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UK seeks to protect immigrant employees during COVID-19

Posted on April 9, 2020
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UK workers

In the wake of the Corona virus pandemic many countries across the world have changed or modified rules for immigrants working in their country. With travel and work restrictions in place to curtail the spread of COVID-19, many immigrant employees in countries across the world are worried about their status. This is especially true for those whose visas have expired or about to expire and they must stay back in the country.

Fortunately, many countries have responded immediately by bringing in government rules that largely favor immigrant employees. The UK is one of these countries.

Immigrant employees whose visas are expiring:

For immigrant employees who have visas that are expiring between 24th January and 30th May 2020, the UK government has announced a concession which will help them extend their visas up to May 31st, 2020 through a new e-mail process. This is in view of the travel restrictions or self-isolation guidelines that they must follow. The applicants for visa extension will have to provide certain information and give an explanation on why they cannot go home.

The extension is granted to provide assurance that when the situation is out of their control due to COVID-19, the Home Office would not penalize those who overstay on their visas.

Initially, the visa extension will last until 31 May 2020, but this date is subject to change given the global situation and the need of the UK government to keep its citizens in their homes.

How to apply for an extension:

The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has opened a dedicated COVID-19 immigration center to promote the granting of visa extensions. Those who need an extension should contact the Coronavirus Immigration Assistance Centre.

They should inform the center that their visa has expired and provide any personal information that is required.  During the extension duration, no enforcement action will be taken against those who appeal to the Home Office as set out above.

The applicants will have to provide evidence of travel restrictions to their home country. They will have to provide evidence of their inability to move of the UK.

UK employers on their part can help their employees by:

Identifying workers who may need to prolong their stay and can benefit from the concession.

Reviewing the situation of employees with a UK visa expiring between 24 January and 30 May 2020 and determining whether to send an e-mail application.

Reviewing the status of workers or former visa holders whose visas have already expired and should have already returned home. Check on whether they were able to leave the country.

Considering employees with visas expiring between June and September 2020 even though they may be less of a concern right now.

Regulations for sponsors of Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa holders:

The UK government has also announced certain concessions for sponsors of Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa sponsors in the country, these include:

Sponsors are not required to report job absences or remote working because of COVID-19 to the authorities

There is no need to withhold sponsorship if an employee is absent from work for 4 weeks or more without pay.

In view of these extraordinary circumstances, the Home Office will not take compliance action due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

These are some measures the UK government has taken to protect immigrant employees in the country during the Coronavirus crisis.

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