Qs and As from the Fox Williams Immigration webinar, 30 June 2020
Thank you for your interest in our webinar on Tuesday 30 June. A number of you raised questions during the webinar and we have set out below the questions you sent in, and our responses. All of the information is current at the time of release, 2 July 2020.
Q1. How do we undertake right to work checks when we are not physically in the office? What should businesses be doing now?
A. Employers are temporarily not required to see an employee’s original document in order to carry out a compliant right to work check and can follow the steps outlined here. Retrospective full checks must be made within eight weeks of the pandemic measures ending.
If the person has status under the EU Settlement Scheme or a BRP card, you can check their status online.
Q2. Can we reduce the salary of a sponsored worker if their hours are reduced or they are furloughed?
A. The Home Office has said that sponsors may temporarily reduce the salary of sponsored employees to 80% of their salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is the lower. This includes where they have been furloughed. Salaries must be returned to their previous levels once pandemic arrangements have ended.
We advise sponsors to seek advice before putting any changes into effect to ensure they are compliant with UK immigration and employment law.
Q3. I am unable to travel to the UK within the 30 day period on my entry visa (vignette)
A. Visa application centres have now gradually started opening around the world. If a 30-day entry visa has expired, or is about to expire, you can request a replacement visa with a revised validity date of 90 days free of charge. Once visa application centres in your country reopen you will be contacted to arrange for the replacement visa to be endorsed in your passport.
Non-visa nationals (USA, Canada, Australia, NZ, Singapore, Japan, South Korea etc) may have alternatives available to them and should seek advice to before taking any action.
Q4. How does quarantine work? Are we likely to see measures being relaxed?
A. The first government review is due very shortly. At present anyone who is not exempt, is required to complete a form before arrival to the UK and is required to self-isolate for 14 days. There is a long list of exemptions, so it may be worth checking whether it applies in your case. The government is expected to announce airbridges shortly.
Q5. Can I extend my leave to remain in the UK as I am unable to travel – how will I avoid overstaying?
A. Yes, leave can be extended in two ways:
1) For those who only need to extend their permission in the UK due to it expiring between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 and their not being able to leave the UK before their expiry date due to the pandemic. This extension can be requested by updating your records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team via an online form. This will extend your permission to 30 July 2020.
2) For those who want to extend their permission for the long term, they must submit a valid application for their appropriate visa route.
Provided your application form is submitted online before the expiry of your existing visa, your permission will continue until the Home Office makes a decision on your application, even where this is after your visa expiry date. Employers can verify your right to work after your visa has expired by using the Employer Checking Service.
Q6. My visa is about to expire but I am stuck outside the UK and am prevented from returning
A. The government’s position is that, ‘no one will have a negative outcome through the immigration system due to a circumstance that was beyond their control’. If your visa has expired, or is expiring whilst you are outside the UK and unable to return due to circumstances beyond your control and due to the pandemic, then it should be possible to request the Home Office to exercise discretion and to apply for a new visa from outside the UK, where previously the application would have been made from inside the UK. This however affects different visa categories in different ways, and it is important to seek advice beforehand.
Q7. I have been made redundant and my visa is about to expire – what do I need to think about and do?
A. Your employer will be obligated to report the termination of your employment to the Home Office within 10 working days of your last day of employment. Once the Home Office acknowledges that report it will normally curtail your leave to 60 days (if you have more than 60 days remaining on your visa) from the date of acknowledgement. The Home Office is not currently issuing curtailment letters during the pandemic. Once it resumes, you must leave the UK before the end of your curtailment period unless you are able to switch employer or into a new visa category to remain in the UK. You should seek advice to see what options are available to you.
Q8. How will absences from the UK due to coronavirus impact on my ILR application?
A. The Home Office has not yet officially confirmed that absences due to the pandemic will be disregarded for the purposes of Indefinite Leave to Remain, however it is likely that it will. Home Office guidance already provides that excess absences can be overlooked in serious and compelling circumstances, including natural disaster. The global pandemic should fall under this exception, although not yet confirmed.
Q9. How can I submit biometrics? (either in the UK or overseas)
A. All visa application centres both in the UK and abroad have been closed. Some visa application centres overseas are now beginning to reopen, and visa application points in the UK have begun to reopen and invite registered applicants to book an appointment. If applying from overseas you will need to check whether visa application centres in your country are open. If applying from within the UK and you have already submitted your online form, the Home Office will contact you to let you know when you may book an appointment.
Q10. How can I meet the Life in the UK test requirement?
A. Life in the UK Test centres were closed but have now reopened. Those required to pass the test as part of their application, should do so before submitting their application where possible.
Test dates are in high demand, however, due to a backlog of applicants. This may be problematic for those who want to make an application soon, for example due to their current visa expiry date coming up. We would recommend that anyone in this situation seeks legal advice.
Q11. How will my application for British Citizenship be affected?
A. As with all other applications submitted from within the UK, a biometric appointment cannot be booked and attended in the normal way and therefore the application will be on hold until the applicant is invited to attend an appointment to submit their biometrics. Processing times will likely experience considerable delays due to this.
Q12. How can I switch my status in-country? (e.g. if my leave expires before/after 31 July)
A. If your permission expires between 24 January and 31 July, you are permitted (due to the pandemic) to switch your visa category into a long term category from within the UK where you would usually be required to leave the UK to switch into that category. All of the same requirements of the category must be met to switch your permission, other than that you can apply from within the UK.
For those switching employer under the Tier 2 category, you may start working for your new sponsor before your application is decided as long as you have been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship and your form has been submitted online.
Q13. What if my permission expires after 31 July but I need to urgently switch category? I am supposed to leave the UK to make the application but visa application centres in my home country are still closed until further notice.
A. The Home Office last week introduced guidance permitting those who urgently need to switch permission but whose visa expire after 31 July, to do so outside of the exemption parameters. Your circumstances could be considered urgent, for example if you need to start a new job or course of study.
Q14. Can I travel whilst I wait for my application to be decided?
A. If you have submitted your form online and your existing visa has not yet expired, you are able to travel before you are invited to attend a biometric appointment by the Home Office. Once you have attended an appointment and submitted your biometrics, you must not travel until a decision has been made on your application, as doing so will have the effect of withdrawing your application. Quarantine periods should also be considered when travelling.
We recommend you seek advice before attempting travel without a valid visa document.