New Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions are causing problems for people with UK visas, those traveling into the UK, and their employers. Here’s an update on what individuals need to know:
The Home Office has outlined limited guidance online for visa applicants and temporary UK residents, as well as guidance for Worker and Temporary Worker Sponsors (Guidelines can be found on gov.uk.)
This guidance highlights the documents which travellers need to present at the border as evidence that they are exempt from completing the form and/or from self-isolating. One of the exemptions covers people who live in the UK but work in another country and travel between the UK and country of work at least once a week. These people are exempt from the self-isolation requirement. Senior executives who meet certain criteria can submit a form for approval of the exemption before they travel to the UK.
With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, is it possible to travel to the UK right now?
The short answer is yes. The UK have not closed its borders; therefore, people can travel to the UK if they follow the Home Office’s rules:
- From 15 January 2021, a mandatory pre-departure COVID-19 test is required within 72 hours before travel to the UK. (Note that the next steps people will need to take will depend on whether they have travelled from a green, amber or red list country).
- Since 30 June, almost everyone traveling to the UK (except from Ireland) has had to provide their journey and contact details by filling out a Public Health Passenger Locator Form online before traveling.
- More rules listed on the gov.uk website regarding coronavirus (COVID-19).
Is it possible to apply for a Visa today?
Although UK visa application centres in several countries have reopened, some remain closed. To check that visa application centres are open in the UK, click this link: https://uk.tlscontact.com/. Visa applications can also be made in alternative countries if local visa application centres remain closed until 31 December 2021.
What about Individuals who have overstayed their leave as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19)?
The Home Office guidance states that if a visa has expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020, there will be no future adverse immigration consequences for an individual if they did not make an application to regularise their stay during this period.
If a visa expires or is expired before September 30, 2021, individuals can request additional time to remain in the UK, known as ‘exceptional assurance’. This can be done by sending an email to the address noted down in the guidance.
Individuals must also show proof that they intended to return to a red or amber list country, or a green list country that has closed its borders. Please note that this is an emergency measure and does not grant individuals leave to remain in the UK. This should only be applied to as a last resort.
If individuals have a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa and their business has been disrupted
If an employer has not been able to employ staff for 12 months by the time their visa expires, they will be allowed to extend their stay for a further 2 years, if they can show:
- They have created at least 2 jobs by the date they apply.
- They have been unable to employ staff for 12 months due to Coronavirus (COVID-19).
- More guidance can be found online at gov.uk.
After the sponsored worker has been granted permission, the work start date for a Skilled Worker (or Intra-Company Transfer worker) cannot be postponed for 28 days.
The Home Office should be notified through the Sponsorship Management System that the start date has been delayed.
Can employers use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for sponsored workers?
Yes. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme can be used for migrants. They must meet the same eligibility requirements as other employees. For instance, migrants must have been on employer’s PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020.
Some sponsored workers will not qualify because they are not on PAYE. These restrictions especially apply to some Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) or Intra-Company Transfer migrants.
The Home Office has stated that employers can temporarily reduce the pay of sponsored workers in line with this retention scheme. This is to cover sponsored workers who have been furloughed. More guidance can be found on gov.uk.