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Immigration News - June 2020 update

 

Introduction

We appreciate this is a very difficult time for employers and education providers in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Veristat Ltd is still operating as normal and please feel free to contact us if you need any advice or support, now or in future.

If you have any questions or concerns about your sponsored workers or students in light of the current situation, please do not hesitate to get in touch. During the lockdown period a number of organisations have been contacting us looking to apply for sponsorship licences in advance of the implementation of the new Immigration system in 2021, if you are an organisation that doesn’t have a licence but believe you will need one in the future, we would be happy to help you.

 

New Immigration System

New immigration routes will open from autumn 2020 for applications to work, live and study in the UK after 1 January 2021. The latest Home Office (UKVI) information on the new immigration system can be viewed here

The Home Office (UKVI) has published information to help employers prepare for the new system. This information can be viewed here.

Employers who are not yet a sponsor who wish to recruit workers from outside the resident labour market from 1 January 2021 will need to apply to become one. Until this date, current immigration rules will apply. The standard processing time for a licence application is usually 8 weeks and will start when the Home Office (UKVI) receive your application. We offer support to employers and education providers on applying for a sponsor licence, so please do get in touch if you would like further information and a quote for helping you with this.

We will be using this update to inform you of any key news or announcements about the new immigration system as they are published by the Home Office (UKVI). We will also be working very closely with our retainer clients to support them with the implementation of the new immigration system. If you would like details of our retainer advice/support services to employers and education providers, please email enquiries@veristat.co.ukor call us on 01344 624016.

We will also be delivering a training package for employers and education providers on the new points-based immigration system to be offered from Autumn 2020 onwards, provided either remotely via Microsoft Teams or on the client’s site. We anticipate this training will be in high demand, so if you would like to book a date now for a session later this year, please email us at enquiries@veristat.co.ukor call us on the number above. 

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-immigration-system-what-you-need-to-know

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-points-based-immigration-system-employer-information

 

Working in the UK

Visa extensions for health workers during coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Home Office (UKVI) has published information about visa extensions for health workers during coronavirus (COVID-19).

To get the free 1-year automatic extension, the migrant must:

  • Have a visa that expires between 31 March and 1 October 2020
  • Work for the NHS or an independent healthcare provider in an eligible profession

The family members of eligible migrants, may also be able to get a 1-year extension. However, if a health worker has indefinite leave to remain, their family members will not be eligible to extend their visas for free, and they would need to extend their visas in the normal way.

The migrant’s employer will tell the Home Office (UKVI) if the migrant is eligible for the extension. They will then need to post the migrant’s and their family’s current biometric residence permits (BRPs) together to the Home Office (UKVI).

If a migrant has already applied for an extension, they will need to email the UKVI NHS team at UKVINHSTeam@homeoffice.gov.ukto withdraw their existing visa extension application and apply for a refund. However, the migrant cannot withdraw their application if they have already provided their biometrics (fingerprints and photo) as part of their application.

Further information about visa extensions for health workers during coronavirus can be viewed here.

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-health-worker-visa-extension

 

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for Tier 2 & 5 sponsors

The latest guidance for Tier 2 & 5 sponsors in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19) can be viewed here.

Sponsors will be able to submit scanned documents as evidence due to the exceptional circumstances of coronavirus. The Home Office (UKVI) however may write to the sponsor to request original or certified documents.

On-site visits have been suspended due to coronavirus. However, please note that the Home Office (UKVI) is now carrying out telephone audits, which follow the same approach as in person audits, albeit a shorter version and are likely to be utilised for licence applications and licence renewals as well as to address any compliance concerns.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-tier-2-4-and-5-sponsors

 

Assigning Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS)

An issue has recently arisen that is preventing some sponsors from assigning a CoS. The issue can arise when text is copied from an external source (e.g. a word document or email) and pasted directly into text fields on the CoS form. This action may lead to bullet points or hidden characters being entered into the SMS fields. If these characters are present in mandatory fields the system may not allow the CoS to be assigned.

The Home Office (UKVI) has advised users to ensure that these characters are not present in any fields when creating a CoS. When copying text from an external source it is advisable to paste it into a plain text editor first, in order to check and amend the text, before pasting it into the SMS.

