Going the extra mile for our
clients during COVID-19

In recent months, businesses across the globe have felt the devastating impact of the COVID-19 crisis on their income and services, but most importantly their workforces. Travel restrictions and the closure of visa centres worldwide has led to a halt in new applications, requests for visa extensions and cases of employees overseas facing multiple barriers to returning home.

Here at Smith Stone Walters, our staff have quickly adapted to the ‘new normal’, with our team of immigration advisers in London, Mumbai, New York and Hong Kong working remotely at home to ensure our customers are fully supported during these uncertain times.

We pride ourselves in providing a ‘WOW’ service to our clients at all times, but during this period of heightened uncertainty surrounding immigration, this is a promise that we must uphold now more than ever.

So when our clients turned to us for advice and support in some complex cases impacted by Coronavirus, the Smith Stone Walters team was delighted to go the extra mile to resolve our clients’ urgent situations.

Going above and beyond to help a stranded employee return home

When one of our corporate clients approached us with an urgent need to fly a stranded employee home to Indonesia amid the coronavirus pandemic, our team moved quickly to work out a solution.

An Indonesian engineer employed by the company had been stuck in Mauritania, Africa, for six weeks unable to fly to his home country due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions. Unable to fly him direct, the employer managed to book him on a private charter flight from Mauritania to Farnborough airport in the UK, with a subsequent next day flight from London Heathrow to Jakarta.

However, a problem emerged in that as a visa national, the employee did not have permission to enter the UK as a visitor or otherwise. With just two days to find a solution, the team at Smith Stone Walters contacted immigration officials at both UK airports to discuss his landing in the UK. Once the list of required documentation had been established, we were able to facilitate visa free entry for a visa national in transit, with pre-approval for his landing without a visa.

As a result of this quick thinking, we were able to ensure our client fulfilled their duties as an employer and the traveler returned home safely.

A race against time to secure UK work visa clearance ahead of the lockdown

Our team is used to hitting tight deadlines. So when a Turkish national based in New Hampshire contacted our New York office with an expiring US visa and an impending flight to Istanbul booked, our adviser Jack had to act fast to ensure the client was able to secure her UK Tier 2 work visa prior to the authorities calling time on her right to remain in the US.

Given the urgency of the situation, Jack worked quickly to submit the client’s UK visa application and after checking appointment availability at the New Hampshire centre, advised her to attend as a walk-in appointment that day. Acting on this advice, the applicant was able to submit her biometric information that day and organise express delivery of her passport to the Smith Stone Walters office.

Once in possession of the client’s passport, Jack was able to submit the Tier 2 application alongside a business case for the processing to be expedited. Within just three working days, the process was complete and the applicant’s documents were returned directly to the applicant in New Hampshire.

Thanks to the swift action taken on this time-sensitive case, our client was able to successfully land in Istanbul before either her US visa expired or a travel lockdown was imposed. Critically, she was also now in possession of her new UK visa and therefore primed to travel onto the UK and relocate for work purposes.

Seeking solutions when submitting sponsor licence applications

Our team of immigration advisers are experienced in supporting clients with sponsor licence applications. However, the impact of Coronavirus and the lockdown in the UK has led to an increasing number of clients facing problems in submitting the required level of documentation to support their Home Office petitions.

During the lockdown, our London team have successfully assisted a number of UK business in securing a Tier 2 licence. This support has involved seeking solutions on alternative documents that our clients have been unable to submit due to social distancing measures, and producing business cases for the Home Office to accept these under the current circumstances.

For those businesses already registered as Tier 2 sponsors, record-keeping, reporting and compliance duties must be maintained, even during the lockdown. With many of our clients facing uncertainty at this time, the Smith Stone Walters team remain focussed on providing comprehensive support and guidance to employers, ensuring they remain compliant and avoid disruptions to their business.

We’re still here to help

COVID-19 and the UK lockdown measures are continuing to impact businesses’ and individuals’ immigration needs. Here at Smith Stone Walters, we can provide up to date, practical advice on a range of immigration areas, helping you to work around barriers and focus on what matters most – your employees.

If you are an employer of migrant staff seeking clarity on the current guidelines, or if you need assistance with managing your business’s immigration needs, we are here to help. Our team of expert advisers will support you every step of the way to help you achieve your immigration goals, no matter how complex. Contact a member of the team today.

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