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Woman waiting in a long line for a flight wearing a N95 face mask during a global pandemic

By Vanessa Ganguin

Latest updates to all your UK immigration Covid-19 questions

Updated 17 October 2020

We have done our best to answer the main immigration questions thrown up by measures dealing with the coronavirus pandemic – including the new quarantine scheme – see below. These are based on the major urgent immigration questions firms, individuals and families have been contacting us with. If you have any other questions you would like to add, or for any more clarification, please do contact us on 0207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com

 

Covid-19 FAQs for sponsoring employers

Can sponsored staff work from home?

As part of measures taken to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, the Home Office has relaxed certain reporting requirements. With workers following social distancing guidelines at home, the Home Office has confirmed that employers with sponsor licences will not have to report a change of location for sponsored migrants working from home on the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

Do Tier 2 sponsors need to report sickness absences and self-isolating to the Home Office?

There is no need for sponsors to report sponsored staff sickness absence, the need for self-isolation or indeed an inability to travel due to travel restrictions if they are related to the coronavirus pandemic. 

What precautions should employers take if sponsored staff are furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme?

Sponsors may reduce salary on a temporary basis up to the lower of 80% of employees’ salary or £2,500 per month though they must report this change of status, including any change in salary. The salary must revert to at least the previous level once these arrangements have ended and the reduction must be done as part of a company-wide scheme to avoid redundancies, treating workers the same whether they are sponsored migrants or not.

We advise that sponsors should make a further report once employees are back at work. For any more clarification, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.

What if the employer tops up a sponsored furloughed employees' salary so it stays the same?

If they are sponsored migrants, it is still advisable to report this change to their status as well as their subsequent return to work.

For any more clarification, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.

How does absence without pay affect sponsored employees during the coronavirus pandemic?

Ordinarily a sponsor is required to report and to cease sponsoring a sponsored employee if s/he is absent without pay for more than four weeks (although there are exceptions). Under Covid-19 policy, sponsors are no longer required to withdraw sponsorship in these circumstances, though we would advise that such an absence and return to work are reported on the SMS with an explanation of the circumstances. 

For any more clarification, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.

Can Tier 2 sponsors reduce the salary or the hours that sponsored staff work?

Sponsors are in normal circumstances permitted to reduce sponsored employees’ salary provided the minimum salary thresholds are still met. There is a strong argument that temporary reduction below Tier-2 minimum salary thresholds (up to the lower of 80% or £2,500 per month) is acceptable where this is in line with a company-wide policy to avoid redundancies and applied fairly, although this is not currently made clear in the guidance. 

Recently, the Home Office has confirmed that where a high-earner’s salary is reduced below the £159,600 threshold, they will not need to submit a change of employment application (this will apply whether they are furloughed or still working on a reduced salary, so long as the reduction has occurred as part of a company wide policy and is temporary).

To discuss further, please contact us on 0207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.

Do sponsors still need to factor in delays with Tier 2 or Tier 5 employee applications?

Visa Application Centres (VAC) abroad and UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) in the UK are reopening.

Here is an up to date list of the latest UK centres (operated by Sopra Steria) to have reopened.

We advise checking the websites of VFS Global and TLScontact for updates on the latest VACs to have reopened abroad.

As there are still delays obtaining biometric appointments  the Home Office is allowing migrants who are in the UK to start their sponsored employment while still waiting for approval once a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) has been assigned and the online application has been submitted and paid for

Contact us on +44 (0) 207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com for more details.

Can sponsored health workers be moved to different sites or perform different jobs?

Temporary flexibility has been introduced around sponsored frontline healthcare staff working at different sites due to Coronavirus; sponsors will not need to notify UKVI if, for example, staff have to work in a different hospital. Sponsored staff can also carry out supplementary work in any role at any skill level with no restriction on the number of hours they can do this.

There is also no longer a limit on the number of hours those with leave in certain categories including healthcare workers sponsored under Tier 2 can work or volunteer for the NHS, and a facility to extend visas for free (see below for more details or contact us on 0207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com).

Can firms postpone a Tier 2 sponsored migrant's start date? 

Normally once a CoS has been assigned the employee only has three months to submit the online visa or leave to remain application form. The Home Office has stated that applications submitted beyond the three months will not be automatically refused, if for example the individual was unable to travel. This will be looked at on a case by case basis. If a sponsored employee is in this position it is still worth submitting the application. If the application is approved the sponsor will be able to extend the start date by way of a sponsor note provided this is done before the application is submitted. 

