How Much Does it Cost to Sponsor Someone for a UK Work Visa?

Readers should note these costs are likely to change in 2021 when the government launches its new points based system. At the time of writing (17/08/2020) the Immigration Health Surcharge is £400 per year, but this will be raised to £624 per year from 01/10/2024.

 

What are the Costs?

Companies MUST pay the following to sponsor a Tier 2 worker

  • Immigration Skills Charge (unless the individual is switching from a Tier 4 (student) visa to a Tier 2 visa, will do a job with a PhD level standard occupational classification, or has a Tier 2 (ICT) Graduate Trainee visa).

 

For small, or charitable sponsors this costs £364 for the first 12 months and then £182 for each 6 month period after that. For medium or large sponsors it will cost £1000 for the first 12 months and £500 for each additional 6 month period. This will be refunded if the worker’s visa is refused or they do not start working with you. You will get a partial refund if they leave their job before the end date on the CoS.

  • Sponsor Licence fee (if not already licensed) £536 for a small or charitable sponsor, £1476 if a medium or large sponsor. (small is defined as £10.2 million or less annual turnover and 50 employees or fewer). This is for 4 years, after which it will need to be renewed.
  • Issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship. This will cost £199 regardless of the size of the company.

 In addition to the above the following is also payable for a Tier 2 visa.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge – £400 a year (going up to £624) 01/10/2020
  • Application fee outside the UK – Shortage (3 years or less): £464. Non-shortage (3 years or less) £610. Inside the UK (extending or switching). Shortage (3 years or less): £464. Non-shortage (3 years or less) £704.
  • Biometric enrolment fee – £19.20
  • UKVCAS appointment fee – £0-£210 (depends on location and time)
  • Expedited processing (optional) – decision in 5 working days = £500, 24 hours = £80

 

Who Pays What?

The Immigration Skills Charge must be paid by the employer, but other costs can be split between employer and applicant. You might for instance decide that you are happy to pay for the application fee but ask the employee to pay for their own Immigration Health Surcharge. This is a matter to work out with your employee prior to applying.

 

What About Family Members?

Family members must also pay their own application fees and Immigration Health Surcharges, meaning these costs increase significantly for every additional applicant. You should ask how many family members your potential employee hopes to bring with them and reach an agreement on who will be responsible for the costs.

 

Case Study: Single Worker

Holly runs a small veterinary practice and is hoping to employ a new veterinary surgeon. One of her employees mentions she has a friend from university, Marcia, who is a Brazilian national and performed top of the class. Holly interviews Marcia and she is perfect for the role so Holly decides to sponsor her for 3 years. Marcia has no partner or children.

Veterinary Surgeon’s are considered a shortage occupation, and Holly’s business is a small family business. As such the cost will be:

  • Sponsor License £536
  • Certificate of Sponsorship – £199
  • Immigration Skills Charge – £1092
  • Immigration Health Surcharge – £1200
  • Application Fee (shortage) £464

This totals £4027, which seems like a formidable amount for a small company, but is very much towards the lower end of the scale. As you can see with our next case study, once you start adding dependants or considering bigger companies, costs can quickly spiral.

 

Case Study: Family of 5

Garima runs a large company with branches all over the world which manufactures luxury cars. She wants to employ Jin, a Chinese national, as a project co-ordinator as he has been introduced to her by an employee of one of the company’s overseas branches. Jin accepts the job offer on the condition that his wife and 3 children are able to travel with him. Garima offers to sponsor him for 3 years.

Project Co-ordinator is not considered a shortage application and Garima’s company is a large multinational outfit so she will have to pay the higher fee for the sponsor license.

The costs will be:

  • Sponsor License £1476
  • Certificate of Sponsorship – £199
  • Immigration Skills Charge (Large company) – £3000
  • Immigration Health Surcharge x 5 – £6000
  • Application Fee x 5 – £3,050

This totals £13,725 even without accounting for any additional fees relating to courier service, priority service, or even fees related with using an immigration firm. This is an amount which many employers will balk at being asked to pay. It is important to discuss with the potential employee exactly how much of the cost each party will take responsibility for paying (for instant perhaps the applicant pays the Immigration Health Surcharge, or all costs associated with their dependants). It might also be useful to work out some sort of repayment scheme with employees that don’t have the necessary savings at the time of application. This is particularly relevant where the potential employee is from a country with an unfavourable exchange rate and/or comparatively low earnings which may have made it hard for them to accrue the necessary savings.

