Information provided by UKVI – United Kingdom visas and immigration

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents

compiled by Judit Adorjan

What can I do if my visa is expiring and cannot leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation?

If you are in the UK and your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020 your visa will be extended to 31 May 2020, if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Individuals affected must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) via: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk to update their records if their visa is expiring.

They should provide:

  • Full name (include any middle names)
  • Date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
  • Nationality
  • Previous visa reference number
  • Why they can’t go back to their home country, for example if the border has closed.

The Home Office will be in contact when the request is received and when the visa has been extended.

Please note this has not been written into law and at this moment it is not clear whether the extra stay will be covered by the Immigration Health surcharge. There will be no new BRP card issued for this extension. Therefore, it is very important for employers to keep records of when an email was sent to the Home Office to protect against any illegal working penalties.

Can I switch in country into a long-term visa category if I can’t make a new entry clearance application due to travel restrictions?

You will be able to apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31st May. This includes applications where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country.

You will need to meet the same visa requirements for that category and pay the UK application fee.

This includes those whose leave has already been automatically extended to 31 March 2020.

The terms of your leave will remain the same until your application is decided.

Please note “long term” here does not mean indefinite leave to remain. It includes for example switching from a Tier 4 (student) to Tier 2 (General) or from PBS dependent to Tier 2 (ICT), which would normally require a fresh application for entry clearance to be made from abroad.

If you wish to extend your leave under the same immigration route it is important to note that providing the details requested by the Home Office will not be considered a pending application under section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971 and you will therefore become an overstayer. In this case you will need to submit your extension application before the expiry of your current leave.

What should I do if I am outside the UK and need to make an entry clearance application?

Many UK visa application centres (VACs) are closed or offering limited services.

For advice on visa services in your country contact:

In some areas the UK cannot send visa vignettes across some borders and routes due to border restrictions.

English testing centres are also affected. For more information visit the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)’s website or contact your test centre.

What should I do if my 30-day entry vignette has expired?

If your 30 day entry vignette 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 the year.

To make a request, contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre. You will 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 have already contacted the Help Centre about your visa, please let them know in your email.

You will be contacted when the VACs 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.

What should I do if my UKVICAS appointment for biometric enrolment has been cancelled?

As of 26th March 2020, all biometric enrolment centres have been closed.

If you are affected by the resulting cancellation of an appointment you do not need to do anything. Sopra Steria will continue to monitor the situation and will update you when the service recommences.

Once you have submitted your online application the terms of your leave will remain the same as they were at the point of the application. Not being able to attend or book an appointment will not affect your immigration status in the UK.

For employers

How do I carry out right to work checks?

During the pandemic

As of 30 March 2020, the following temporary changes have been made:

  • Checks can now be carried out over video calls
  • Job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
  • Record the date you made the check and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”
  • Employers should use the Employer Checking Service if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents. If the person has a right to work, the Employer Checking Service will send you a ‘Positive Verification Notice’. This provides you with a statutory excuse for 6 months from the date in the notice.
  • If the worker has a current biometric residence permit or 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 – the applicant must give you permission to view their details

After the COVID-19 measures end

The Home Office will let you know in advance when these measures will end. After that date, you should follow the checking process set out in right to work checks: an employer’s guide.

You will be asked to carry out retrospective checks on existing employees who:

  • started working for you during these measures
  • required a follow-up right to work check during these measures

You should mark this check: “the individual’s contract commenced on [insert date]. The prescribed right to work check was undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19.”

The retrospective check must be carried out within 8 weeks of the COVID-19 measures ending. Both checks should be kept for your records.

The Home Office will not take any enforcement action against you if you carried out the adjusted check set out in this guidance, or a check via the Home Office, and follow this up with the retrospective check.

If, at the point of carrying out the retrospective check, you find your employee does not have permission to be in the UK you must end their employment.

How do I continue to comply with my Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 sponsor duties during COVID-19?

Tier 4 Students

Sponsors are not currently required to report student or employee absences related to coronavirus, which they have authorised.