For those whose visa has already been issued clarification is still being sought around whether the position continues to be that their start date cannot be delayed more than 28 days after the later of the original start date detailed on the CoS or the date the visa was issued. Otherwise, in the meantime a workaround would be for this to be reported as an unpaid leave scenario until they are able to commence work. 

Please do not hesitate to contact us on 0207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com for any more help with this.

Can firms conduct right to work checks without seeing someone in person during social distancing measures?

Social distancing measures, self-isolation and travel restrictions make it more difficult to see people in person, and postal delays make sending original documents harder too. To mitigate this, the Home Office is temporarily allowing employers to use the online right to work check process and then check original documents via video calls for those with EU pre-settled or settled status, a Biometric Residence Card or Biometric Residence Permit. Otherwise scans or photos of the documents can be emailed or sent over on a phone app before employers check them via video conferencing. 

Retrospective follow up checks must be done when these temporary measures come to an end. For more details call 0207 033 9527 or email enquiries@vanessaganguin.com

The Immigration Bill means free movement is still due to end. How should employers prepare for a new Points Based System?

Recent Home Office guidance for employers seeking to sponsor Tier 2 and 5 workers is a warning for employers to prepare for the post-Brexit immigration system due to commence on 1 January 2021. The Government’s policy statement of 19 February 2020 urged employers who do not already hold a sponsor licence to consider applying for one, in advance of the post-Brexit immigration system. 

The Immigration Bill (full title: Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2019-21) passed its second reading in the House of Commons on Monday May 18. 

The legislation is still due to come into force on 1 January 2021, part of a “multi-year programme of change” led by the Home Office. The UK Government continues to insist that the Brexit transition will not be extended beyond the end of the year, when the new post-Brexit immigration system is also due to start, replacing free movement from the EEA. 

For companies that may wish to sponsor employees from outside the UK, now is the time to start thinking of setting up a sponsor licence or renewing one if it is due to run out in 2021.

For more details about sponsor licence readiness and preparations for next year, call us on 0207 033 9527 or email enquiries@vanessaganguin.com

Covid-19 FAQs for individuals

 

Covid-19 facemasks

Are there coronavirus restrictions on travel to the UK?

Unlike some countries, there are no extra restrictions on people entering the country lawfully because of Covid-19 and passengers are still being processed.

Under the Coronavirus Act passed in March, UK border officials are able to detain people and screen them if they left a region which is stricken with the virus in the past 14 days or they have reasonable grounds to believe that they may be infected or spread Covid-19, but there is no real evidence or likelihood of this power being used. 

There is a two week quarantine in place on arrival, though it has been lifted for passengers from certain countries (see below).

If  travelling to the UK from anywhere outside the Common Travel Area (Ireland, The Channel Islands, Isle of Man) passengers should provide their journey and contact details. They must also provide the address where they will self-isolate if they are travelling from a country not on the travel corridor list below. The public health passenger locator form can be filled in online 48 hours before arrival.

On arrival at the UK border, people should be able to show either a printed copy of the document attached to the confirmation email or the document attached to the confirmation email on a mobile phone. Certain categories of traveller are exempt from filling in the passenger locator form or from quarantine, there is a list here. Also see question below.

Who needs to fill in a public health passenger locator form before travelling to the UK and when?

Passengers to the UK from all countries apart from the Common Travel Area (CTA) of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man must complete the public health passenger locator form before they travel, though they can not submit it until 48 hours before their arrival in the UK.

Those who entered the CTA within the last 14 days will still need to complete the form. A boarding pass or itinerary would be shown to help confirm how long has been spent in the CTA.

Everyone in a party must complete their own form, though under-18s staying with adults throughout are included on the adult’s passenger locator form.

On arrival at the UK border, people should be able to show either a printed copy of the document attached to the confirmation email or the document attached to the confirmation email on a mobile phone.

Failure to complete the form is a criminal offence.

There are a small number people who do not have to complete the form because of their work.

Do people arriving in the UK need to quarantine?

Since 8 June, arrivals in the UK have to fill an online form with an appropriate address at which they will quarantine for 14 days, with enforcement through random spot checks and £1,000 fines if arrivals in England are found to have broken the rules.