If users are unable to assign a granted restricted CoS due to this issue, they are advised to contact the Business Helpdesk or their premium account manager for assistance. The IT supplier is currently working to fix this issue.

  

SMS payment issues

There is currently an issue which can affect customers when making a payment on the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). When attempting to pay for a product or service, some customers are taken back to an earlier screen in the SMS without payment being taken, and without the product/service being purchased. For example, if this issue occurs during CoS assigning, the customer will be returned to an earlier screen on the SMS and the CoS will not be assigned.

Any users experiencing this issue are advised to ensure that all details are correct whenever they enter information – such as their payment card details, when completing a payment.

The Home Office (UKVI) are currently working to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency.

 

Tier 2 & 5 Sponsorship Priority Service

Due to the ongoing situation regarding coronavirus (COVID-19), the Tier 2 & 5 Sponsorship Priority Service remains closed.

Sponsors are asked not to send any requests to the Tier 2 & 5 Priority inbox as they will not be considered at this time.

  

Global Talent - updated guidance

The Home Office (UKVI) has published updated guidance on their policy on applications for a UK visa or visa extension under the Global Talent category.

The key changes to this guidance are as follows:

  • Clarification of the types of applicant likely to be successful if they applied for this category.
  • Further clarification that the endorsing bodies do not cover all skill sets and therefore not all applicants can be considered.
  • Clarification that technical or management consultancy specialisms are not considered.
  • In relation to evidential requirements for Global Talent Stage 1 applications, information has been added about the submission of evidence via email.
  • In relation to qualifying periods for settlement applications, information has been added about settlement periods for digital technology, and arts and culture applicants.

The revised guidance can be viewed here.

The latest guidance for caseworkers/immigration staff on the Global Talent category (Appendix W Workers) can also be viewed here.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-applications-under-global-talent

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/global-talent-appendix-w-workers

 

Representatives of overseas businesses

The Home Office (UKVI) has published updated guidance to caseworkers/immigration staff on applications from representatives of overseas businesses.

Changes have been made to update the guidance on shareholdings and ownership to reflect new rules and replaced references to ‘shareholders’ with ‘owners’ throughout the document. Other minor changes have been made.

The revised guidance can be viewed here.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/representatives-of-overseas-businesses

  

Studying in the UK

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for Tier 4 sponsors

The latest guidance for Tier 4 sponsors in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19) can be viewed here.

This guidance was updated recently to include the following advice:

  • On-site visits have been suspended due to coronavirus. However, please note that the Home Office (UKVI) is now carrying out telephone audits, which follow the same approach as in person audits, albeit a shorter version and are likely to be utilised for licence applications and licence renewals as well as to address any compliance concerns.
  • Sponsors will be able to submit scanned documents as evidence due to the exceptional circumstances of coronavirus. The Home Office (UKVI) may write to the sponsor to request original or certified documents.
  • You can continue to sponsor existing Tier 4 students who are continuing their studies through distance learning, or starting a new course, whether they’re in the UK or another country.
  • You can also start sponsoring new students who will start studying through distance or blended learning in the 2020-2021 academic year, provided you intend to transition to face-to-face learning as soon as it is possible to do so.
  • If a student has permanently withdrawn from their studies or deferred their studies for reasons unrelated to coronavirus, you must report this as usual.
  • You do not need to withdraw sponsorship for new students who have been issued a Tier 4 visa but are distance learning because they have been unable to travel to the UK. If a student stops engaging with their distance learning, whether overseas or in the UK, you must withdraw sponsorship immediately.
  • New international students who have not yet applied for a visa but want to start a new course which will wholly be studied overseas by distance learning do not require sponsorship under Tier 4. This is because they do not need to travel to the UK.
  • You do not need to tell UKVI when students have moved to distance learning.
  • This distance learning concession will be in place for the duration of the 2020-21 academic year. The concession will be subject to regular monitoring to ensure it is working as intended, and it will be subject to review at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year.

Further information can be viewed here.

The latest guidance for Tier 4 sponsors, migrants and short-term students on temporary concessions in response to the outbreak of coronavirus can also be viewed here.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-tier-2-4-and-5-sponsors

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-tier-4-sponsors-migrants-and-short-term-students

 

Assigning Certificates of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)

An issue has recently arisen that is preventing some sponsors from assigning a Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). The issue can arise when text is copied from an external source (e.g. a word document or email) and pasted directly into text fields on the CAS form. This action may lead to bullet points or hidden characters being entered into the SMS fields. If these characters are present in mandatory fields the system may not allow the CAS to be assigned.