 

If you are interested in employing non-EEA nationals to work for your business (or EEA nationals after 01/01/2021) and would like help with a sponsor license or the application process we can help. Give us a call on 01403 801 801 or email us at [email protected]

The Hong Kong BN(O) Visa – What is it and How Can I Get it?

What is this Visa?

If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately you have undoubtedly heard a lot about China’s relationship with Hong Kong and the controversial new National Security Law it aims to impose upon people living there. The UK considers this law a serious breach of the 1984 Sino-British declaration which also undermines the “one country, two systems” agreement. In response, the UK government has announced it will create a bespoke immigration route which will allow British National (Overseas) citizens who live in Hong Kong to move to the UK with their family to work and study.

If you are not familiar with the intricacies of immigration law or the UK’s role in Hong Kong’s history you might wonder exactly what being a British National (Overseas) citizen means, and why there are so many of them in Hong Kong. To explain simply and without derailing this blog into a long historical thesis is difficult, but in short BN(O) was a nationality status opened to people living in some British Dependent Territories as a result of these locations’ historical ties with the UK. These individuals have no automatic right of residence and have traditionally had to apply for entry clearance in the same way as other non-EU nationals. This new visa greatly increases the immigration rights associated with being a British National (Overseas) citizen in Hong Kong, allowing people with this status to migrate to the UK without a job offer or sponsor.

Who Can Apply?

British National (Overseas) citizens who are normally resident in Hong Kong as well as their immediate family. This can include a spouse, unmarried partner, dependent child and ‘other family members where they can show there is a high level of dependency’. Unmarried partners will have to show evidence they have been living together in a ‘relationship similar to a marriage or civil partnership’ for at least 2 years. This will likely involve providing documents such as tenancy agreements or utility bills in both parties’ names.

Applicants will also need to show a commitment to learning English if they do not already have a good command of the language, as well as be willing to pay an application fee and an Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 a year.

What Can I Do in the UK?

You will be able to work and study in the UK and at this point no restrictions have been announced on the type of work or study you will be permitted to undertake.

You will not be allowed to use any public funds until you achieve Indefinite Leave to Remain or full British Citizenship. You will also have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 a year in order to access the NHS (£400 if you enter on this route outside the rules before October 2020).

Can I Live Here Permanently?

Yes, this visa will offer a route to permanent residency after 5 years continuous residence in the UK, and citizenship after 1 year of permanent residency.

When Will Applications Open?

This route will be officially open from January 2021, made available at the same time as the government’s new points-based system.

What if I Want to Come Now?

The government has issued guidance for those who wish to come to the UK before the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa is available. If you are not eligible under any existing paths it may be possible for you to apply at the UK border for a period of 6 months ‘Leave Outside the Rules’. You will be able to apply with dependants and will need to show your identity, your BN(O) citizen status, that you normally live in Hong Kong, and that you can support yourself financially.

This route might be of interest to anybody who feels like they may be in immediate danger as the result of the new law. In order to prove your residence in Hong Kong you should bring documents to the border with you such as a voter’s card, identity card, letter from the local council, medical card etc. and make it clear that you are intending to make an application outside of the rules as a British National (Overseas) Citizen from Hong Kong.

What Documents Will be Needed?

You will need to provide:

  • A valid passport (Does not need to be a BN(O) passport).
  • Documentation to prove your BN(O) status. This can include an expired or current passport.
  • Evidence you normally reside in Hong Kong.
  • Evidence you can support yourself financially for at least 6 months (there is no guidance at present on how much would be required to satisfy this).
  • A TB test from a clinic approved by the Home Office.

 

If you are interested in this route, or need other immigration advice, we can help. Email us at [email protected] or call us on 01403 801 801 for a consultation.

What is the new Health and Care Visa and Who is Included?

Why has it been brought in?

One of the biggest questions around the end of free movement from January 2021 has been how the government will mitigate a potential labour shortage in the healthcare sector given that many care workers and other healthcare staff do not earn enough to be eligible under the proposed ‘points-based system’, which has a minimum salary threshold of £20,408 (For more information see our previous blog). These roles have previously been filled by EU migrants exercising their right to free movement, but with this ending in January 2021 the question of who will fill the gap has plagued the government.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has previously suggested mobilising the country’s ‘economically inactive’, but as this is comprised largely of students, people who have retired, people who are disabled, and people who are not currently seeking work it is apparent that this is not a satisfactory answer. In response to growing public concern, especially in light of the Covid-19 crisis the government has announced a new ‘Health and Care’ visa which will be launched this summer. Let’s explore whether this is just lip service or whether it has a real chance of filling the gap left by Brexit.