There will be a fine of £100 for failure to complete the form, and the Border Force will have the power to refuse entry to non-UK citizens who do not comply with the new regulations.

The Government is regularly amending a list of countries with lower rates of Covid-19 which are exempt from these quarantine measures. The US is currently not on the ‘travel corridor’ list. (See the full list in the question below.) The arrangement will not always be reciprocal – some of the exempted countries may still quarantine arrivals from the UK.

Passengers to the UK from all countries, whether on the list or off must complete the public health passenger locator form before they travel, though they can not submit it until 48 hours before their arrival in the UK. Everyone in a party must complete their own form, though under-18s staying with adults throughout are included on the adult’s passenger locator form.

On arrival at the UK border, people should be able to show either a printed copy of the document attached to the confirmation email or the document attached to the confirmation email on a mobile phone. Certain categories of traveller are exempt from filling in the passenger locator form or from quarantine, there is a list here. Also see question below. Film and high end TV drama productions have quarantine advice which can be found here too.

Click here for the latest guidance for arrivals self-isolating in Scotland.

The Welsh Government has also issued this guidance for people arriving from abroad and self-isolating in Wales. The Northern Ireland Government has also issued this guidance for those arriving or returning from abroad.

Those arriving from within the Common Travel Area (CTA) which consists of Ireland, the Isle of Man and Channel Islands, who have been in the CTA for the last 14 days before entering the UK, will not need to complete the Public Health passenger locator form or to self-isolate for 14 days.

Those who entered the CTA within the last 14 days will need to complete the form still and self-isolate only until they have spent a total of 14 days in the CTA. A boarding pass or itinerary would be shown to help confirm how long has been spent in the CTA.

Arrivals will be asked to try to avoid public transport and to travel to their accommodation by car “where possible”, and to try not to go out to buy food or other essentials “where they can rely on others.”

The measures apply to those arriving by sea and train as well as air.

Which countries are exempt from two week quarantine self-isolating measures on arrival?

Passengers returning or visiting from certain destinations which pose a reduced risk to the public health of UK citizens no longer need to self-isolate when arriving in England.

If people have been to or stopped in a country that is not on the travel corridor list they will have to self-isolate until 14 days have passed since they left that country.

NB: the quarantine exemption list below applies to England – see guidance for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland . There may be variation between the devolved countries of the United Kingdom, though they are currently moving in harmony and are adding Slovenia and Guadeloupe to arrivals that must quarantine.

Don’t forget, passengers making a transit stop in a country or territory that is not on the list in the 14 days before arrival in England will still have to quarantine.

Where is exempt from two week quarantine self-isolating measures on arrival in England?

This is the updated list of countries that are exempt from self-isolating on arrival in England as of 15 October:

It is worth checking the list regularly as it is subject to change.

Those arriving from within the Common Travel Area (CTA) – Ireland, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, who have been in the CTA for the last 14 days before entering the UK,  do not need to complete the Public Health passenger locator form or self-isolate for 14 days.

(Though those who entered the CTA within the last 14 days will need to complete the form still and self-isolate only until they have spent a total of 14 days in the CTA. A boarding pass or itinerary would be shown to help confirm how long has been spent in the CTA.)

Arrivals must follow the same Coronavirus safe-distancing rules as people who live in the UK, even if exempt from self-isolating. Check the rules for:

Who is exempt from 14 days quarantine on arrival in the UK?

Those arriving from within the Common Travel Area (CTA) which consists of Ireland, the Isle of Man and Channel Islands, who have been in the CTA for the last 14 days before entering the UK, will not need to complete the Public Health passenger locator form or self-isolate for 14 days.

Those who entered the CTA within the last 14 days will need to complete the form still and self-isolate only until they have spent a total of 14 days in the CTA. A boarding pass or itinerary would be shown to help confirm how long has been spent in the CTA.

The Government published a list of countries with lower rates of Covid-19 which are exempt from quarantine measures – see question above – and it will be worth checking the list which will be constantly updated.

The Home Office has also confirmed the constantly updated list below are exempt from self-isolating for a fortnight on arrival to the UK, though some categories must still complete the Public Health passenger locator form before they travel.

Every category has its own rules – click on the links below – for instance, those working on British film, television and advertising productions will be able to leave their place of self-isolation to travel to work on their production within their work ‘bubble’ (see below).

