1. COVID-19: Official UK Government Guidance
2. New Point based system
Following the newsletter we published on 5th February 2020, we wish to inform you that the UK government have now published their official guidance on how they will handle cases of individuals in the UK who are affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The guidance deals with the following matters:
· Chinese nationals in the UK whose visa has recently expired or is about to expire.
· Applicants switching to a Tier 2 category in the UK.
· Chinese or third country national whose passports are held at the now temporarily closed Visa Application Centres (VAC).
· How they will deal with absences caused by coronavirus if applicants are sponsored under Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 5.
· Non-Chinese, Non-EEA nationals in the UK normally resident in China
The UK government has now announced that they will automatically extend the immigration status of applicants whose status in the UK has been affected by the coronavirus to 31st March 2020. This will apply particularly to Chinese nationals who have been compliant with all the conditions of their visas prior to the coronavirus outbreak and their visas had or are due to expire between 24th January 2020 and 30th March 2020.
The government clarified that the individuals affected will not need to do anything to get the extension, and they will be subject to the same immigration conditions as their last visa during the exceptional extension period. They also stated that the individuals affected will not automatically receive a new visa or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) cards as the Home Office will automatically add the status in their internal systems. However, if applicants need a status letter confirming that extension or a new BRP with a revised expiry date, they should contact the coronavirus immigration helpline on: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or by email at:
If you are a Chinese national in the UK on a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa and want to switch to a Tier 2 General visa, you would ordinarily need to return to China to make your application. However, the guidance has now provided an exception that will allow applicants to switch from a Tier 2 ICT to a Tier 2 General from within the UK if your current visa has an expiry date between 24th January 2020 and 30th March 2020.
If you are a Non-Chinese, non EEA national in the UK but you are normally resident in China and your visa in the UK has an expiry date between 24th January 2020 and 30th March 2020, you should contact the coronavirus immigration helpline using the details above. The Home Office will be able to extend the visa to 31st March 2020, if you can demonstrate you are normally resident in China.
For Chinese or third country nationals whose passports are held at the Visa Application Centres (VAC), all visa centres in China are currently closed and it will not be possible to return any documents to applicants until the VACs re-open. If you are affected, the government recommends that you contact the Chinese authorities or your consular representatives in China to get an alternative travel document if you need to travel urgently. An urgent visa application to the UK requested can only be considered if the applicant has a valid travel document. They will not accept any urgent applications without a valid travel document even if they are held at the closed VACs. The Home Office have also reiterated that they will monitor the situation closely and as soon as they are able to re-open the VACs, they will prioritise the return of all documents to applicants.
In relation to Tier 2 or 5 employees or Tier 4 students who may be prevented from attending their employment/ studies due to illness, the inability to travel due to travel restrictions caused by coronavirus or the need to serve a period of quarantine after travel, sponsors do not need to report employee or student absences which they have authorised. In addition, sponsor do not need to withdraw sponsorship if they consider there are exceptional circumstances when an employee is absent from work without pay for four weeks or more; or if a student will be unable to attend their course for more than 60 days if those absences are as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Home Office have also insisted that decisions on whether to withdraw or terminate an employment are for the sponsors to make. They recognise that the current situation is exceptional and will not take any compliance action against employees who are unable to attend work due to the coronavirus outbreak, or again, sponsors who authorise absences and continue to sponsor employees despite absences for the above reasons.
Introduction of a New UK’s Point Based System in January 2021
The UK government issued a policy statement on 19th February 2020 where they have set out their plans for introducing a new point based system following the UK’s exit from the EU. These new rules will replace the existing free movement rules that were applicable to EU citizens and from 1st January 2021, EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally.
The announcement has set out some of the major policies that the government wishes to implement from January 2021 in brief and they will publish further details and guidance in due course.
The major changes proposed are as follows.
The government will:
1. Reduce the salary threshold of Tier 2 general visas from the current £30,000 to £25,600.
2. Reduce the skills level threshold from the current level of RQF Level 6 to RQF Level 3. This means that employers will be able to hire migrants of a slightly lower skill level than the current thresholds which requires jobs to be set at degree level. They will publish and update the current list of qualifying jobs in due course.
3. Suspend the cap on the number of people who can come on the skilled worker route and remove the need to conduct a resident market test. This means that they will suspend the current limit of 20,700 places for obtaining restricted certificates of sponsorship under Tier 2 general until further notice. That change will ensure that a wide pool of skilled workers will be able to come to the UK from anywhere in the world and employers will no longer need to advertise jobs to try and recruit local or British workers before sponsoring migrant workers under Tier 2.
4. Create a broader unsponsored route within the point based system to run alongside the employer-led system. This will allow a small number of the most highly skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer. This may apply to highly skilled applicants with a background in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subject or other specialised roles under the culture and sports sector, among others. We will await further details in due course.
The government have also been very clear that they will not introduce a general low-skilled or temporary work route. They have simply stated that employers will need to adapt and adjust accordingly, as the government aims to shift the focus of the UK economy away from reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. There will be a few exceptions to the above within the agriculture industry for seasonal workers and some professions within the healthcare industry among others, and they will publish more details in due course.
We will keep you updated as and when the government release new information and guidance.
If you require any help or advice in relation to the above matter, please contact us using the details below and we will keep you informed if they provide further information and guidance in future.