Free visa extensions announced for frontline health and care workers

Home Secretary had announced on 31 March that around 2,800 doctors, nurses and paramedics with leave due to expire by 1 October would get a free one-year extension. Family members are included and there are no fees involved.

On 29 April, the department announced that it was extending the scheme to cover other “frontline workers, including midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists” with visas due to expiring before 1 October. There appears to be no comprehensive list of the professions covered.

letter to the Home Affairs Committee on the same date confirmed that the extensions are available to anyone on the list of professions covered — whatever that list maybe — who is subject to immigration control, “not just sponsored migrant workers on Tier 2 (General) or Tier 5 visa”.

My 30 day entry visa has expired – what should I do?

Many of those who applied for a visa outside the UK and were granted their 30 day vignette to enter, but were unable to travel due to the virus, had been left in a limbo of what to do. There was an increasing worry amongst people having to incur extra costs to apply for a replacement.

The UKVI have updated their guidance today and have given much needed guidance on this issue:

If your 30 day visa to work, study or join family has expired

If your 30 day visa 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 this year.

To make a request, contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre. You’ll 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’ve already contacted us about this, please let us know in your email.

You’ll be contacted when our VAC’s 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.

 

We are pleased that UKVI have taken positive steps to help those stuck overseas and that the process is free of charge. Now the question remains as to when the VAC’s open and how much backlog there will be.

If you have any questions or require our assistance with your immigration matter, please call us on 01403 801801 or contact us on [email protected]

Furlough and foreign nationals – is it a public fund?

The government’s furlough scheme went live on 20 April 2020.

For the avoidance of doubt, the scheme does cover migrant workers. HM Revenue and Customs guidance states that:

 

Foreign nationals are eligible to be furloughed. Grants under the scheme are not counted as ‘access to public funds’, and you can furlough employees on all categories of visa.

 

Sponsors will still need to report that a worker has been furloughed, and any reduction in salary if not making up the extra 20%.

For any immigration needs, please contact our expert consultants on 01403801801 or [email protected]

Tier 2 workers and Coronavirus: changing employment

Pre lockdown, many Tier 2 employees may have been in the process of changing employment. Due to the lockdown, many have been unable to progress their application. This undoubtedly would be causing many anxiety and fear over their visa status.

The UKVI has now updated their COVID 19 guidance to state the following:

If you’re sponsoring an employee who’s waiting for their Tier 2 or 5 visa application to be decided Sponsors may allow employees to start work before their visa application has been decided if:

  • sponsors have assigned them a 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

The sponsors reporting responsibilities will start from the date of employment, not from the date that their application is granted. If the employee’s application is eventually refused sponsors must terminate their employment.

This will be of some relief to those who were expecting to start new employment. Employment with the new sponsor on the agreed start date, as long as the above conditions are satisfied. Please note that biometrics do not have to have been enrolled.

If you require assistance with any of your immigration issues, please get it in touch with our experienced consultants on [email protected] or call us on 01403 801801.

Pressing Coronavirus problems the UKVI needs to address

Applicants who have successfully applied for a UK visa from overseas but are now unable to travel to the UK.

This is perhaps the most pressing concern for a lot of overseas applicants. Once being granted a visa, an applicant must enter the UK before their entry clearance vignette expires. While this can be extended, it can only be extended for a further month, and the process is not free. There is no guarantee that travel conditions will be any better in a month which could result in wasted money, and besides, PBS applicants may also be tied to the work start date on their CoS.

The Home Office needs to allow extension of work start dates for overseas applicants until the end of the year as well as make allowances for applicants to enter the UK using entry vignettes which have expired but were acquired during the COVID-19 crisis. Vignettes issued until the end of the COVID-19 crisis could benefit from being granted for a longer period to allow entry into the UK where possible. The current uncertainty for overseas applicants and sponsoring companies, both who have made significant financial investments into the visa, is not sustainable and we hope will be addressed in future updates.

We advise any individuals stranded overseas to take a printout/screenshot of the FCO travel guidance for the country to have as proof when it is time to apply for ILR or BC applications.

Visa-holders who are unable to collect their BRPs from post-offices or register with the police due to self-isolation.

Currently, individuals have a 10 day from arrival or before the expiry of the temporary vignette in which to collect their BRP from the post-office after arriving in the UK. With many people coming into the UK required to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival, it is not possible for them to obey government guidelines on social-distancing as well as collect their BRP within 10 days.