Sponsors may allow students to start their studies before their visa application has been decided if:

  • sponsors are a Tier 4 sponsor (other than a Tier 4 Legacy Sponsor)
  • sponsors have assigned the student a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
  • the student submitted their application before their current visa expired and has shown their sponsor evidence of this
  • the course they start is the same as the one listed on their CAS
  • the student has a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if required

A sponsor’s reporting responsibilities start from the date that sponsors issue the CAS, not from the date their application is granted.

If the student’s application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused, sponsors must terminate the student’s studies.

Sponsors also do not need to withdraw sponsorship for:

  • Affected students unable to attend for more than 60 days
  • Employees who have exceeded 4 weeks of absence without pay

Decisions on whether to withdraw a student from their studies or terminate an employment are for sponsors to make. The Home Office will not take any compliance action against students or employees who are unable to attend their studies/work due to the coronavirus outbreak, or against sponsors which authorise absences and continue to sponsor students or employees despite absences for this reason.

The Home Office will keep this under review, especially if the length of absences means a potential repeat of period of studies become necessary.

Tier 2 and Tier 5 workers

Sponsors may allow employees to start work before their visa application has been decided if:

  • sponsors have assigned them a Certificate of Sponsorship (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

Sponsors reporting responsibilities for an employee start from the date the sponsor have assigned them a CoS, not from the date that their application is granted.
Sponsors will not be able to report information to the Home Office using the sponsor management system. They must however ensure that they record and maintain all the relevant information set out in the sponsor guidance on their own systems. Any changes that will impact the eventual consideration of the migrant’s visa application should be updated on the Certificate of Sponsorship, as normal.

If the employee’s application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused, sponsors must terminate their employment.

Doctors, nurses and paramedics working for the NHS

An individual’s visa will be automatically extended by one year if it is due to expire before 1 October 2020. Family members with a visa due to expire before 1 October 2020 will also have their visa extended

The extension is free, and they will not have to pay the immigration health surcharge

Individuals do not have to apply. The Home Office will contact NHS employees to identify staff eligible for this extension. The individual and their employer will be notified if they have received an automatic extension

There is no longer a limit on the number of hours an individual can work or volunteer each week if they work for the NHS as a doctor, nurse or paramedic and they are a:

  • Tier 4 student
  • Tier 2 worker and their NHS job is a second job
  • Visiting academic researcher
  • Holder of a short-term visa and are permitted to volunteer

If an individual is a pre-registration nurse currently in the UK, the deadline for them to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been extended to 31 December 2020.

Student / employee absences

Sponsors are not currently required to report student or employee absences related to coronavirus which they have authorised.

Sponsors also do not need to withdraw sponsorship for:

  • Affected students unable to attend for more than 60 days
  • Employees who have exceeded 4 weeks of absence without pay

Decisions on whether to withdraw a student from their studies or terminate an employment are for sponsors to make. The Home Office will not take any compliance action against students or employees who are unable to attend their studies/work due to the coronavirus outbreak, or against sponsors which authorise absences and continue to sponsor students or employees despite absences for this reason.

The Home Office will keep this under review, especially if the length of absences means a potential repeat of period of studies become necessary.

Employees working from home

You do not have to notify the Home Office if you’re sponsoring employees who are working from home due to coronavirus.

Other changes to their working arrangements must still be reported as usual.

If you cannot pay the salaries of sponsored employees because you’ve temporarily reduced or ceased trading

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.

If you have issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) or a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) and the sponsored employee or student has not yet applied for a visa:

The employee or student will still be able to apply for a visa.

The start date for the course or employment stated on the CoS or CAS may have changed. The Home Office will not automatically refuse such cases.

For example, they may accept a CoS or CAS if they have become invalid because the employee or student was unable to travel as a result of coronavirus. This will be considered on a case by case basis.

What do I do if I am on a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa and my business has been disrupted?

You no longer need to employ at least 2 people for 12 consecutive months each. The 12-month period you are required to employ someone for can be made up of multiple employees across different months.

Time when your employees were furloughed will not count towards the 12-month period.

If you have not been able to employ staff for 12 months in total by the time your visa expires, you will be allowed to temporarily extend your stay to give you time to meet the requirement.

Karen Kaur and Jonathan Beech

Please contact us if you have any other enquiries:

Tel: 01235 841 568