What is the Visa?

The government is selling it as a new visa category aimed to ‘ensure UK health and care services have access to the best global talent’. It will include, perhaps most notably, an exemption to the Immigration Health Surcharge, which is due to go up to £624 a year later this year. This is a big concession, likely in response to public opinion towards NHS staff and other frontline workers shifting during the Covid-19 crisis meaning the idea of charging NHS workers to use the service they helped to provide during a global pandemic was no longer palatable to the British public.

Further features of the route will include a reduced application fee (UK visa fees are among some of the most expensive in the world), which further demonstrates government commitment to encouraging foreign healthcare workers to come and support our over-burdened healthcare system. The Home Office also aims to make a decision on these cases within 3 weeks. While they are claiming this will make it ‘faster’ for applicants in this route to obtain a decision, the current processing time is 15 working days for an out of country application for a skilled worker, which the more mathematically minded will note is, in fact, also 3 weeks.

The visa will also not benefit in increased processing times thanks to the abolition of the resident labour market test as healthcare workers are considered shortage occupation workers and are thus exempt. It is difficult to see the government’s claims of a fast-track process as being significantly different from the system as it is today, and as it will exist for other skilled workers under the new scheme. The only material difference appears to be the price.

Who Is and Isn’t Covered? Will Workers in Care Homes be Able to Apply?

One of the primary concerns with the government’s original plans was that whatever provisions may be made for NHS workers, workers in care homes (private or subsidised) were largely forgotten. These workers often earn well under the proposed absolute minimum threshold of £20,408 and while in an ideal world they would be paid more, it is pointless to legislate for an ideal world that does not exist. As such the argument is that care homes, already struggling after the Covid-19 crisis, will be unable to source enough staff to function when deprived of the ability to recruit EU staff. It is worth noting that it is estimated there are currently approximately 110,000 unfilled care jobs in the UK, and of the roles filled, over 100,000 of these are filled by EU migrants.

Obviously it is unlikely that all of these EU workers will quit immediately, but as they leave or retire it will be difficult for care homes to recruit new staff, leading to a potential disaster where over 200,000 posts are unfilled. There is also the risk that in order to fill roles care homes will be forced to offer a higher salary to overseas applicants in order to meet the threshold, meaning British workers and workers with other leave to remain in the UK will end up on a lower salary than their overseas counterparts, which rather undercuts the governments claims that reducing immigration will be of benefit to the British people.

While the government has indicated that the role will be open to ‘all eligible roles within the health and care sector’, these are as follows, and notably do not explicitly include workers in care homes unless they could be classified under ‘Health Professionals not elsewhere classified’:

• 2112 – Biological scientists and biochemists
• 2113 – Physical Scientists
• 2211 – Medical Practitioners
• 2212 – Psychologists
• 2213 – Pharmacists
• 2214 – Ophthalmic Opticians
• 2215 – Dental practitioners
• 2217 – Medical Radiographers
• 2218 – Podiatrists
• 2219 – Health Professionals not elsewhere classified
• 2221 – Physiotherapists
• 2222 – Occupational Therapists
• 2223 – Speech and Language Therapists
• 2229 – Therapy professionals not elsewhere classified
• 2231 – Nurses
• 2232 – Midwives
• 2442 – Social Workers
• 3213 – Paramedics

They have also indicated that they believe ‘immigration is not the answer to the challenges in the social care sector and, as we implement the new immigration system, we want employers to focus on investing in our domestic workforce.’ This suggests that while care workers may be eligible, they will be unlikely to use this route in practice unless reforms in the healthcare sector allow for higher salaries to be paid allowing potential applicants to meet the threshold. It is worth noting that the worse the staffing crisis becomes, the less appealing the sector is to new entrants who are unlikely to be enticed by the combination of a low salary, a difficult job, and increasingly long hours doing the work of several people.

In summary while the new visa route may sound impressive, unless some serious changes are made before its launch it will do little to fill the labour gap and amounts to little more than a cheaper visa for NHS workers which, while certainly a worthy cause, will not do anything to mitigate the potential crisis facing care homes and other low paid healthcare positions as a result of Brexit.

 

If you are interested in a UK visa we can help. Contact us at [email protected] or on 01403 801 801 for a consultation.