This problem could be overcome by either extending the window in which individuals must collect the BRP or allowing another individual to collect the BRP on the visa holder’s behalf, for example, their legal representative. Similar extensions could be applied to registering with the police which must normally be done within 7 days.

 

Visa-holders who are stranded overseas for a period which may invalidate their application for ILR or British Citizenship

Current eligibility requirements for ILR or British Citizenship specify the applicant has not spent more than a certain period (ordinarily 6 months out of every year) out of the UK. This could present problems for those stranded abroad who have exceeded this six-month limit. This is particularly relevant for those hoping to apply for ILR after 5 years on Tier 2 (General) visa, who are unable to renew their tier 2 visa beyond 6 years to clear the period of lengthy absence from their record.

The Home Office should recognise the COVID-19 crisis as an exceptional circumstance and absences from the UK relating to the crisis should not count against an applicant where they can evidence that they were not able to return to the UK due to circumstances beyond their control.

 

Applicants who require IELTS or Life in the UK to make their application

For some individuals, the next step in their visa process comes with added academic requirements. Applicants for spouse visa extensions are required to show their English has improved and must sit A2 if they previously relied on A1 for their first visa. Applicants hoping to achieve ILR must pass the Life in the UK test. As test centres for both these tests are now closed, those whose visas are running out are left wondering whether they should submit their application without these qualifications, which would ordinarily render it unsuccessful, or risk overstaying until the centres re-enter.

The Home Office should clarify whether applicants applying in-country for an extension may also be able to extend their visas until 31/05/2020 to sit their tests, or whether applications will still be considered valid without sitting the tests given the exceptional circumstances

If you have any Coronavirus related issues with your visa, or any issues you feel have not been addressed by the Home Office, please get in touch at [email protected] or on 01403 801 801 for a consultation.

UPDATE: New Immigration System 2021

The UKVI has updated its guidance on the Immigration system coming into place in 2021.

The key points to note are:

  1. New immigration routes will open from autumn 2020 for applications to work, live and study in the UK from 1 January 2021.
  2. Re-iteration on the process for Skilled Workers. Please see our blog on this
  3. The global talent scheme will be opened up to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. It will allow highly-skilled scientists and researchers to come to the UK without a job offer.
  4. Student visa routes will be opened up to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens.
  5. A new graduate immigration route will be available to international students who have completed a degree in the UK from summer 2021. You’ll be able to work or look for work, in the UK at any skill level for up to 2 years.
  6. Short-term work visas in specific sectors (the current ‘Tier 5’) and investor, business development and talent visas (the current ‘Tier 1’) will be opened up to EU citizens.
  7. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and other non-visa nationals will not require a visa to enter the UK when visiting the UK for up to 6 months.
  8. If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen living in the UK before 31 December 2020, you and your family can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021.
  9. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will use an online service to view their immigration status and to prove their status to others.
  10. Non-EU citizens will continue to use a physical document to prove their immigration status.

 

In the midst of the global pandemic, when the whole nation has seen how much a country relies on its ‘low-skilled’ workers, the Home Office felt it necessary to state that care workers, nurses, hospital porters, cleaners, logistics personnel, postal workers etc will not be able to apply for the UK work visa from January 2021.

The update to the guidance on the new immigration system reiterates:

“There will not be an immigration route specifically for those who do not meet the skills or salary threshold for the skilled worker route.”

The only “low-skilled” workers that the government envisages letting in are agricultural labourers.

At UK Visas, we have a team of expert consultants who have significant experience in advising clients on all aspects of immigration law. If you would like bespoke advice or answers to any queries on the points above, please contact a member of the team on 01403 801801 or email [email protected]

Checking Right to Work During the Covid-19 Crisis

Every employer has a duty to ensure that all its employees have the right to work in the UK, either by virtue of their British Citizenship, or as a term of their right to remain. It is a criminal offence to knowingly employ someone who has no right to work in the UK, so it is important that checks are carried out in line with government guidelines. This would normally involve meeting the employee and checking their original documents, however in light of the logistical difficulties involved in this arising from the Covid-19 crisis the Home Office has made some adjustments to make carrying out these checks easier. In order to carry out checks safely during the Covid-19 crisis the following adjustments have been made:

  • You can ask the worker to submit scanned copies of their original documents by email instead of checking in person.
  • You can arrange a video chat over Skype, Zoom or a similar app in which the worker can hold their documents up to the camera for you to check.
  • If the worker has a BRP, 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 with the applicant. The applicant will need to give their permission for you to view their details.
  • You should record the date you carried out one of the above checks and mark it as ‘adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to Covid-19.

