UKVI coronavirus guidance: good news for those already with UK visas but no guidance for those in the process of applying for a UK visa
Jessica Jim 詹穎怡
As another emergency government Cobra meeting takes place today and the government is expected to move into the “delay” phase of the Coronavirus response, we answer key questions about the immigration implications for your business as you make contingency plans. We also provide updates on increased IHS fees in the Budget and on ILR salary levels.
Given the spread of the virus it is highly likely the Home Office will be forced to extend visas of those affected beyond 31 March 2020 and we anticipate guidance will be updated to cover individuals from other countries and not just China. We also expect the guidance will need to generally be much more wide-ranging to take account of such issues as right to work checks, access to healthcare, registration with the police for immigration purposes and absences from the UK for indefinite leave to remain applications.
For Tier 2 sponsor licence holding companies, there is concern about the rules in place where a sponsored worker is affected by the virus. The 27 February Home Office guidance mentioned above addresses these issues only briefly and in our view needs to be much broader. We are writing to our senior Home Office contacts with suggestions of the full the range of sponsor issues which need to be covered in the guidance and will update you as soon as we hear back. In the meantime, we suggest you proceed as follows where a sponsored worker is:
Where we assist with visa applications for your employees, the Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) (visa card) is often sent to our office address. In the event that our Kingsley Napley office is required to close, we will seek to make arrangements for the BRP to be sent to the employee’s home address.
With President Trump announcing a ban on non-US nationals travelling from the 26 Schengen area countries (which does not include the UK) if they have been in that area within 14 days of their entry to the US, you will be aware of major disruption to the global mobility of your workforce. The latest FCO guidance is a useful starting point for guidance.
In other news, yesterday’s Budget included an increase to the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) for overseas nationals to use the NHS. It was only two years ago that the IHS fee doubled to £400 per year of the visa and now it is set to increase to £624 per year of the visa. As mentioned in our previous blogs and videos, the government had announced its intention to increase the IHS fee in November last year. The new fees will apply to non-EU citizens from October 2020 and to EU citizens from 1 January 2021.
As has previously been the case, those with student or Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visas will pay a lower charge of £470 per year of the visa. There is a small concession under the new IHS fee arrangements in that children under 18 will also pay a lower charge of £470. We will shortly be releasing commentary on the IHS fee increase.
In a number of rule changes announced today, the Home Office has confirmed a freeze on the increase in minimum salary requirements where sponsored Tier 2 (General) workers are applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). The current minimum is £35,800 or the minimum expected amount for the type of job, whichever is the higher. That amount was due to increase to £36,200 on 6 April 2020 but today’s announcement confirms the government will be following the advice of the Migration Advisory Committee which in its report of 28 January 2020 recommended a freeze on this threshold while the policy for ILR applications is considered.
If you have any queries in relation to the above immigration issues or any other matter, please contact our immigration team.
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