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immigration FAQs

18 May 2020

Please note: the information contained in this legal update is correct as of the original date of publication

The Home Office have a dedicated section of its website for immigration issues related to Covid-19 which included specific information regarding sponsorship under Tier 2 and 5.

The Home Offices approach to immigration issues arising from the pandemic is updated regularly and it is recommended that anyone seeking guidance checks the information here as a starting point.

Compliance

The Home Offices position is that sponsors should where possible try and comply with the sponsor duties set out in the guidance. However, where a sponsor cannot comply due to the pandemic, it is taking a reasonable and pragmatic approach. However, it is important to check the position on a case by case basis until more detailed guidance is issued.

  1. Do sponsors need to take any action regarding worker absences?

    The Home Office have confirmed that it will not take enforcement action against sponsors who continue to sponsor workers despite absences due to coronavirus and such absences do not need reporting. It is recommended that sponsors keep some evidence for example, email communication with the worker to show the period of absences was due to coronavirus related issues.

  2. Can work hours and pay be reduced?

    This has always been permitted providing the new rate is not below the current appropriate rate requirements for sponsored roles and the role/hours otherwise meet the requirements set out in the Sponsor Guidance.

  3. What if sponsored workers are made redundant?

    A sponsor would need to report the withdrawal of sponsorship on the sponsorship management system in the usual manner. The Home Office will then curtail the sponsored workers visa. If the sponsored worker is able to find a new role with a sponsor that can issue a certificate of sponsorship, they will be able to make a new application for further visa with a new employer/sponsor. If they are unable to and also unable to leave the UK, they may be able to benefit from the provisions resulting from the covid-19 pandemic. However would need to be considered on a case by case basis and should seek further legal advice.

  4. Do sponsors need to keep a record of absences of sponsored workers?

    Sponsors have always been required to keep a ‘record of migrants absences’ as referred to in Appendix D of the Sponsor Guidance.

  5. What if the sponsored workers start date is delayed?

    Once the certificate of sponsorship (COS) is assigned it must be ‘used’ to enter or remain in the UK within three months otherwise the COS expires.

    When the COS is assigned it must include a work start date which must be the date that is genuinely anticipated that the migrant will start their work. If the start date is delayed for any reason, specific rules apply as set out in the Home Office Sponsor Guidance. However, on 3 April 2020, the Home Office updated its position to state:

    ‘If you have issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) or a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) and the sponsored employee or student has not yet applied for a visa

    The employee…will still be able to apply for a visa.

    The start date for the…employment stated on the CoS…may have changed. We will not automatically refuse such cases.

    For example, we may accept a CoS…if they have become invalid because the employee…was unable to travel as a result of coronavirus. We will consider this on a case by case basis.’

  6. Employers and right to work checks

    The Home Office have relaxed measures on a temporary basis as set out here.

    It is important to pay attention to the retrospective checking procedures after the Covid-19 measures end.

    Compliance will ensure that a statutory defence against illegal working sanctions can be put forward.

  7. Are things likely to change?

    We can expect there to be further changes and guidance issued by the government as it is an evolving situation.

The government has also set up a Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre, details of which can be found at the bottom of the page on this link.

Where there is no clear guidance and sponsors are unable to obtain a clear answer from the Home Office in time, they should take a pragmatic and reasonable decision concerning issues that are directly relating to the pandemic and it is recommended that reasons for the decisions are noted. Evidence supporting the decisions should be obtained and kept.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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