'Many questions remain' over UK visa changes

Problems remain for UK employers with non-EU staff despite visa relaxations announced last week by the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) department, according to a leading law firm.

UK Home Office Lunar House in Croydon
As we reported last week, UKVI has said that, because of the COVID-19 outbreak, foreign workers and students will be able to extend their UK visas until at least the end of May if they cannot leave the country because of the pandemic.It was also announced that foreign nationals seeking to switch visas to another category would be allowed, temporarily, to apply from within the UK, rather than having to apply by returning to their home countries.

Tier 2 migrants: one of the main issues

But law firm Shoosmiths - which has now produced a guide for what companies should do now if they have foreign staff in the UK or British staff overseas - says that, despite the visa concessions, "many questions remain".One of the main problems stems from the fact that many of the law firm's clients are waiting for Tier 2 migrants, whose visas have been granted, to join them in the UK."These individuals will have been granted 30-day entry visas to enter the UK to collect their three- or five-year visas on entry," said Shoosmiths."These visa holders may, due to travel bans/restrictions, be unable to travel to the UK within the 30-day validity period on their vignette. While the ILPA (Immigration Lawyers Practitioners Association) has requested that these be automatically extended, the UKVI has not confirmed that it will be. It means these individuals will need to make further applications to extend the validity of these 30-day vignettes before they can enter the UK."Other problems over policy changes to visa applications caused by the Coronavirus outbreak have been identified on the firm's website.

What should UK companies with non-EU employees do?

Meanwhile, the firm has produced a guide to what employers with overseas staff should be doing now. For UK companies with non-EU employees, Shoosmiths says:
  • Ensure record keeping is up-to-date. Do you have up-to-date contact details for your Tier 2 migrants and those with tie limited visas? Are you aware of the end dates of the visas so that you can make the necessary actions?
  • Communicate with those affected. People whose visas are shortly expiring and who were due to return home may be concerned about their status. You should reach out to those individuals to reassure and assist them during this time.
  • Ensure compliance with your sponsor duties. Do not neglect to carry out the necessary reporting duties via the sponsorship management system.
  • Continue to carry out right-to-work checks. The UKVI has made it clear thatright-to-work checks will continue in the same way. As such, we suggest that individuals send you their original documents for checking by the most secure method possible. This must continue until/unless the government confirm otherwise.
On support for UK staff on assignment overseas, Shoosmiths says, "There may be individuals who were ready to travel to the UK who are now unable to do so. When restrictions are lifted new applications may need to be made. Furthermore, UK nationals abroad may be affected by travel restrictions and as such support should be given wherever possible."

Find out more in The Relocate Global Coronavirus (COVID-19) resource centre 

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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