migrants would not be able to return to their workplace or their studies from their travels or will need to observe self-isolation regime upon their return. If you are a Sponsor Licence holder and one or more of your employees/students are either:
- Unable to attend work due to illness;
- Unable to attend work due to period of quarantine;
- Unable to attend work due to travel restrictions that are becoming a lot more prevalent now; and
- You have authorised these absences.
You DO NOT need to report these absences to the Home Office.
In circumstances where your employee or student is unable to attend work for more than 60 days due to exceptional circumstances, you, as their sponsor are free to make a decision to maintain the sponsorship. The Home Office will not take any compliance action against your organisation for not terminating the sponsorship, as they acknowledge the current circumstances are exceptional.
We have issued CoS/CAS but the migrant is not able to apply for visa
With the application centres across the world closed, many sponsor find themselves in a situation that they have issued certificates of sponsorship to prospective workers or students, but the migrants are unable to make their entry clearance applications.
The migrants will still be able to make the application, even if the CoS/CAS have become invalid. The Home Office has indicated that they will not automatically refuse applications simply because the expiry of validity of the Certificate. They will review each case on its own merits. Presumably, where it’s possible to show that the application could have not been made during the period of validity due to coronavirus related closures or travel restrictions, these applications will be accepted.
Our employee has submitted the leave to remain application, but it has not been decided
With the closure of appointment centres across the UK and worldwide, the applications for leave to remain while still are being submitted, cannot be decided in the standard timeframe. Therefore, many who have issued CoS for a worker, but whose leave has yet to be granted, are unsure if they can onboard the new employee.
The Home Office has confirmed, that provided the following requirements are meant, the employee can start working for sponsoring organisation without waiting for the response:
- CoS has been assigned;
- the migrant has submitted the application before their previous leave expired;
- the job they will be doing is the same as the one on CoS.
If all these requirements are met, the employee will be able to start work for their sponsor, without waiting for the decision. It has to be noted that the reporting and recording duties start from the day CoS has been assigned, so you need to make sure that you record all relevant details. You will not be able to report in respect of the migrant, until their leave has been granted, but you still need to keep relevant records.
If the application is refused, the employee will have to stop working for you with immediate effect.
What if I cannot pay required level of salary for the migrant?
You can reduce the salary of your migrant worker to 80% of their regular pay or to £2500, whichever is the lower. However, you need to keep in mind that any reduction must be part of company-wide measures and all workers should be treated the same.
You will need to return to the required level of salary, once the crisis is deemed over.
I have limited leave to remain in the UK, but unable to return to the UK due to travel restrictions. How will this affect my chances of obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain?
Most immigrants in the UK who intend to settle in the UK will need to keep an eye on their absences from the UK to ensure that they do not have more than the permitted number of days absent from the UK, throughout the qualifying period.
In most cases, if your absence from the UK is under 180 days in a period of 12 month, then your Indefinite Leave to Remain application is safe.
Issues become more concerning for those who will go above these 180 days due to travel restrictions. In such circumstances, the answer is different for those who are on a 10 year long residence route and those who are on different PBS routes, such as Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 5.
The 10 years long residence route allows for discretion for compelling and compassionate circumstances. Therefore, you are likely to still succeed in your future application, if you follow the below advice of our top immigration lawyers:
- keep evidence of the restrictions in place and your attempts to return;
- keep evidence of the reasons you left the country in the first place, as this might play an important role;
- return as soon as possible after the restrictions are lifted, as this is one of the criteria the Home Office will look at when applying their discretion.
If you are in one of PBS routes, be advised that these routes have stricter rules in respect of absences. The Rules and the Guidance state that even absences for compelling and compassionate reasons are to be counted towards the overall limit of absence. Of course given how unprecedented the circumstances are, the best immigration lawyers are of the opinion that the Home Office is likely to issue a guidance to address these cases, as otherwise they are looking at numerous challenges to their decisions to refuse Indefinite Leave to Remain. If you are part of the cohort of PBS migrants that might face issues with exceed their absence limits, our immigration lawyers advise that seek legal assistance before making your immigration application.
I have made an application and I am due to attend my biometric appointment, are the appointment centres open?
If you are based in UK, at the time of writing the appointment centres are closed.
I have received my UK leave to enter, but cannot travel due to travel restrictions. What should I do?
If the 30 days on your entry clearance vignette that allowed you to travel to the UK to collect your BRP has expired or is due to expire and you cannot travel to the UK, you can request a replacement visa with new validity dates.
The Home Office has announced that this scheme will apply until the end of this year.
To request the replacement visa, you will need to email CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk and include the following information in the subject line: your name, nationality, date of birth and the GWF number. To reiterate this information has to be in the SUBJECT LINE of the email.
If you require further information in respect of the COVID-19 outbreak or how to keep yourself safe, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response.