The coronavirus has had a major impact on travel and on the machinery of government – so it's not surprising that it's affecting immigration.
1. Making Tier 2 sponsored workers redundant or placing them on furlough
If an employer holds a sponsor licence and has any sponsored workers, they will be under an obligation to maintain certain key records and report migrant activity. Failure to do so can result in a fine and/or revocation of a sponsor licence. Reporting activities is one of the most common areas of non-compliance when it comes to Tier 2 sponsor licence holders. Employers making any sponsored workers redundant will need to ensure that this is reported via the Sponsor Management System - the deadline to do this is within 10 days of the migrant worker's final date of employment. Likewise, placing a sponsored worker on furlough may trigger reporting obligations.
2. Altering the place of work for Tier 2 sponsored workers
When a Tier 2 sponsor licence holder recruits foreign talent, they will have to stipulate a work address for that worker. For most businesses this is very straight forward. Businesses that are more agile however may find this requirement difficult to maintain (COVID-19 aside). At this time, most non-essential workers are now working from home. This can put a sponsor in potential breach for two reasons: (1) they may need to notify the Home Office of the change of address and; (2) the Home Office may be interested to know how the business is monitoring the migrant worker if they are working from home. Employers with sponsored workers working from home will need to give urgent thought to these issues.
3. Follow up right to work checks
The Home Office has announced the closure of their visa centres and this will be in effect for at least 6 weeks if not longer. There is a new process now in place to extend visas. Employers with staff whose visas are close to expiry may need to seek advice to ensure that they comply with the new requirements. Equally, if someone has had their visa extended and is continuing to work for their employer, there will be a question as to how the employer can make an effective follow-up check (and thereby establish a statutory defence against an illegal working criminal offence) without being able to see the original visa document. Employers in this position should urgently take advice to establish how they can comply with the relevant requirements.
4. Employees who were going to make an entry clearance application
Many foreign nationals currently in the UK are stuck here and are unable to return to their country of origin. Some of those individuals would have also been looking to make an application for entry clearance in their country of origin but now they cannot do so because of travel restrictions. As a result, the Home Office have issued a policy which states that anyone in this predicament can make their entry clearance application from within the UK.