Covid-19 UK Immigration Law Guide
How Westkin is maintaining services to new and existing clients?
We are open and to assist clients we can offer either video or face to face appointments, evening appointments or weekend appointments.
Why you should complete your UK Immigration application now, and not hold off due to COVID-19 restrictions?
Many of our clients are taking advantage of the COVID -19 situation in order to make sure they remain first in the queue to make their immigration applications. You can do the same through our strategic approach to preparing your case.
Application from outside the UK
For those outside of the United Kingdom looking to obtain visas we strongly advise that they do not delay applications, even if travel to the UK is not immediately possible.
To understand the reason for this, it is important to understand the stages in making a visa application.
(a) Preparation of the application – this is the work that is put in by a client with a visa process, completing forms, deciding which routes to take in showing the requirements and gathering the documents.
(b) Submission of documents and forms – this is done through an online portal.
(c) Consideration of submitted documents and forms – the officials reviewing the can start even before fingerprints and photographs are taken.
(d) Biometric Appointment – This is where fingerprints and photographs are taken.
(e) Visa granted – the initial visa is given to allow the applicant to travel.
So why are our clients not delaying due to COVID-19? The reason for this is that most visa application centres worldwide are still open. These centres remain open to then invite applicants to an appointment in which their fingerprints are taken. These centres are considering applications and granting applications.
For our clients, these visa applications can be made so that the visa start date isn’t immediate. We can simply choose a date when we would like the visa to start from, once we feel the current crisis has died down. Whichever date we choose, applicants still have 30 days to travel from that date. If they need further time after that this can be arranged by our immigration lawyers.
It is important to be first in the queue when travel becomes easier so your plans are not delayed. This delay is likely to be significant, as beating the rush will be important as there will be a lot of pent up demand which you do not want to be on the end of.
There are a small number of countries (Iran for example) where applications can be submitted even though currently fingerprint and photographs are not being taken in person. This does not prohibit the preparatory work to be done by our immigration solicitors on your case, nor does it prevent the submission of documents online so these can be analysed by immigration staff in the meantime.
Applications from within the UK
These should not be delayed as invariably there will be a deadline, either a visa expiry date or a date whereby Indefinite Leave to Remain can be applied for.
The Home Office have not waived deadlines to apply due to Coronavirus. You should not delay your applications, to do so means that you could jeopardise future status or lead to detention / removal.
Whilst services are effected and could well be further disrupted, submissions should be made on time and regardless.
What if you cannot get all the mandatory documents needed in time due to disruption caused by COVID-19?
Where we have clients who are in this position, we are contacting the Home Office for them. It is best to make the application without the documentation and then to set out when the document will be ready and to provide detailed evidence as to why the documents was delayed due to COVID-19.
What if you are already past the deadline for applying?
If your visa or current extension has already expired and you couldn’t apply due to COVID-19, then please let us know. We have advised clients to make the application as soon as possible, even if it is late our lawyers will then continue to correspond with the Home Office explaining the situation, seeking discretion and utilising any updated published guidance to your advantage.
Whatever your worry, our lawyers are here to assist. Call us on 0207 118 4546 and we can advise on how we can assist you, and provide you a quote for services.
How is the Coronavirus impacting the UK immigration process?
YOU DON’T NEED TO LEAVE THE UK!
The Home Office has announced that anyone (including visitors) whose leave expires after the 24th January and is unable to leave due to travel restrictions or because they have had to quarantine themselves will be able to extend their leave until the 31st May. After this point their leave will come under review and may need further extension.
Switch to a different visa in-country!
The Home Office has also announced they will be expanding in-country switching provisions meaning that applicants who wish to change visas may not need to leave the country and apply.
It should be noted this only applies to persons whose leave will expire on or before 31st May 2020.
More information is soon to follow as government advice evolves.
If you are in-country applicant wishing to submit your biometrics or original passport to the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS), they have the following guidance regarding appointments.
It should be noted that the requirement to enrol biometrics within 45 days.
If you have an appointment, it is strongly advised that you do not bring anyone else with you; unless said individual, or individuals, are necessary for you to complete your appointment for medical or mobility issues.
You should not attend your appointment if:
- You are experiencing any symptoms such as a cough or high temperature
- You are self-isolating
- You have been confirmed to be suffering from Coronavirus
You are not at risk of becoming an overstayer as your immigration caseworker has submitted an online form on your behalf. This will mean that even if the centre is temporarily closed or the appointment must be cancelled, all that will happen is your decision will be delayed.
It should also be noted that applicants who are unable to attend their meeting will be entitled to a refund so long as their legal representative notifies UKVCAS who will notify the Home Office. It should also be noted that a number of UKVCAS centres have closed as well as service and support centres. However, there are several core centres and several of the key premium centres such as the premium lounge in Central London which are open. This may change in the coming days.
