In this article we will address the most commonly asked questions to immigration, during the COVID-19 crisis.
Is it currently possible to make a visa application to enter the UK?
While it is still possible to complete an online application for a UK visa, most of the centres run by third parties who host the appointments overseas for enrolling biometric data and scanning supporting documents have either closed or are running reduced services. Applicants in countries on nationwide lock-down will most likely find that the visa application centre they need to attend to complete their visa application is closed.
What is the position for new hires who made a visa application before the lockdown began? Will his or her application still be processed?
If he/she has yet to attend a biometric appointment, it is likely that the appointment has been cancelled, which means he/she will not be able to complete the application process in order to receive a visa. If he/she has completed the biometric process and is just awaiting documents, then if the visa application centre from which he/she was due to collect the visa has closed, there should be communication from the centre about alternative arrangements. Those receiving their documents back via courier, should still receive their documents.
One of our new employees has been granted a visa and has an entry clearance visa for a month. Can he or she travel to the UK at the moment?
The UK border is still open. During a lock down, it will be very difficult to make the basic arrangements new residents usually need to make, such as securing accommodation, opening a bank account and potentially even collecting a biometric residence permit from a Post Office. The one-month window can be amended on application, which might be a preferred course of action to delay a move to the UK.
A new employee has a visa due to start in the next few weeks, but the business intends on postponing his start date by a few months. Can his visa be delayed?
Update (03/04/2020): If a migrant has been issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) but cannot start work on the planned start-date, the visa application will not be rejected if the start-date is not within 3 months of the CoS being assigned. You should make sure the CoS is assigned within 6 months of any adverts being online as per the rules of the Resident Labour Market Test.
Is it still possible to make a visa application inside the UK?
Yes, the third party that processes biometric data and supporting documents for the Home Office in the UK has closed many of its centres, but some remain open including in Croydon and Birmingham. These centres will either be required to close soon or ensure that strict social distancing protocol is followed. This will lead to a reduction in the number of available appointments. With the closure of many centres, including in large cities such as Liverpool and Manchester, there is expected to be significantly more competition for these appointments.
How can I check a new starter’s identity documents in person under a lockdown?
The Home Office have temporarily amended the right to work rules to allow for a new starter to email a digital copy of his/her identity document confirming the lawful right to work in the UK. The employer then needs to contact the new starter via video link to confirm his/her identity. This is a temporary measure with no end date specified currently. The Home Office will announce at a later date when this temporary process will end and normal right to work process will resume.
Employers are advised, where possible, to note down the date that the video call was made. In the future, it might not be clear why the new starter did not have a copy of his/her documents copied and certified prior to him/her commencing employment.
My sponsored workers are now required to work from home. Is there anything I need to report to the Home Office or otherwise be aware of?
There is no need to post a report to the Home Office that the sponsored worker’s place of work has changed to his or her home address. Sponsors are required to have a history of addresses and contact telephone numbers for each sponsored worker, so it is important to make sure that these details are up to date.
Are migrant workers covered by the new Job Retention Scheme?
Most visa-holders are restricted from having ‘recourse to public funds’. However, this is defined in the Immigration Rules by reference to a specific list of public benefits which does not include benefits which are based on accrued income. We await definitive guidance on this point, but we consider it likely that employers will be able to rely on the Job Retention Scheme to furlough migrant workers.
Will a sponsored migrant still need to receive a salary which is above the Tier 2 salary threshold in respect of the hours they would have been in work had they not agreed to a period of furlough leave?
Update (03/04/2020): 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.
For more information regarding the effects Coronavirus will have on immigration law, contact or expert listed below and visit our coronavirus hub.