There is still a lack of clarity in terms of visa applications being submitted around the world and in the United Kingdom (UK).
Attorneys are urging UKVI and the Home Office to update its guidance of February 27, 2020, to provide greater clarity. In the meantime, below are updates.
Visa Application Centers Around the World
Many application centers are still open for those individuals who wish to submit visa applications. As expected, however, there are a number of closures and interruptions to the usual service standards. These include:
- Asia Pacific: Due to closure of the Manila regional visa hub, there are currently no priority services for applicants applying in, for example, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
- USA: All non-premium biometric application service centers ASCs operated by USCIS in the United States are closed. The Premium Application Centers (PACs) all remain open for the time being, except for the PACs in Seattle and San Francisco, which are currently closed.
- Europe: All TLS contact centers are closed for UK visa applicants.
- UK: Sopra Steria application centers in the UK remain open for the time being. There have been reports of closures at some locations for certain application types (e.g., local libraries and councils).
- Tier 2 workers with 30-day entry visas who are unable to travel: Where the visa holder cannot travel within the 30-day entry visa period, they must normally obtain a fresh visa and attend a biometric appointment abroad. Attorneys have asked for this to be waived and for those whose BRPs have been issued to be able to travel to the UK when they are able to do so without the need for a new visa.
- Tier 2 visa holders: remote working and reporting: The Home Office confirmed that where a sponsored worker is required to work from home as a result of coronavirus, the sponsor is not required to report a change of work location.
- Ending the employment of sponsored workers: Where sponsors are considering ending sponsored workers’ employment, contact your Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers attorney for advice. A report would need to be made to the Home Office and the individual would then have a period of curtailed leave in order to try to regularize their UK immigration status.
- Absences and Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR): There have been queries about the effect of absences on ILR, particularly from staff stuck outside the UK. At present, guidance for absences over the 180 days permitted under Tier 2 allows excess absences resulting from natural disaster and for those involved in humanitarian rescue operations overseas. This guidance is expected to be updated to include coronavirus-related issues with traveling and returning to the UK. The best advice at present is to ensure that Tier 2 holders keep clear evidence of why they were unable to return, such as the lack of flights, national government edicts preventing local and international travel, or medical advice against travel.
- Those with visas expiring in the UK: Chinese nationals and those normally resident in China have in some circumstances had their visas automatically extended to March 31, 2020. Extensions may well be required for others who have imminently expiring visas.
- Right-to-work (RTW) checks: For new starters who have just arrived in the UK where the office is closed, remote working is in place or, where the person is having to self-isolate, there may be issues with completing RTW checks. Alternatives are available:
Details and more information: https://www.kingsleynapley.co.uk/insights/news/immigration-update-coronavirus