COVID 19 and joining family in the UK

UKVI have today announced temporary concessions for those with or hoping to apply for a spouse visa during these uncertain times

The temporary concessions are as follows:

Expired Leave 

Those who have been unable to travel back to the UK and their leave has expired, the UKVI will overlook a short break in continuous residence but you will be expected to make a new application as soon as possible. However, no guidance has been given on whether this needs to be out of country or in-country.

Short term family visas

For those here with 6 months’ leave as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner, who have had their wedding or civil ceremony delayed due to coronavirus, 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.

Loss of income 

The UKVI has confirmed that for those who have experienced a loss of income due to coronavirus, they will consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income due to coronavirus, provided the requirement was met for at least 6 months up to March 2020. Alternatively, if your salary has reduced because you’re furloughed, UKVI will take account of your income as though you’re earning 100% of your salary.

Those who are self-employed, a loss of annual income due to 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.

Lack of documents 

If you are unable to provide certain specified documents, UKVI will be able to decide the application without seeing certain specified documents if you cannot get them due to coronavirus. Otherwise, you may be asked to submit the specified documents after the date of application.

English requirement 

Those who have not had a chance to take an English language test due to centres being closed or travel restrictions can apply for an exemption.

Some positive news concessions from the UKVI during these uncertain times but more is certainly required.

Our team of immigration experts are experienced in helping with all types of family visas.

If you wish to apply for a new family visa or discuss your pending application then contact us today to find out how we can help.

UK VISAS AND COVID-19 – UPDATE

The UKVI has today updated their guidance regarding granting visa extensions on request to those with leave expiring but unable to leave the UK.

Now those with visas expiring before 31 July 2020 and who cannot leave the UK because of coronavirus can get automatic extensions. To get this extension, those affected must fill in an online form.

For those who already applied for an extension until 31 May 2020, have been advised not to re-apply as their leave will be automatically extended till end of July 2020.

If you have any concerns or wish to discuss your immigration matter, do call us on 01403801801 or email us on [email protected]

 

Changes to the Sole Representatives of Overseas Business Visa Route

The Sole Representative visa allows overseas businesses to establish a presence for the company in the UK. Under this route, a senior representative from the company can seek to enter the UK to set up a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of the business in the UK.

The Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules released by the Home Office last week included tightening of the rules surrounding the Representatives of Overseas Businesses visa category, otherwise known as the ‘Sole Representative visa’.

Some of the main changes are as follows:

  • Tighter restrictions for business stakeholders – Previously, a majority shareholder (51% shareholding or more) could not apply under this route. The rules will now prevent people using this route when they have a majority stake in, or otherwise own or control the overseas business.
  • Changes to dependent applications  –the partner cannot “have a majority stake in, or otherwise own or control, that overseas business, whether that ownership or control is by means of a shareholding, partnership agreement, sole proprietorship or any other arrangement”. Cumulatively, it appears that the partner and representative can together have a majority or more than a majority, but neither can individually. This means a sole representative could not transfer ownership/control or shares to their partner accompanying them to the UK to meet the requirement.
  • Genuine intention – The new wording states that the business’s branch or subsidiary shouldn’t be established solely to facilitate entry.
  • Skills and experience – Applicants must now be able to prove they have the necessary skills, experience, knowledge and authority to represent the overseas business in the UK.

For future applications, these changes mean increased scrutiny and more stringent evidence requirements to prove applicants are not using this route as a personal means of gaining entry to the UK.

These changes take effect from 4th June 2020 and will present many challenges.

If your business is looking to expand in the UK,  legal expertise may be even more beneficial than before with the UK tightening the rules around this route.

Should you require our assistance, please contact our team on 01403801801 or drop us an email on [email protected]

COVID-19 and impact on International Arrivals

On 11 May 2020, the government published its COVID-19 recovery strategy.  The UK border will in due course introduce a range of new measures and restrictions.

All international arrivals (unless exempt) will be:

  • Able to access increased information at the border about the UK’s social distancing regime
  • Strongly advised to download and use the NHS tracking app.
  • Required to supply contact and accommodation information
  • Required to self-isolate in accommodation for 14 days from the day of arrival in the UK. If the individual(s) cannot demonstrate where they shall be self-isolating, suitable accommodation will be arranged by the government.

All journeys within the Common Travel Area (i.e. all journeys between the UK, Crown Dependencies and Ireland) shall be exempt from these measures. Additional exemptions are to be confirmed in an official list which should be published shortly.

Those coming on long terms visas such as Tier 2 are generally asked on the application form regarding their accommodation in the UK. Till date, it has been fine to not specify an address and state that accommodation will be sought upon arrival. However, we now encourage all those coming to the UK to arrange temporary accommodation to avoid any issues at the UK border.