NB: Please check the Home Office’s guidance for full details of requirements and updates before travelling, or contact us on 0207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com

The following have been listed so far (Home Office list updated 28 September) as exempt from self-isolation on arrival in the UK:

  1. Diplomatic missions, international organisations and conferences
  2. Representatives of a foreign country or territory or British overseas territories
  3. Defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors
  4. Essential border security duties – UK officials and contractors
  5. Essential border security duties – non-UK officials and contractors
  6. Crown servants or government contractors
  7. Regular work abroad
  8. Regular work in the UK, living abroad
  9. Bus and coach drivers
  10. Drivers of goods vehicles
  11. People transiting airside through the UK
  12. Civil aviation inspectors
  13. Eurotunnel workers
  14. Eurostar International workers
  15. Channel Tunnel system workers
  16. Network Rail workers
  17. Seamen and masters and inspectors and surveyors of ships
  18. Aircraft pilots and crew
  19. Seasonal agricultural workers
  20. Water supplies and sewerage services workers
  21. Specialist technical workers – goods
  22. Specialist technical workers – waste
  23. Specialist technical workers – power infrastructure
  24. Offshore oil and gas workers
  25. Specialist technical workers – space infrastructure
  26. Essential nuclear personnel
  27. Nuclear emergency responder
  28. OPCW, IAES and Euratom inspectors
  29. Specialist aerospace engineers
  30. Downstream oil facility workers
  31. Postal workers
  32. Medical treatment
  33. Registered health or care professionals
  34. Transporting human cells or blood
  35. Human and veterinary medicines
  36. Quality assurance inspectors for human and veterinary medicines
  37. Clinical trials or studies
  38. Data infrastructure maintenance
  39. IT and telecoms workers
  40. Work on electronic communications networks
  41. BBC broadcasting transmission network and services
  42. International prison escorts
  43. Environment Agency relating to flood and coastal erosion risk management
  44. Film and high-end television production
  45. International elite sportspersons
  46. Domestic elite sportspersons
  47. Government contractors – the conduct of negotiations
  48. National Lottery
  49. Advertising Productions

Arrivals still need to follow the same Coronavirus self-distancing rules as people who live in whatever region of the UK they are in, even if exempt from self-isolating for 14 days after you arrive. Local areas will have their own rules. Check the rules for:

Which Visa Application Centres are reopening after services were suspended due to Covid-19?

From June, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) began a phased reopening of Visa Application Centres (VAC) around the world. This will be subject to local circumstances but most have resumed services now.

Priority and Super Priority services are only available in some locations. If available, you’ll be able to purchase these services when booking your appointment.

Keep checking the websites of TLScontact for Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East; VFS Global for all other countries; as well as USCIS (which have US centres as well as VFS) for the latest information on when and where VACs have reopened.

Informally, the Home Office is extending the usual deadline for attending a biometric appointment to 240 days to allow for delays for booking biometric appointments.

Feel free to contact us on +44 (0)207 033 9527 or email enquiries@vanessaganguin.com for any help.

Can I apply for a visa if my local Visa Application Centre is shut due to Covid?

As a temporary concession to be reviewed by 30 November 2020, if applicants’ local Visa Application Centre (VAC) is still closed due to coronavirus restrictions, they can apply online and select a VAC in any country worldwide, subject to that country’s entry requirements, to submit their application and biometrics.

The Home Office has stated that people will be able to make any type of application, but at the start of the application the country where biometrics will be submitted must be picked.

Those who have submitted applications through Access UK and now intend to submit a new application at a different VAC from the one selected in that application, will need to make a new application and select the VAC where it will be submitted.  Click here to request a refund for an earlier application.

What happens if I cannot travel to the UK within 30 days of my visa being issued?

Those with 30-day temporary visa vignettes which have expired or are about to expire may email the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre (CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk) up to the end of 2020 to receive a new 90 day replacement short-term visa for free once Visa Application Centres reopen.

Emails should have “REPLACEMENT 30 DAY VISA” as the subject and include the applicant’s name, nationality, date of birth and the GWF reference number from their application form. 

Applicants will then be contacted when Visa Application Centres reopen to arrange for a replacement visa vignette to be endorsed in their passport.

(Those who have applied from an enrolment location operated by Immigration New Zealand will be subject to a slightly different process.)

The Home Office has also insisted that no one will be penalised if they have not been able to collect their Biometric Residence Permit.

For any queries please contact us on +44 (0) 207 033 9527 or email enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.