Home Office Guidance to Employers
The Home Office has specified that Sponsors will not be required to detail absences for sponsored students or employees on Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 visas if said absences are a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Furthermore, Sponsors will not be required to end sponsorships for students who have been unable to attend for over 60 days and in the same vein, employees who have had to absent for four weeks. The decision to terminate a sponsorship will be left in the hands of the employer.
It is also worth noting that rights to work and rent checks are still mandatory, but they may be conducted remotely.
TIER 1 (ENTREPRENEURS)
The Home Office has announced concessions for Tier 1 Entrepreneurs whose business has been affected by the COVID19 pandemic.
You will no longer be required 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.
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.
It should be noted the time when your employees were furloughed, will not count towards the 12 month period.
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.
What if I have issued a sponsorship but my sponsor hasn’t applied for a visa?
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. We will not automatically refuse such cases.
For example, we may accept a CoS or CAS if they have become invalid.
Tier 4 sponsors
The Home Office has specified that Sponsors are not obliged to offer distance learning courses to Tier 4 students but maintain that if such a course is available it will not be a breach of duties to offer said course.
Those who have been issued a Tier 4 visa but have been unable to come to the UK due to travel restrictions may take up distance learning and sponsors are not required to withdraw their sponsorship. If this is a distance learning course and they do not need to come to the UK a sponsorship under Tier 4 is not required.
These are temporary provisions which will last until the 31 May.
Tier 2 and 5 Sponsors
Those on Tier 2 and 5 sponsorships may work from home without sponsors notifying the Home Office if they are preventing from attending their regular workplace due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, other changes must still be reported.
It is important to note that Tier 2 & 5 Priority Service line has been suspended.
The Home Office has confirmed that original documents are not required for sponsorship submission or for sponsor licence applications. They can be sent as scanned documents via email and digital signatures are also accepted. This means during this crisis you shouldn’t delay your application as it can be through the internet.
ASYLUM AND DETENTION APPLICANTS
With respects to asylum applications, the Home Office has taken steps to protect migrants which includes a temporary suspension of substantive face to face asylum interviews and cancelled interviews booked from 19 March onwards. The Home Office will also no longer require submissions to be taken in person.
Whilst the Home Office has stated that they do not have plans for a wholesale systematic release of detained migrants they have released 350 migrants who were at risk of contracting the virus as they lived in close quarters.
With respects to care within the detention centres, the Home Office is enhancing scanning for the virus; providing separate rooms for migrants who are symptomatic; creating individualised care plans; and ensuring cleaning and hygiene products are easily accessible.
The Home Office has also stated that they will commit to a review of all detained migrants and suspend the detention of people for administrative removal from 49 countries including, India, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Albania, Jamaica and Sudan.
Due to citizenship ceremonies being suspended, as large gatherings are discouraged. Naturalisation has been postponed as this is a required step.
Due to the vital work NHS frontline workers are undertaking in the fight against the coronavirus, doctors, nurses and paramedics with visas set to expire before 1 October 2020 will have them automatically extended for one year.
Life in the UK Test
Life in the UK Test centres have now been temporarily closed from 21 March to 13 April 2020. However, you can still book test from 13 April 2020 onwards.
SUPPORT FOR MIGRANTS
The Home office has stated that self-employed migrants who have made tax returns in the last few years may be eligible for a grant through the income support scheme.
The government has also worked with renters and landlords to ensure that renters are not evicted by providing support for them.
It is worth noting that despite the difficult times, the Home Office is still mandating the rights to work and rent checks are still conducted but these can be undertaken remotely.
Due to difficulties caused by the Coronavirus, there have been a number of closures of visas services available for those applying from abroad.
Suspension of Visa Services
The UK has stopped accepting visa applications from;
– Cayman Islands
– Dominican Republic
– New Zealand
– Papua New Guinea
– Peru – Philippines
– Sri Lanka
– St Lucia
– United Arab Emirates
It should be noted that the US application support centres are closed for biometric appointments.
The UK has confirmed that it will continue to receive Biometrics enrolments and Package Transmission for online applications from Indonesia.
The TLS centre in Alexandria, Egypt has also cancelled all existing appointments until further notice.
THE UK HAS SUSPENDED PRIORITY VISA SERVICE FOR:
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- South Korea
- Hong Kong
The Tier 2 & 5 Priority Service line has also been suspended.
The First-Tier Tribunal will be hearing appeals for the last day today but will move on to remote (online) hearings. Some cases may be adjourned until further notice. Upper Tribunal hearings have been cancelled until further notice.
Delays with applications
Due to significant disruption caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), there are expected delays with the rollout of the proposed new immigration system, which was set to be introduced next year.
Experts are expecting the Brexit transition period to be extended and for the EU Settlement Scheme deadline to also be prolonged. Documents are no longer being accepted by post for this scheme, for the time being.