The COVID-19 outbreak affected many spheres of our life and society including the immigration process. The Home Office introduced temporary exceptional concessions and is regularly updating it. Here you can find some key points as per today, 8th of April 2020.
People in the UK with expiring visa
As mentioned in a previous article, all visa holders with their leave due to expire between 24th of January and 31st of May 2020 and cannot leave the UK because of measures related to COVID-19 will have their leave extended until 31st of May 2020. The authorities specified no individual who cannot leave the UK because of coronavirus will be regarded as an overstayer. To get the extension the individuals will need to fulfil an online form. Please not the form is only for people who are not planning to extend their leaves and are unable to leave the UK. All people who plan to extend their leaves must do so by using the appropriate application form.
Nationals with short-term visa in the UK who wish to switch to a longer term one, can do so from the UK until 31st of May 2020. This includes application which normally should be applied from the Home Country. The application can be made online and until you receive a decision the terms of the leave will remain the same.
Application in the UK
All visa application centre within the UK are closed because of COVID-19 from 27th of March until further notice. It is not possible to book at the moment any new appointment. Those who already made an appointment will have them automatically rescheduled.
All visa holders with their leave due to expiry soon and which intend to make further application for extension, must do so as usually, before their current leave expiry. They must submit the online application form and attend the appointment once the centre will be opened. The immigration status will not be affected as a result of not being able to attend the appointment.
Unfortunately, at the moment there is no special provision for people with leave to remain due to expiry and unable to travel back to the UK to apply for extension or for people granted entry clearance who cannot now travel to the UK before the visa expires. We contacted the Home Office in regards, and they affirmed the current exceptional provisions are only for people who are in the UK.
On the 31st of March 2020 the Home Office announced that NHS workers and their families with leave due to expire by 1st of October 2020 will get a free-one-year extension and exemption from Immigration Health Surcharge. The HO will contact the NHS employer to identify who is eligible for extension. They also lifted the restriction on number of hours they can work in the NHS.
Sponsor duties and PBS
The Home Office guidance stated they will not make enforcement actions against sponsors who continues to sponsor students/employees despite absences due to coronavirus. The sponsors should comply as much as possible with their duties, however if they cannot comply because of the COVID-19 and are taking reasonable steps, will not be penalised.
Sponsors are not required to report absences of workers/students related to COVID-19, however they need to maintain a record of migrant’s absences as referred in the Sponsor guidance.
The Home office published further guidance in relation to Job Retention Scheme and sponsored employees stating, “You can temporarily reduce the pay of your sponsored employees to 80% of their salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is the lower.” The reduction must be temporary and once arrangement is ended the salary must return as previously.
Migrants having been placed as furlough do not have to worry about breaching their conditions of stay as the Job Retention Scheme is not defined as public funds.
The Home Office advised the applications for settlement scheme will continue to be processed but they will take longer than usual.
The telephone helpline is currently closed but the Settlement resolution centre will continue to respond to email enquiries.
The postal route for submitting identity evidence is suspended and the ID scanner locations are closed. Applicants can still use “the EU Exit ID Document check app” to complete the identity stage.
The deadline for the application is 30th of June 2021.
This are the latest updates from Home Office. We, LexLegal, will keep you up to date with new provision related to the coronavirus pandemic. If you require specific advice with the above issues, please do not hesitate to contact us for further guidance.