If you have any UK immigration queries regarding your existing visa or these new measures or COVID-19, please contact our team on 01403 801801 or via email on [email protected]

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]

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.

Can I switch my visa in the UK because of Coronavirus?

European flags fluttering in the wind: we provide advice to EU citizens on permanent residence cards

The short answer is yes. At present there are a number of visa applications which must ordinarily be made from the applicant’s home country, regardless of whether the applicant has existing leave in the UK. Given the current climate many people are likely to find this difficult to impossible, due to the widespread travel disruption and amount of countries on lockdown.

Thankfully the Home Office has indicated that due to these ‘unique’ circumstances that it will allow in country applications for those ‘applying to stay in the UK long-term’, whose current visas run out before 31/05/2020. This would mean applicants in this position would no longer have to return to their home countries’ in order to apply. It is also possible to extend your visa to 31/05/2020 if you are unable to return to your home country, if it expires before this date. Doing this does not exclude you from being able to apply to switch in country.

As the Home Office has not provided any lists of accepted visa switches or further details we are working under the assumption that any switch to a long term visa, could be made. This would include, but is not limited to:

  • Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme to Tier 2 (general)
  • Tier 2 (dependant) to Tier 2 (general)
  • Visit visa to any long term visa.
  • Visit visa to ancestry visa.
  • Marriage visit visa to any long term visa.

Applications are to be made online and can only be made up until 31/05/2020, although this is up for review and may be further extended if the need should arise. You will still need to pay the same fee and meet all the other requirements of your visa.

This presents a chance for people to save money on an expensive international trip, so if you have been planning to apply for a long term visa, have an expiry date before 31/05/2020, and are already in the UK, now might be a good time to make the switch.

We can help you manage the process of switching in country. Contact us at [email protected] or on 01403 801 801 to arrange a video consultation.

Coronavirus Latest – Your guide to the 24/03/2020 Home Office Advice

On the 24th of March 2020 the Home Office finally released updated advice for those whose UK visas are affected by Coronavirus. While this guidance is by no means comprehensive, and leaves a lot of questions unanswered it will still be helpful for a number of people. As such I have summarised the questions it has answered below.

What if my leave is expiring but I can’t return to my country?

This is a common problem, and one which the previous update did not address for the vast majority of people. Thankfully the government has said if you are in the UK and your leave expires between 24/01/2020 and 31/05/2020 you will be able to extend your visa if you cannot leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self isolation.

This will be a relief for those dreading the prospect of international travel, as well as for those whose visas may have already expired and who may be anxious about the long term implications of overstaying. This process is not, however, automatic.

The government has set up a Coronavirus Immigration Team who should be contacted to update your records. You will need to provide:

  • Your date of birth
  • Your full name
  • Your nationality
  • Your previous visa reference number
  • The reason you cannot go back to your home country (ie isolation, border closure)

Please note that if flights are running back to your country and you are not in isolation, you may run into trouble as this concession only appears to apply to those who are physically unable to return, not everyone.

 

Do I have to return to my home country to switch my visa?

The Home Office insists, for reasons best known to itself, that a number of visa applications must be made from the applicant’s home country, regardless of whether the applicant has existing leave in the UK. These include switching from Tier 5 to Tier 2, and switching from a Tier 2 dependent visa to a Tier 2 general visa. Given the current climate applicants are likely to find this difficult to impossible.

Thankfully the Home Office has indicated that due to these ‘unique’ circumstances that it will allow in country applications for those ‘applying to stay in the UK long-term’. As the Home Office has not provided any lists of accepted visa switches or further details we are working under the assumption that any switch to a long term visa, such as tier 2, could be made.

Applications are to be made online and can only be made up until 31/05/2020, although this is up for review and may be further extended if the need should arise.

 

I’m outside the UK and the Visa application centre in my country has shut. What should I do?

Unfortunately a number of overseas visa centres are now shut and you will not be able to apply until they re-open. If you already have an appointment and it has been cancelled, you should follow the instructions from your visa centre on what to do next.

English Language Testing Centres are also affected, so you should keep up to date with the IELTS website for information on what to do if your test is cancelled.

If your documents are with a visa centre then you may be able to get them couriered back to you, but you should check with your specific visa centre.

If you are British and need a passport to urgently travel to the UK, you will not be able to apply for this if your country’s visa application centre is shut. You will need to apply for an emergency travel document.

 

I’m a sponsor, what do I need to know?

