Coronavirus (COVID-19) and UK immigration for workers and employers
Due to the UK government’s announcement on 22 February 2021, changes to the existing COVID-19 concessions for non UK citizens are expected. Continue to check the Home Office website in conjunction to relying on the below information.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted visa applications and has led the government to make temporary changes to the rules for businesses and their employees.
This guide explains the changes that immigration solicitors should be aware of.
UK visa applicants and temporary residents
Most UKVCAS application centres in the UK have reopened.
The UK government has released advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents affected by the current travel restrictions and continues to update this page regularly.
The Home Office’s Coronavirus Immigration Help (CIH) team can also provide guidance for those whose immigration status may be affected by the pandemic.
Call: 0800 678 1767
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
There are also delays being experienced in processing applications submitted under the EU Settlement Scheme.
Those with visas due to expire between 1 January 2021 and 28 February 2021 can request “exceptional assurance”, allowing them to remain in the UK until circumstances allow them to depart.
Exceptional assurance is not an extension of immigration permission: it's just a form of protection against adverse immigration action.
However, the Home Office has confirmed that those with exceptional assurance can continue to benefit from the immigration conditions attached to their expired leave (such as ability to work, study, rent accommodation).
Those who have previously applied for exceptional assurance must reapply to extend their protected status if they have not been able to depart the UK before the previous assurance date they were given.
The visas of people working in eligible professions will automatically be extended by one year if their visa is due to expire between 1 October 2020 and 31 March 2021. Family members are included and there are no fees involved.
Visa holders who were planning to stay longer can apply for an extension online using the relevant form for their visa. Concessionary switching provisions allow individuals to switch to other immigration routes from within the UK when normally they would be required to lodge applications from overseas.
Applicants must make their in-country applications before their current visa/exceptional assurance status expires.
As this provision is frequently amended, you should review the Home Office coronavirus website guidance for the latest position.
Temporary concessionary provisions
The Home Office is applying temporary concessionary provisions in some immigration categories, where an applicant is unable to meet the requirements for permission to stay due to the pandemic.
For more information for applicants, visit the GOV.UK website.
UK employers and sponsors
Temporary concessions on sponsor obligations have been introduced for employers and education providers who are sponsoring overseas nationals.
Further information on the temporary changes to a sponsor’s reporting requirements and ability to furlough staff who are sponsored, as well as permitted salary reductions can be found on the following:
- government COVID-19 advice for Tier 2, 4 and 5 sponsors
- government guidance for employers on furloughing
Right to work checks
While COVID-19 measures are in place, workers should submit a scanned copy of original documents for employers to check on a video call.
For a list of acceptable documents, see the government’s guide for employers.
If workers cannot provide any of the acceptable documents, employers can use the Home Office Employer Checking Service.
Once lockdown measures end, employers will need to complete retrospective checks in the normal way.
Those arriving to the UK may need to:
- undertake a COVID-19 test prior to travel
- complete a passenger locator form
- self-isolate on arrival in the UK
As this guidance frequently changes, regularly check the government guidance on travel. This page includes links to the requirements for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, which may differ depending on jurisdiction.