The Home Office (UKVI) has advised users to ensure that these characters are not present in any fields when creating a CAS. When copying text from an external source it is advisable to paste it into a plain text editor first, in order to check and amend the text, before pasting it into the SMS.

If users are unable to assign a CAS due to this issue, they are advised to contact the Business Helpdesk or their premium account manager for assistance. The IT supplier is currently working to fix this issue.

 

SMS payment issues

There is currently an issue which can affect customers when making a payment on the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). When attempting to pay for a product or service, some customers are taken back to an earlier screen in the SMS without payment being taken, and without the product/service being purchased. For example, if this issue occurs during CAS assignment, the customer will be returned to an earlier screen on the SMS and the CAS will not be assigned.

Any users experiencing this issue are advised to ensure that all details are correct whenever they enter information – such as their payment card details, when completing a payment.

The Home Office (UKVI) are currently working to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency.

 

Other Immigration News

UKVCAS Service Status

Plans continue to be in progress to reopen an increased number of UKVCAS service points to allow visa applicants to book their biometric appointments in relation to applications submitted in the UK.

The booking system will be opened up in date order, starting with people who registered after the 28thMarch but did not have an appointment due to the COVID-19 lockdown. 

Further information can be viewed here.

https://www.ukvcas.co.uk/flash-message-detail?flashmessageId=74833

 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents

The latest advice from the Home Office (UKVI) to UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19) can be viewed here.

The current information published by the Home Office (UKVI) states that if a migrant is in the UK and their leave expires/d between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020, their visa will be extended to 31 July 2020 if they cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19). They must request an extension by updating their records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) if their visa is expiring and they cannot leave the UK at present but are not planning to stay in the UK in the long term. If a migrant has already had their visa extended to 31 May 2020, their visa will be extended automatically to 31 July 2020. They are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK before this date where it is possible to do so.

Migrants can also apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31 July 2020, if their leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020. This includes applications where they would usually need to apply for a visa from their home country.

The Home Office (UKVI) have also now confirmed that migrants can also apply from the UK if their leave expires after 31 July 2020, but they urgently need to make a new application, for example to start a new job or course of study, and cannot leave the UK to make an application from overseas. This includes applications to switch into a different work route or to change jobs in the same route using a new Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents

 

Applying to become a British citizen by naturalisation - updated guidance/form

The Home Office (UKVI) have updated their guidance to applicants who are applying to become a British citizen by naturalisation. The latest guidance can be viewed here.

An updated paper form (Form AN) has also been published for those applicants applying by post – the new paper Form AN can be downloaded here.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/form-an-guidance

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/become-a-british-citizen-by-naturalisation-form-an

 

Temporary concessions for applications on the basis of family or private life

Temporary concessions have been put in place for applicants who are unable to meet the requirements of the family Immigration Rules to enter or remain in the UK due to coronavirus.

This means that up to 31 July 2020, applicants in the UK as a visitor or with leave of up to 6 months can switch into a family or private life route provided the requirements of the Immigration Rules are otherwise met.

If a person is unable to travel back to the UK due to coronavirus travel restrictions and their leave expires, a short break in continuous residence will be overlooked by the caseworker. However, they are expected to make their next application as soon as possible.

If a migrant is in the UK with 6 months’ leave as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner and their wedding day or civil ceremony has been delayed due to coronavirus, they can either request an extension until 31 July 2020 by updating their records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team, or apply to extend their stay for a further 6 months to allow the ceremony to take place.

If a person has experienced a loss of income due to coronavirus, the Home Office (UKVI) will consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income due to coronavirus, provided the requirement was met for at least 6 months up to March 2020. If a person’s salary has been reduced because they’ve been furloughed, they will take account of their income as though they’re earning 100% of their salary. If a person is self-employed, a loss of annual income due to coronavirus between 1 March 2020 and 31 July 2020 will generally be disregarded, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications.

Further information can be viewed here.