If you are a Tier 4 sponsor, you should be aware that the government has indicated that in these circumstances it will permit distance learning, which is not normally permissible, where students are overseas but wish to continue studying. There will be no requirement to withdraw sponsorship in this scenario.

Furthermore students who wish to commence a course via distance learning will not need to travel to the UK or be sponsored under Tier 4.

If you are a tier 2 or 5 sponsor, there is a good chance that much of your workforce is suddenly working from home. While you would ordinarily need to report this to the Home Office, if it is as a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic, you will not need to report this. All other changes of circumstance must be reported as usual.

 

Other questions

There are a number of other questions which remain unanswered, including:

  • Whether those on visas with ‘no recourse to public funds’ will be eligible for wages through the ‘coronavirus job retention scheme’.
  • Whether Tier 2 employees can be ‘furloughed’.
  • How long Tier 2 employees will have to find another sponsor should they be made redundant, or their sponsor go bankrupt.
  • What will happen to people overseas who have been granted visas but now cannot come to the UK within the allowed time frame.

We will let you know as and when answers to these questions become apparent. If you have any other questions, please do let us know in the comments and we will do our best to answer you. You can also contact us at [email protected] or on 01403 801 801 for a consultation.

Overcoming The Top 4 Reasons For Spouse Visa Refusals

 

Spouse visas are one of the most complex and evidentially demanding visa applications you can make. With rejection rates of up to 25%, make sure you’re not leaving yourself vulnerable to refusal for one of these 4 common reasons.

 

1. Problems evidencing sufficient funds.

While it might sound straightforward to meet the income threshold of £18,600 this is one of the most common reasons a spouse visa might be refused. Even if you earn above the threshold, you must then prove you have been doing so for a minimum of 6 months with the same employer, and if you are self employed you will have to submit a veritable mountain of documentation.

There are some allowances for sponsors claiming certain benefits and it is also possible to sponsor your spouse relying entirely on cash savings (this requires you to have held £62,500 for a minimum of 6 months). These both have separate evidence rules, and if you do not provide sufficient evidence within the rigid evidential guidelines then you can expect a refusal even if you do meet the criteria.

You should also check there are no discrepancies between documents, for example between your payslips and your employer letter, as this can also lead to a refusal.

Evidence you are likely to have to provide includes:

  • Payslips
  • Bank Statements
  • Letters from your employer
  • P60’s
  • Letters from your bank

 

2. Insufficient evidence of a genuine and subsisting relationship

Based solely on the form you would be forgiven for thinking that your marriage certificate would be sufficient evidence of your relationship. A lack of clarity on the part of the Home Office around what exactly constitutes adequate proof of a genuine and subsisting relationship has resulted in many frustrating refusals for genuine couples who had plenty more evidence to provide but did not realise it was necessary.

With regard to evidence a good rule of thumb is more is better, especially where you are living separately and looking to bring your spouse to the UK to join you. If you are not living together at the time of application you need to explain why, and prove you are in a ‘genuine and subsisting’ relationship. Good examples of evidence you can provide include:

  • Printouts of your private messages, with times and dates visible. If these are not in English you must also provide certified translations.
  • Pictures together. Wedding pictures are a given, but you should also provide other pictures from a range of events, holidays and family gatherings.
  • Evidence of shared financial responsibilities. If you live together this will be easy, but if not then consider if there is anything you pay for together.
  • Letters of support from family and friends confirming they know you as a couple and can vouch for your relationship.
  • Records of holidays you took together, including itineraries, hotel bookings and flight bookings which show both your names.
  • Birth certificate for any children you have together (even if they are not applying with you for whatever reason).
  • Evidence of how you keep in touch and maintain your relationship if you are not living in the same country. Evidence of Skype or calls, evidence you visit each other, evidence you buy gifts for each other and evidence of anything else you use to interact with each other is vital.
  • Evidence of cohabitation in line with Home Office guidelines in the form of bills, NHS letters, tenancy agreements and letters from other reputable sources.
  • Evidence you intend to live together if successful, including evidence relating to the property you will be living at including your tenancy agreement.

 

3. Problems meeting the English Language requirements

There are a number of ways applicants can demonstrate they meet the English Language requirements, but it is important to remember that the level differs depending on whether it is your first application in this category, an extension of a previously obtained spouse visa, or indefinite leave to remain. While A1 is sufficient for your first application, only B1 is acceptable for those seeking to make England their permanent home.

If you are lucky enough to have a degree taught in English from a recognised institution this part of the application can be a lot easier, however if it was not taught at a UK university you will have to get a NARIC certification to prove the degree was taught at a level above the specified CEFR level.

