How will COVID-19 Affect Tier 2 Working Visas?
We have received a number of enquiries from Tier 2 workers and sponsors on how they can best deal with disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Thankfully, the Home Office are allowing certain flexibilities during this difficult time.
Tier 2 Sponsors
If you are a business that holds a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence to employ non-EU nationals, you will already be familiar with the Home Office Sponsor Guidance.
The guidance ensures that sponsors must report a sponsored worker if they do not attend their first day at work. They must also report and existing worker if they are absent from work for over 10 consecutive working days without the permission of their sponsor.
Many Tier 2 sponsors are understandably concerned that they could risk breaching their sponsor duties during the pandemic. Fortunately, the Home Office have released the following concessions:
- Sponsors do not need to report student (Tier 4) or employee absences related to coronavirus which they have authorised.
- Sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship if they consider there are exceptional circumstances when either a student is unable to attend for more than 60 days (Tier 4) or when an employee is absent from work without pay for four weeks or more.
- If employees are now working from home due to the pandemic, they do not need to report this.
This allows temporary flexibility for Tier 2 sponsors which can help them avoid breaching their duties as a sponsor. Therefore, if workers are being required to isolate, cannot attend work, or if the office is temporarily closed, and this is due to coronavirus, a sponsor can record this as an authorised absence.
Tier 2 Workers
The good news for Tier 2 workers is that the Home Office have confirmed that they will not be taking any compliance action against employees who are unable to attend work due to the coronavirus outbreak. You would still need to be communicating with your sponsor and ensuring that they are recording this as an authorised absence.
Many workers in the UK are currently concerned for their jobs, with many businesses making redundancies due to the changing economic climate. There is an extra concern for Tier 2 workers as a redundancy can result in losing their leave to remain in the UK.
If you are Tier 2 worker and you have been made redundant or dismissed, your sponsor is responsible for informing the Home Office within 10 days of your last day at work. You would then receive a letter from the Home Office curtailing your leave and allowing you 60 days or up until the expiry of your visa to either leave the UK or make a new application.
If your visa is curtailed and you wish to leave the UK, there are concessions in place if you are unable to leave prior to your visa expiry due to the pandemic. The Home Office has set up a Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) which you can contact for a short extension until 31st May. .
If your visa is curtailed and you wish to find another job or switch into a different visa category, the Home Office is allowing greater flexibility in switching. Their guidance states that they are allowing in country applications to stay in the UK long-term where you would normally be expected to leave the UK and apply overseas.
If you are a sponsor or an employee, our immigration solicitors Manchester are available to advise you on how you can navigate the immigration system during this time.
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