The Home Office (UKVI) has also published updated guidance for immigration staff on considering claims based on family life, private life, or exceptional circumstances. The revised guidance can be viewed here.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/family-life-as-a-partner-or-parent-private-life-and-exceptional-circumstance

 

New working group launched to address challenges faced by Windrush generation

The Home Secretary has launched a cross-government working group to address challenges faced by the Windrush generation and their descendants. This group will bring together stakeholders and community leaders with senior representatives from a number of government departments to address these challenges.

Further information about the Home Secretary’s announcement can be viewed here.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/form-an-guidance

 

Veristat Service

Sponsor licence applications

With the announcement of the new Immigration system to be implemented from 1 January 2021, employers wishing to sponsor non-EEA and EEA/EU nationals from this date may wish to apply now for a licence.

We provide a comprehensive advice and support package to employers applying for a licence, including preparation for a Home Office (UKVI) visit and can also include training on Tier 2/5 or Tier 4 sponsorship and the SMS system, as well as assistance with applying for Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS).

Please email us at  enquiries@veristat.co.ukor contact us by telephone on 01344 624016 for further details and a quote for helping you apply for a licence.

 

Remote training and audits

In the current climate, we are now offering remote video conference audits and training via Microsoft Teams/Zoom, etc.

Our remote audits emulate UKVI’s remote audits, which we have already participated in and cover all key areas of immigration compliance.

 

Training for employers and education providers

We provide bespoke training on all aspects of immigration matters, including Right to Work, Tier 2 sponsorship, Tier 4 sponsorship, and identification of fraudulent documents. We will also be providing training on the new immigration system detailing all future requirements.

These training sessions are conducted on the client’s premises for a standard half-day rate for up to 12 persons per session.

Also, in response to demand from clients, we are now providing live bespoke online training via Microsoft Teams/Zoom, etc.

If you think your organisation would benefit from training in any of these areas, please contact us for a quote by emailing us at  enquiries@veristat.co.uk. If you would like to discuss the contents of our training packages or require a bespoke training package to be delivered, please contact us by telephone on 01344 624016 or email us as above.

 

Audits and Inspections

Veristat is hugely experienced at providing compliance audits across all immigration tiers. We have worked with hundreds of employers, ranging from small family businesses to multi-nationals, high street retailers and professional sports clubs. In the education sector, we have also worked with over 30 universities and a significant number of colleges and schools.

Our audit/inspection service is fully flexible and can be tailored to individual requirements, and is based on sound practical experience of UKVI’s policies, culture and approach.

  • For employers, we offer on-site Tier 2 compliance inspections (with staff aware or unaware to simulate a surprise UKVI visit). We also offer right to work compliance visits.
  • For education providers, our service ranges from a “lite” health-check to a comprehensive review of Tier 4 activities, assessing compliance with UKVI requirements and sharing best practice. We also offer targeted inspections covering specific issues, such as BCA, Tier 2 compliance, policies, student unions, relationships with partner institutions, etc.

On completion, we provide a comprehensive, evidence-based report, together with an assessment of how compliant the business or institution is with UKVI’s requirements. We will support the introduction of change if required and offer a ‘spot check’ follow up service at a later date if required to reassure management that recommendations have been implemented.

If you’re interested in booking an audit/inspection, please call us on 01344 624016 or email us at enquiries@veristat.co.uk.

 

File Inspection Days

If you’re unsure whether you require a full compliance audit or specific training but would like an independent check of your files to ensure they are fully compliant with Home Office requirements, we can provide a UKVI file compliance inspection of either your staff or student files.

Depending on the number of employees/students you have, we would either check all files or an agreed sample. After the inspection has taken place, we would provide a written report outlining any risks, feedback and recommendations.

For further information or a quote for our file inspection days, please call us on 01344 624016 or email us at enquiries@veristat.co.uk.

 

Advice/Support packages

These packages can either be on a fixed rate monthly retainer basis, which can include a number of services, such as: acting as your Level 1 user, issuing of CoS/CAS, immigration audit, etc.  Alternatively, you can purchase an annual package of either 5, 10, 15- or 20-hours advice/support per year at reduced rates.

If you are interested in discussing our retainer or hourly advice/support packages further, then please contact us on 01344 624016 or email us at enquiries@veristat.co.uk.

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