If you do not have a degree, then be prepared to have to locate a test centre offering you the chance to sit one of the approved exams. Beware that not all test centres offering IELTs are UKVI approved so you should always check your English test was taken at an approved centre to avoid an eye-watering waste of time and money both in taking the test and submitting an application which does not meet the requirements and is likely to be refused.

 

4. Errors in the application form

This might seem obvious but you should double, triple and quadruple check the application is free from any errors, inconsistencies or typos. Any error could lead to a potential refusal, and it is worth taking the extra time to ensure everything is accurate instead of risking a time consuming and costly refusal which could ultimately result in a black mark on your visa history.

 

 

Due to the complexity of this type of application it is highly recommended you seek expert advice to ensure everything goes smoothly. We have extensive experience with this type of application so please contact us at [email protected] or on 01403 801 801 to find out how we can help you.

5 common reasons your visit visa might be refused and how to overcome them

 

 

Visit visas are some of the most commonly and seemingly arbitrarily refused visas you can apply for. Here are the 5 top reasons the Home Office might refuse a visit visa and some advice on how to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

1. The Home Office does not believe you will leave at the end of your stay.

This is one of the most common reasons for refusal. The Home Office may have concerns that you are using a visit visa in order to gain access to the UK in order to live. This is of particular concern to individuals from countries in conflict or developing countries who may struggle to convince the Home Office that they have a genuine intention to return despite standards of living in the UK being arguably higher.

You can help assuage the Home Office’s fears by providing evidence proving ties to your own country. This might include:

  • letters from your employer confirming you will be visiting while taking annual leave, as well as confirming the date you will be returning to work.
  • Evidence of dependents or family in your home country for whom you are financially responsible or for whom you are a carer.
  • Showing your level of income, if you earn an above-average amount this may demonstrate a strong incentive to return.
  • Evidence of the activities you are coming to do, including letters of invitation from family and friends, itineraries of tourist activities you intend to take part in and evidence of hotel bookings.

If you can demonstrate you have a good quality of life in your home country, which is likely to be preferable to living as an illegal migrant in the UK with no right to work or study lawfully, then this reduces the chance of having your visa refused for this reason. If you have applied for previous visit visas and stayed longer than you stated you would, even if you didn’t overstay, you should take care to explain this.

 

2. The Home Office is concerned about your poor immigration history or the poor immigration history of your known family in the UK.

When you apply you will be asked if you have any connections to the UK. Whether you are coming to visit family or not, the visa status of any family residing in the UK will be considered alongside yours. If you have family members with a history of poor visa history then the burden of proof will be on you to demonstrate that you are different. Attempts to conceal family members with poor history are inadvisable and if found out will certainly lead to the refusal of your visa and potentially more serious consequences.

The Home Office may contact family members or friends in the UK so it is wise to discuss your application with them beforehand and make sure there are no inconsistencies between the information you give the Home Office and the information they give when questioned. Make sure that they are aware of all facts as they appear on your application to avoid a refusal for an innocent error.

You should also consider adding evidence to your cover letter explaining why you do not want to live in the UK if you have friends and family resident here, as the Home Office may be suspicious that your real intent is to move here to join them.

If you have any poor immigration history of your own you should also be sure to provide a robust explanation and evidence that you have changed and do not intend to repeat this.

 

3. The Home Office is not satisfied you have enough money to fund your stay.

This can be a difficult one because the Home Office does not give an exact figure you must hold in order to satisfy this requirement. Instead they take a holistic approach, taking into account financial responsibilities you have in your home country (rent, mortgage, dependents etc) as well as the length of stay, where you will be staying and what activities you will be doing.

It may be helpful to provide a detailed, costed, itinerary explain what costs you expect to incur and how you will cover them with the funds you hold. If you will be staying with family or friends who are not expecting you to pay then you should provide letters confirming this.

You should provide bank statements showing your funds and that you have held them for a reasonable period of time but be careful to explain any potentially suspect looking deposits, as the Home Office will be suspicious of unexplained money.

3rd parties are also able to provide sponsorship if they have a genuine professional or personal relationship with the applicant and will be legally present at the time the visitor enters, however they may have to provide an undertaking to pay back any public funds the visitor claims.

 

4. The Home Office believes you may intend to do a ‘forbidden’ activity.

There are a number of activities you cannot carry out in the UK while here on a visit visa, and these may be specific to the type of visit visa you apply for. For instance you may get married if you are here on a Marriage visa, but not on any other form of visit visa.