If the worker cannot show their documents you must contact the Home Office Employer Checking Service which will provide you with a ‘Positive Verification Notice’, giving you a 6 month statutory excuse if the person is found to have the right to work.

 

When the Covid-19 measures end you will have to follow the checking process set out in the government’s right to work checks: an employer’s guide. You will have to perform retrospective checks on employees who started working for you or required a follow-up check during these measures unless you did the check in the manner prescribed in the employers guide with no adjustments. This check must be performed within 8 weeks of the Covid-19 measures ending. If you find during a retrospective check that your employee does not have the right to work you must then end their employment.

Furloughed Tier 2 Workers

Many employers and employees were left in the dark over the impact of furlough and Employer Retention Scheme and how it applies to Tier 2 works as the immigration status of Tier 2 workers is tied to employment at a minimum salary.

 

On Friday, the UKVI finally confirmed the below:

 

  1. As a business, if you are unable to pay the salaries of your sponsored employees because as a company you have temporarily reduced or ceased trading, then you can temporarily reduce the pay of your sponsored employees to 80% of their salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is lower.

 

  1. The reduction in salary will only be justified if it is a part of a company-wide policy to avoid redundancies and to enable the equal treatment of all workers.

 

  1. The reductions must be temporary and therefore the salary level must return to at least previous levels once these arrangements come to an end.

 

It seems that the UKVI are indicating that the salary can fall below the relevant SOC code salary threshold minimum while the Tier 2 worker is furloughed, without this negatively impacting the sponsorship as long as the salary level returns to at least the previous level once the arrangement comes to an end. This will be comforting news for many employers and employees in this uncertain time.

The UKVI guidance is mute on the point of whether the salary changes need to be reported.  Our expert advice is that all sponsors continue to report this via the SMS and provide an explanation for the change in salary and also report once the salary returns to its normal level. All changes are to reported within 10 working days. Further to this, they should retain evidence of their firm-wide policy on the same as justification. This will also safeguard the sponsor’s position in the event of a UKVI audit in the future.

If you have any coronavirus related visa concerns please do get in touch at [email protected] or on 01403 801 801 for consultation.

Free One Year Visa Extension for NHS Workers and their Families

 

Good news for those on the front line of the Coronavirus battle as the Home Office announces a free, automatic one year extension to all NHS workers and their family who have visas expiring before 01/10/2020.

The scheme will apply to doctors, nurses and paramedics and will affect around 2,800 NHS workers. The extension will also apply to their family members as a gesture of goodwill and to demonstrate ‘how valued overseas NHS staff are to the UK’. This means NHS workers will not have to endure the added stress and uncertainty of a visa application on top of the incredible amount of pressure they are already enduring on the front line and will allow them to focus fully on combating Covid-19, without the distraction of uncertainty about theirs or their families’ visa statuses.

There will be no fee attached to the extension, and it will also be exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge, which is normally charged to all migrants in the UK on a temporary visa to allow them to access the NHS. Given that these migrants are risking their safety and working around the clock to support the NHS it seems only fair that this fee has been waived for them, and it would be nice to see more recognition of their contributions in the future given that the Home Office raised the fee these workers would have to pay to use the NHS by nearly double just a few weeks ago.

In addition to the extension, the Home Office has made several other changes with the hope of improving NHS capacity. These include lifting restrictions on the amount of hours student nurses and doctors can work in the NHS as well as giving more time to pre-registered overseas nurses to pass their exams so they can spend their immediate time working to combat Covid-19.

While this is a big relief for NHS key workers, there are still many other people who’s visas will be impacted by Covid-19. If you have any coronavirus related visa concerns please do get in touch at [email protected] or on 01403 801 801 for a video consultation.

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UK VISAS NO WIN NO FEE PROMISE

We provide a ‘No Win – No Fee’ guarantee for all points-based system visa applications unless expressly stated at the time of appointment. We will guarantee our service for these applications by offering a full refund on our fee should it be unsuccessful.

These guaranteed terms are conditional upon the client being able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Home Office that they have earned the income claimed or that they have the necessary funding in place for maintenance or are fully conversant with their business plan in the case of Tier 1 Entrepreneurs.

It also presumes that neither the applicant nor their dependants have previously come under scrutiny or been under investigation by the Home Office for any immigration matter. In order that we can do our job properly the necessary information and details required should be made available and they must genuine as well as accurate.