Will my indefinite leave to remain or naturalisation applicagtion be affected by extended absence from the UK?

Normally absences from the UK must not exceed 180 days in any 12 month period to qualify for indefinite leave to remain. However the Home Office has the discretion to waive excess absences where serious and compelling reasons can be demonstrated. The current pandemic has severely disrupted many people’s ability to travel, so we would expect people applying for indefinite leave to remain not to be penalised in such cases.

In addition from 1 September 2020, the Home Office updated its guidance on naturalisation applications to announce it now has discretion to waive excess absences in certain circumstances when absences were due to global pandemic.

We would advise people to retain evidence around their reasons for their inability to return to the UK. If working remotely, we would also advise retaining evidence relating to this.

You can contact us on +44 (0) 207 033 9527 or email enquiries@vanessaganguin.com to discuss this further.

Can I extend my visa if I am unable to leave the UK?

Those with a visa that expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 were able to request an extension until 31 July if unable to return home because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus.

Now travel restrictions are lifting globally, the Home Office on 29 July announced that people will no longer be able to extend their visa automatically on this basis and are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK though they have until 31 August to do so or apply to regularise their stay in the UK.  Anyone with leave to enter or remain expiring on or before 31 August 2020 will be able to remain until 31 August 2020.

Those leaving the UK: those with leave due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 will be given an extra month’s grace period within the UK to 31 August 2020.

During this grace period conditions of stay in the UK will be the same as the conditions of existing leave. So those whose conditions allowed them to work, study or rent accommodation may continue to do so during August 2020 ahead of their departure.

Those able and intending to leave up to 31 August will not be required to inform the Home Office.

Those intending to leave the UK but unable to do so by 31 August 2020 may request additional time to stay, also known as ‘exceptional indemnity’, by contacting the coronavirus immigration team (CIT). They may be asked to evidence their reasons.

Those intending to stay in the UK:
Those who decide to stay in the UK who have a visa or leave that was due to expire between the 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 should apply for the necessary leave to remain in the UK. They will also be able to submit an application from within the UK where they would normally need to apply for a visa from their home country.

The terms of leave will remain the same until your application is decided. Those switching into work or study routes may be able to commence work or study whilst their application is under consideration. (See below or contact us on 0207 033 9527 or email enquiries@vanessaganguin.com).

Those who have overstayed their leave without permission already:
Those whose visa or leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 will not face future adverse immigration consequences for failing to make an application to regularise their stay during this period. However, they must do so by 31 August.

A request can be made by completing this online form. (Anyone applying before 6 April could contact the dedicated Covid-19 team at UKVI by emailing them (CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk) with full name, date of birth, nationality, existing visa details, and reason (eg: flights suspended or self-isolation).

Can I apply for a different visa without having to leave the UK during the Covid pandemic?

While the UK is facing Covid-19 measures, switching visas has been made easier for those otherwise facing having to leave the UK. Home Office guidance restricts this concession to those with leave set to expire up on or before 31 August 2020. Those with leave due to expire on or after 1 September 2020 may also apply to switch where there is an urgent need, for example to start a new job or complete a course of study. They will be able to submit an application form from within the UK where one would usually need to apply for a visa from their home country.

If switching into work or study routes people may be able to commence work or study whilst their application is under consideration.

Applications can be made, despite a limited service resuming in only some UKVCAS centres (see question below). (Check the Sopra Steria website for the latest news on the UKVCAS service it runs).

The Home Office has also recently announced that in some cases it will reuse biometric data that people have already given on previous occasions – though not in all cases, which should help clear the backlog.

In the case of Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsorships, a new job can be commenced while waiting for visa application centres as well as English language and Life in the UK test centres to reopen, so long as a CoS has been issued and the application has been submitted prior to the expiry of their previous leave. Some are reopening – see below. 

If in doubt, please give us a call on 0207 033 9527 or email enquiries@vanessaganguin.com

When are visa centres in the UK reopening for biometric appointments?

Limited service at a reduced number of UKVCAS centres resumed in June, but until the lower capacity service deals with existing postponed appointments they are the first priority before appointments for new customers can be made. Existing customers should receive an email about booking a new appointment at their registered email address. They will be seen in the order that they registered. Otherwise, check for updates and more details on the UKVCAS website.

Some people may not need to attend a service point if they have submitted biometric details in the past.

