Across the globe travel restrictions are tightening due to coronavirus, and this is causing much uncertainty for migrants living in the UK, particularly those with visas due to expire. Immigration solicitor Nicola Richards summarises the latest advice below.
Concession for impacted migrants in the UK
On 17 February, the UK Home Office introduced a temporary visa concession for Chinese nationals living in the UK. This has been extended to nationals from other non-EEA countries affected by the virus, and automatically extends visas held by these groups to 31 March 2020 if they are due to expire shortly. It is likely this date will be extended. This also applies to visitors who are at or close to the normal 180-day in a 12-month period limit. No action is required to get the automatic extension and those impacted will not be issued with a new BRP or visa.
The Home Office is also allowing more flexibility in relation to applications to switch immigration status whilst they are in the UK.
Licensed Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsors
As the UK Government has now suggested that individuals self-quarantine and work from home, it is likely that some sponsored employees may not be able to attend their usual place of work or to undertake their role as normal. Under normal circumstances sponsorship must be withdrawn if an employee is absent from work for more than four weeks; however, the Home Office has indicated that it won’t take any compliance action against sponsors whose employees are absent for longer than four weeks due to the virus. It is likely this concession will be extended further. The Home Office has also set up a dedicated coronavirus immigration hotline to support any impacted migrants.
Visa centre closures
The virus has led to the closure of some visa centres and reduced staffing levels at other centres, with more looking to close in the foreseeable future. When an individual applies for a visa, they are normally required to apply for their visa in their home country or a country where they have a right of residence, and their passport is usually retained. The closure of these application centres and delays will inevitably have an impact on when and if the applicant can enter the UK. This will therefore have an effect on Tier 2 Sponsors looking to sponsor individuals, with their start dates more than likely being delayed, which could have financial consequences for those businesses looking to recruit strategic hires.