Coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted visa applications and 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
UK visa application centres are closed, both in and outside the UK.
The UK government has released advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents affected by the current travel restrictions.
The Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre can advise on how immigration is affected.
There are also delays in processing applications to the EU Settlement Scheme. People can still email questions or complete the identity stage of an application using the ‘EU Exit: ID Document Check’ app, but the Home Office is currently not accepting identity evidence by post.
Visas due to expire between 4 January 2020 and 31 May 2020 can be extended to 31 May 2020 if the visa holder:
- cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to COVID-19
- is not planning to stay in the UK long term
They must update their records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team. The only people who do not have to do this are NHS workers (doctors, nurses and paramedics), whose visas will automatically be extended by one year if they’re due to expire before 1 October 2020.
Visa holders who were planning to stay longer can still apply for an extension online using the relevant form for their visa.
Switching to a long-term visa
For some visa applications, people would usually need to apply from their home country. Until 31 May 2020, they can apply to switch to a long-term UK visa from within the UK.
However, we understand this may only be possible for visas due to expire before 31 May 2020.
Tier 1 visas
If someone is on an Entrepreneur visa (Tier 1) and their business has been disrupted, the rules on employing at least two people for 12 months in a row each have been relaxed.
The 12-month period Tier 1 visa holders must employ someone for can be made up of multiple jobs across different months. However, if they furlough employees, the time on furlough will not count.
UK employers and sponsors
The government has relaxed the rules for employers on reporting change of circumstances for sponsored employees under Tier 2, 4 and 5 visas. This might include:
- working from home or
- time away from work due to COVID-19
In certain circumstances, employers can temporarily cut sponsored employees’ pay to 80% of their salary or £2500 per month, whichever is lower.
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.
Once lockdown measures end, employers will need to complete retrospective checks.