Service Points opened in major UK cities in June, and many more will continue to reopen throughout July.  Updated information on which centres are open, as well as opening days and times can be found here.

Current Home Office guidance indicates that applications will be kept live for 240 days from the date of application to allow for biometrics to be enrolled.

What happens to leave to remain applications if some English language and Life in the UK test centres are closed?

The Home Office has recently confirmed that pending leave to remain applications will be put on hold (and not refused) until applicants have been unable to sit a Life in the UK or English language test. Test centres have been gradually reopening since June (see question below).

When and where are English language tests reopening?

English language test centres are reopening now. To find out where and when you can book an English language test outside the UK, you can check these providers’ websites: International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Pearson Test of English or LanguageCert.

For the latest on booking centres in the UK, please check: IELTS, Trinity College or LanguageCert.

How will the Covid-19 measures impact Tier 1 Entrepreneurs seeking leave to remain?

During the current situation, the Home Office has now confirmed: “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.

“These arrangements will continue for applications made after 31 May 2020, where the jobs you are relying on were disrupted due to coronavirus.”

Please contact us for more details on this or for more details on any of these questions on +44(0)207 033 9527 or email enquiries@vanessaganguin.com. 

If my endorsement for a Global Talent visa expires will I still be able to come to the UK?

If an endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because someone has not been able to make an application for a Global Talent visa, they may still be eligible.

An endorsement will be accepted if both:

  • it was granted on or after 24 January 2020
  • the application was made before 1 January 2021

Applications that do not meet these requirements will be considered on a case by case basis.

Please do not hesitate to contact us promptly on +44(0)207 033 9527 or email enquiries@vanessaganguin.com to discuss if this may apply.

If an endorsement for a Start-up or Innovator visa expires will I still be able to come to the UK?

If a Start-up or Innovator visa endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because an applicant has not been able to travel to the UK, they may still be eligible for a visa. The Home Office says it will consider all applications on a case by case basis.

Please do not hesitate to contact us promptly on +44(0)207 033 9527 or email enquiries@vanessaganguin.com to discuss if this may apply.

If weddings or civil ceremonies are delayed due to Covid-19 can people extend their fiancé/fiancée visas?

Those who are in the UK with six months’ leave as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner whose wedding or civil ceremony has been delayed due to coronavirus can stay in the UK until 31 August 2020 now.

If the wedding or civil ceremony will not be able to take place before 31 August 2020, additional time to stay can be requested, also known as ‘exceptional assurance’, by completing the online form and providing evidence of when the wedding will take place.

Otherwise, those affected can apply to extend their stay for a further six months to allow the ceremony to take place.

Will a loss of income due to Covid-19 affect a family or private life visa application?

The Home Office has said it will consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income due to coronavirus in such cases, provided the requirement was met for at least six months up to March 2020.

If salary has reduced due to the Job Retention Scheme furlough, the Home Office will take account of what income would be if it was still 100%.

For the self-employed, a loss of annual income due to coronavirus between 1 March 2020 and 31 August 2020 will generally be disregarded, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications.

If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us promptly on 0207 033 9527 or email enquiries@vanessaganguin.com to discuss. 

What other coronavirus concessions are there for applications to enter the UK or remain on the basis of family or private life?

As well as the concessions above on postponed ceremonies and income dips, the Home Office has announced other temporary concessions for those unable to meet the requirements of the family Immigration Rules.

Up to 31 August 2020 applicants in the UK as a visitor or with leave of up to six months can switch into a family or private life route provided the requirements of the Immigration Rules are otherwise met.

As part of these concessions, a short break in continuous residence will be overlooked for those unable to travel back to the UK due to coronavirus travel restrictions whose leave has expired. They are expected to make their next application as soon as possible.

There will be no future adverse immigration consequences if there has been short break of continuous residence if leave expired between 1 March 2020 and 31 August 2020. However those in this situation must now make a valid application to stay by 31 August 2020, or make arrangements to leave the UK.

For those who intend to leave the UK but are not able to do so by 31 August, additional time to stay may be requested, also known as ‘exceptional assurance’, by completing the online form.

In some cases, the Home Office has also said that they will be able to decide an application without seeing certain specified documents if coronavirus as made them impossible to get hold of. Otherwise, it may be possible to submit specified documents at a later date, after the application.

