UK Immigration Update – April 2020

As the world locks down to combat the spread of Covid-19 there is clearly an impact on immigration, visa assignments and business travel, with many businesses and individuals concerned with how the increase travel restrictions and border closures will affect them

With the fast-paced changes in relation to travel and movement we will endeavour to keep you updated as soon as we are made aware of any further changes or announcements.

Travel Restrictions and Border Closures

In an attempt to slow down the rapidly spreading coronavirus, there have been increasing border closures and other travel restrictions implemented worldwide in the past few weeks. The measures vary from suspending international flights and banning travellers from impacted countries, to requiring citizens/foreign nationals to self-isolate for a specified period of time (e.g. 14 days).

Countries including India, Albania, Algeria, Dominican Republic and Egypt have currently barred entry to anyone coming from the UK.

Some countries including the following, have barred entry to all non-resident foreigners travelling from the UK:  Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Hong Kong, US.

The periods of exclusion vary and are likely to change therefore, we strongly advise you to keep abreast with the daily updates on global immigration rules, to minimise the impact on your employee’s and personal travel arrangements/business activities.  You can check the latest entry requirements and travel warnings issued by each country here :

The Foreign Office is advising UK nationals against all but essential international travel.

At the moment, the UK border remains open. The UK government has stated that Border Force Officers will be given powers to conduct temperature checks and test people arriving in the UK for COVID-19.  As it stands and according to initial reports on the scene, it does not appear that such testing is currently taking place at UK ports of entry.

Out of UK - Centre Closures

Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Visa Facilitation Service (VFS) – UK Visa Services suspended

TLS & VFS has closed the vast majority of Visa Application Centre’s around the world.  As a result it is not possible to book appointments at this time.  Any individuals who had appointments secured will have these cancelled and will be contacted by VFS to rebook the appointments once the centres re-open.

UKVI confirms that an individual’s passport is held in a VAC and it needs to be returned, if courier routes are open it should be possible to contact VFS directly to request this. 

IELTS Test Centres

In all locations, English language tests have been suspended. In these locations, detailed plans are being put in place to ensure that test takers are able to take their tests as soon as possible once the official restrictions are removed.

In locations where it is permitted and safe to do so, IELTS testing is going ahead, with additional precautions in place to help protect the health of test takers and staff. IELTS are offering people the option to transfer their test to a later date or receive a refund.

UK NARIC

UK NARIC services are running. This includes all statement services, for individual customers and for organisations, and all enquiry services and verification services. Do though note that the closure of universities will mean a delay in applicants’ ability to gain letters from their university confirming the qualification. 

Inside UK - Centre Closures across UK

Sopra Steria

Sopra Steria are a privately-owned company who manage the operation of biometric appointments for in-country visa applications on behalf of the Home Office. Sopra Steria’s biometric enrolment centres are located at various centres across the UK. Some of Sopra Steria’s centres are located within public libraries.

All Sopra Steria locations are now closed and are not scheduled to re-open for six weeks.  Applicants whose appointments were already booked are being notified and their appointments are automatically being rescheduled for the same location in 6 weeks’ time.

Online appointment booking facilities are currently suspended and will recommence on 12 May 2020.

Police Registration at OVRO

Some nationals are required to register with the Police within 7 days of arrival to the UK as a condition of their visa. Police registration services at Overseas Visitors Registration Office (OVRO) are currently suspended. Those who already have an appointment will be notified of their cancellation. There will be no penalty for those who are unable to register due to Covid restrictions. If a visa holder returns to their Home Country without having registered with OVRO (due to the suspension of OVRO’s services), they would not be penalised on re-entry to the UK.

British Council

For certain visa applicants, evidence of English is required in the form of an approved English test. The British Council operate tests globally as one of the Home Office’s approved providers of SELTs (Secure English Language Tests). In some countries test have been paused, in others additional health and safety protocols have been introduced.

Within the UK appointments have been cancelled until May. Earliest appointments available on the calendar are in May, but a customer service advisor has indicated that May appointments also could become subject to cancellation, depending on how the situation develops.

Trinity College London

For certain visa applicants, evidence of English is required in the form of an approved English test. Trinity College London is one of the Home Office’s approved providers of SELTs (Secure English Language Tests). Trinity College London have taken the decision to suspend all exams and awards with immediate effect, with the resumption of face-to-face examinations as soon as it is deemed safe.

Life in the UK

A life in the UK test pass is required for most indefinite leave to remain and naturalisation applicants. Life in the UK Test centres will be closed 21 March until 13 April 2020. Tests taking place during this period will be rescheduled automatically to a date after 13 April 2020.

New test dates are available to book from 13 April 2020.

UKVI - Guidance for Employers with sponsored workers impacted by Covid-19

UKVI – GUIDANCE FOR EMPLOYERS WITH SPONSORED WORKERS IMPACTED BY COVID-19

Tier 2 and 5 migrants

The Home Office have confirmed that employers do NOT need to notify the Home Office of anyone required to “work from home” due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Automatic extension

If you are currently in the UK on a visa expiring between 24 Jan 2020 and 30 Mar 2020, and you have overserved the terms of your visa prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, your visa will be automatically extended to 31 May 2020.

Further extension if required

The Home Office confirmed on 25 March 2020 that anyone currently in the UK on a visa who cannot return to their home country due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to further extend their visa, albeit, not automatically. The extension will apply to anyone whose visa expired after the 24 Jan 2020 and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation. Once applied for, the extension will be granted until 31 May 2020; however, the government will keep monitoring the situation and may issue a further extension, if the situation does not get better.

A dedicated COVID-19 immigration team has been set up within the Home Office to process these extensions. Please contact Mazars immigration team should you require assistance with regards to further extend your leave in the UK. We will need to contact the Home Office to confirm your extension in writing.

Those who receive any of the above visa extensions will be expected to return to their home countries as soon as possible once flight and border restrictions are lifted. The Home Office have confirmed that no immigration enforcement action will be undertaken during this time for those who have been extended by the Home Office until 31 May 2020.

Home country applications

Switching in-country - The Home Office will allow applicants to apply to switch their visa from within the UK, where originally, the applicant had to leave the UK and apply form their country of residence. An example will be a Tier 5 visa holder applying for a Tier 2 General visa. Please contact Mazars Immigration team if you wish to discuss this further.

Out of country applications

Work start date delayed - There are currently many visa application centres in any parts of the world that are either, no longer accepting applications, or running limited services. There are also many visa related services which have also been affected by translation service, English language tests, UK NARIC degree certification services. This will inevitably affect a potential employee’s start date in the UK.

Validity of Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship (RCoS) / Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) / Resident labour market test (RLMT) - Sponsors might not be able to meet the deadline to assign CoS due to the travel restrictions. Individuals might need to postpone their trips to the UK due to the travel restrictions or visa application centre closures.

Inability to provide original document (i.e. sponsor licence applications) – The Home Office is happy to accept electronic documentation if sponsors are unable provide original documents due to COVID-19 related office closures. However, discretion will be applied on a case by case basis.

We are monitoring these closures closely and will provide advice on a case by case basis.

CONTACT US

If you have any questions in relation to the above or require assistance and guidance in relation to immigration planning during this period, please contact Head of Immigration Sue Kukadia or complete the form below:

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