If the Home Office has suspicions that your intentions in coming to the UK fall outside of your category of visa they are likely to refuse it. You should take particular care to demonstrate that you do not intend to work here. If you are here on a Permitted Paid Engagement visa you should ensure the evidence provided clearly shows that the engagement you are here to perform does not fall outside the strict rules governing accepted paid engagements.

Be sure that the category of visa you are applying for matches what you intend to do, and provide evidence and explanations of how your visit will comply with the category-specific rules.

 

5. The Home Office has concerns about the veracity or consistency of evidence provided.

When making a visit visa application the general rule is the more supporting evidence the better, however it is important to ensure that all your evidence is consistent. Here are some common areas to beware of.

  • Make sure your financial evidence lines up. If you have stated your salary elsewhere, make sure your bank statements match your salary. If they do not, provide a robust explanation in your covering letter.
  • Make sure information you have provided in your application can be corroborated by witnesses and be prepared for the Home Office to approach your friends and family. Make sure they will be giving the Home Office information which is wholly consistent with each other as well as other information you have provided.
  • Do not be tempted to gloss over undesirable aspects of your immigration history or any criminal history, or to falsify documents. The use of any deception will result in both the refusal of your visa as well as a 10 year ban. It is not worth the risk.

 

If you would like to apply for a visit visa, it is always best to seek professional help. Contact us for a consultation at [email protected] or on 01403 801 801.

The New Immigration System and How it Will Affect You

The New Immigration System and How it Will Affect You.

On the 19th of February the government released its plans for immigration from 2021. Find out what impact this could have on you, your business or your students. It should be noted that EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will all remain non-visa nationals, capable of entering for 6 months without a visa under the normal visitor rules.

Changes to the skills based system

Despite the government’s claims to reduce low-skilled migration, they will be lowering both the minimum general salary threshold as well as the minimum necessary RQF skill level. The new rules will apply equally to applicants applying from both inside and outside the EU, although not to EU residents already in the country who have settled or pre-settled status.

The minimum salary will be lowered to £25,600 from £30,000, with the potential to go down to £20,480 if the applicant has strengths awarding them points in other areas (for example working in a shortage occupation or having a relevant PhD). This appears to lead to an counter-intuitive scenario where the stronger the applicant, the less the sponsoring company is required to pay them. It will be interesting to see how the government reconciles this with their pledge to attract the ‘brightest and best’ and to reduce wage undercutting.

The minimum RQF level of the job will be lowered from RQF6 to RQF3, essentially meaning that the required difficulty level of the job to be offered has gone from one equivalent in experience and difficulty to a Bachelor’s degree, to one equivalent in experience and difficult to A-levels. While this does not cover unskilled entry positions, it is still a big shift in the required skill level in order to sponsor an overseas worker.

The Resident Labour Market Test will be abolished along with the cap on the number of people who are able to come to the UK on the skilled-worker route.

The Global Talent Scheme will be opened to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens, allowing highly-skilled scientists and researchers to come to the UK without a job offer. This will also be expanded to be more accessible to those with a background in STEM subjects, although more details on this are not yet available.

The Seasonal Agricultural Visa pilot scheme is due to be quadrupled (from 2,500 to 10,000) as the government recognises this sector is reliant on low-skilled temporary workers to function. This would allow farms to hire workers for a period of up to 6 months, and is intended to ease pressure on the agricultural sector during busy harvest months. There is no other current path for unskilled workers to enter the UK, which does little to reassure employers in other sectors heavily reliant on unskilled or low-paid workers, including care-work, hospitality and construction.

International Students and Graduates

This appears to be largely similar to its current form however there are a few differences. Most obviously the student routes will now be open to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens.

Secondly and perhaps most excitingly for those hoping to study in the UK and work here afterwards, a new immigration route will be opening in 2021. This will allow graduates who complete their degree from summer 2021 to stay for up to 2 years after the end of their degree to work or look for work. They can work at any RQF skill level during this period but if they wished to convert their visa to a skills-based visa at the end of the 2 years they would presumably need to secure a job offer meeting the minimum salary and RQF levels described above.

What should I do?

If you are an EU citizen in the UK, we strongly advise applying for the settled or pre-settled scheme as soon as possible to secure your right to live and work in the UK next year.

If you are an employer or educational institute considering sponsoring overseas workers or students in the future, we would advise applying for your sponsor license now. We can assist with this process, so call us on 01403 801 801 or emails us at [email protected] to arrange a 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.