Those with an English language test as part of their application can apply for an exemption if the test centre was closed or they were unable to travel to it due to coronavirus when they applied.

From June there will be a phased resumption of services with some English language test centres reopening. (See above: When and where are English language tests reopening?)

For the latest on booking English language test centres in the UK, please check: IELTS, Trinity College or LanguageCert.

You can contact us on 0207 033 9527 or email enquiries@vanessaganguin.com if you have any concerns regarding these Covid concessions.

Which health and care workers can extend visas for free?

Frontline health and care workers, including midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists, with visas due to expire before 1 October 2020 will receive a free automatic one-year extension. It will apply to those working both in the NHS and independent sector and may include their family members too if they are dependant on eligible health workers’ visas, and their’s runs out too before 1 October 2020. This expands on the announcement last month for NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics.

Free visa extensions are available for the following:

  • biochemist
  • biological scientist
  • dental practitioner
  • health professional
  • medical practitioner
  • medical radiographer
  • midwife
  • nurse
  • occupational therapist
  • ophthalmologist
  • paramedic
  • pharmacist
  • physiotherapist
  • podiatrist
  • psychologist
  • social worker
  • speech and language therapist
  • therapy professional

The above can check with their employer if they are eligible, and if they have already paid for a visa extension they can email the UKVI NHS team (UKVINHSTeam@homeoffice.gov.uk) to withdraw it and apply for a refund if they have not already provided biometrics as part of that application. They are also exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge.

There is also no longer a limit on the number of hours those with leave in the following categories can work or volunteer for the NHS:

  • tier 4 student
  • tier 2 worker and your NHS is a second job
  • visiting academic researcher
  • short-term visa holder which permits volunteering.
Which frontline workers are exempt of paying the Immigration Health Surcharge?

On 21 May the Health Secretary unveiled a plan to roll out exemptions from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge to all NHS, independent health and care workers as well as the above professions who can renew their visas for free. The Government is set to unveil more details. The current surcharge is £400, rising to £624 this October. It is due to be removed for all NHS staff, including health workers, porters and cleaners, as well as independent health workers and social care workers, many of whom are on the minimum wage.

The Government has already began refunding Immigration Health Surcharge payments for any healthcare professionals on Tier 2 visas who have paid since 31 March 2020, and this process will continue.

More information will be published on the Immigration Health Surcharge GOV.UK pages for customers to contact the scheme directly if they believe they are due a refund. The Department of Health and Social Care is currently working with the sector to set up operational arrangements for reimbursing health and social care staff outside the scope of the Health and Care visa. These arrangements will commence from 1 October in six month reimbursements.

How does the Coronavirus Bereavement Scheme work?

Family members of NHS and independent health and social care workers who die from COVID-19 will be offered immediate indefinite leave to remain free of charge

They not need to do anything to receive this status. UKVI will contact employers to identify those eligible and will arrange for you to be issued with indefinite leave to remain.

However, people can contact the UKVI NHS team at: UKVINHSTeam@homeoffice.gov.uk.

Can migrants with no recourse to public funds receive payment if furloughed?

The good news is that payments for furloughed staff as part of the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme are not classified as “public funds” for migrants, so they would not be breaking any regulations.

Most migrants have the condition stipulated in their leave of “no access to public funds” and are unable to claim Universal Credit or other benefits available to ease people’s economic plight during social distancing measures. That said, “New Style” Jobseekers Allowance, Statutory Sick Pay, and “New Style” Employment Support Allowance do not count as public funds.

Can migrants have recourse to public funds in extreme circumstances?

Most migrants have the condition stipulated in their leave of “no access to public funds” and are unable to claim Universal Credit or other benefits available to ease people’s economic plight during social distancing measures. That said, “New Style” Jobseekers Allowance, Statutory Sick Pay, and “New Style” Employment Support Allowance do not count as public funds.

Those who are facing extreme hardship and have been granted leave to remain on family/private life grounds may be eligible to have the “no recourse to public funds” condition removed if their financial circumstances have changed since the leave was granted and they are no longer able to provide food or housing for themselves or their family; their child is at risk because of their very low income or they had financial problems when they first applied but failed to provide evidence of this.

Following a recent High Court judgement, Home Office guidance was further softened on 29 May so that if people granted or seeking indefinite leave to remain under the family or private life routes are destitute or at risk of imminent destitution, then the ‘no recourse to public funds’ stipulation should be lifted.