Are your migrant staff
23 April 2020
Due to the current circumstances, many migrants in the United Kingdom continue to seek clarity and guidance in relation to their immigration status.
If you are an employer of migrant staff, we are sure you will have received many questions and queries from anxious staff affected by changes to UK immigration and borders due to the coronavirus.
As an aid, we have listed below the most common questions received from Smith Stone Walters’ clients since the lockdown, together with our answers.
- Q. Where can I find published changes and guidance from UK Visas and Immigration?
A. The collection of Home Office guidance for those affected by changes to UK immigration and borders due to coronavirus can be viewed here.
- Q. My current UK leave is expiring soon. Can I stay?
A. Yes. For individuals whose leave has expired or is due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020, and who cannot leave because of travel restrictions related to COVID-19, they can request permission to reside temporarily in the UK until 31 May 2020.
- Q. What must I do if I cannot leave the UK before my visa expires due to travel restrictions?
A. You must request an extension by updating your records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT). Your immigration records will be updated to reflect your circumstances. This arrangement is for those who were not intending to remain in the UK beyond the expiry. Those seeking to extend their existing stay in order to remain in the UK long-term should apply for an extension in the normal way.
- Q. Can I apply to remain in the UK within a different immigration category during the lockdown?
A. Switching to an eligible route is possible if your leave has expired or will expire on or after 24 January 2020 to 31 May 2020. You will be required to apply online but you will not be able to book a biometric appointment at this time since all biometric enrolment services are temporarily closed. An individual’s immigration status in the UK will not change as a result of them not being able to attend an appointment.
- Q. I am due to commence new employment in the UK but will work remotely. How can I evidence my right to work in the United Kingdom without meeting with my new HR colleagues?
A. Right to work checks have been temporarily adjusted due to coronavirus (COVID-19). This is to make it easier for employers to carry them out. Revised checks can now be carried out over video calls to continue to allow onboarding of employees.
- Q. My Tier 2 change of employment application remains pending. Am I able to commence employment with my new employer?
A. Yes. In certain instances, Tier 2 migrants are able to start work for their new employer while their change of employment application is pending and awaiting a decision.
- Q. As a Tier 2 visa holder, can my employer place me on furlough?
A. Yes. Sponsors are permitted to temporarily reduce the salary of sponsored workers to 80% of the salary recorded on their CoS or £2,500 per month, whichever is lower. This is on the understanding that, once the temporary salary reduction has ended, the salary will be returned to at least the same level as previously indicated on the assigned Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). All changes in salary must be reported on the Sponsor Management System within 10 working days of the change.
- Q. If I am furloughed, can I undertake voluntary work?
A. During any period of furlough, Tier 2 employees are permitted to carry out voluntary work in some circumstances.
- Q. I am seeking to move from overseas to the UK for employment purposes. When will the UK Visa Application Centres (VAC) reopen?
A. To date, no decision has been made as to when each UK visa centre will reopen and begin to accept new applications. For updates to the status of particular VACs, please continue to check TLS (Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East) or VFS global (for all other countries).
- Q. I received my UK visa but have been unable to travel to the UK within the required 30 day period. Can I still travel using this ‘expired’ vignette?
A. The current answer is no. The Home Office recognise this is a problem for many. It is also trying to mitigate against asking all visa holders who cannot travel to the UK within the dates of their 30 day visas to apply for “replacement vignettes” when the visa centres reopen. We are advised that the authorities are currently working on developing new policies and procedures to tackle this issue and to ensure all individuals stuck overseas are not adversely affected.
For further information
If you require specific immigration advice, please contact a member of Smith Stone Walters’ immigration team. We will continue to provide further immigration updates via our website. Alternatively, the Home Office has set up a Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre which can be reached by calling: 0800 678 1767.