COVID-19 UPDATE

Citizenship applications

We have received correspondence from the nationality division of the Home Office that because of limited members of staff working because of government deadlines and they are not able to meet their service standards. We find that the Nationality Division mostly meet their service standards in normal circumstances. Applicants can now expect delays in nationality applications.

Continuing leave to remain (what is known as section 3 (C) leave

Where you make an application for leave to remain prior to the expiry of your existing leave to remain you have what is known as continuing leave to remain under section 3 (C) of the Immigration Act 1971 as amended. We have had a number of enquiries from clients whose employers are concerned whether they can lawfully employ employees and are insisting upon biometric cards showing leave to remain If you had permission to work prior to an in time application then you will continue to have the right to work. The difficulty is satisfying recruitment companies/employers. Employers/recruitment agencies need educating about section 3 (C) leave will not always accept advice from immigration practitioners. Understandably so because of the heavy fines levied on employers for employing workers who cannot lawfully work and because reliance upon advice from an adviser is not a statutory excuse available to employers. Employers will want confirmation from the Home Office of the client’s lawful ability to take employment.

Our client received correspondence from the Home Office explaining delays in deciding his application because of COVID-19 and confirming that  as his application was made prior to their current grant of leave expiring and that the current status in the United Kingdom has been extended by section 3 (C) of the Immigration Act 1971. The recruitment company did not accept this letter as evidence of the ability to take employment as it was not in the list of acceptable documents for a statutory excuse contained in the Home Office document: Right to Work Checks: Employer Guidance”. The Home Office have confirmed that checks continue to be necessary and checks to prescribed documents but have modified how these checks can be made, they can be made remotely via scanned documents/photographs of documents.

 

In this case we referred to the recruitment agency to the employer’s checking service and the Home Office Employer Enquiry helpline (because our client could not  provide the prescribed documents because he had never received them because of the nature of his case), we gave the agency the necessary information to complete their checks and thankfully they obtained a Positive Verification Notice meaning the agency would have a statutory excuse against liability for a civil penalty in the event of illegal working. This also meant our client could be furloughed. He had not worked for some weeks because of COVID-19 and his application to the Home Office being delayed but now he had the opportunity to work/being furloughed. A significant proportion of our clients are on the minimum wage or just above that so generating income is essential for them and their families’ health and welfare.

Applications registered with the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) since the 1st of January 2020

Emails are being sent on new applications registered with UKVCAS since 1st of January 2020 stating that following government guidelines and Public Health England advice on COVID-19, UKVCAS will begin a controlled phased re-opening of service points from 1st of June 2020. A service will be offered at a reduced number of locations and at a lower capacity than usual. There is a list of locations available on Gov website.

Where public health and travel restrictions remain in place, or other (not specified in the email) requirements are not met, UKVCAS will not resume services yet.

Appointments may not be made available at the original location and one of our cases – a settlement application to Tier 1 the Home Office have required all documents to accompany the application to be scanned to them. No biometric appointment has been offered at this stage.

If you are in the UK and your leave expires between 24/01/2020 and 31/07/2020 

Your visa will be extended to 31st of July 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to COVID-19.

If you completed the Home Office form online previously and had your visa extended to 31st of May 2020 the visa will be extended automatically to 31st of July 2020. You will not need to do anything or pay any fees for completing the simple form with the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) I repeat, you will not need to do anything or pay anything as normally with the Home Office you have to do everything, leave very little for them to do and you always have to pay, pay, pay more.

If you had not extended your visa previously and your leave expired between 24/01/2020 and 31st of July 2020

You will need to complete the simple form with the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT).

Note to caution: – This is an application for those persons who cannot leave the UK at present because of COVID-19 and/or travel restrictions and for people who are not planning to stay in the UK in the long term. If you are considering taking advantage of the temporary switching rule (switching in country where you normally need entry clearance and an application from overseas) you should be warned against using the CIT route because it may be held against you that you employed deception extending your stay when you had no real intention of returning overseas.

International travellers/British citizens, returning residents/persons returning from overseas who previously had leave in the UK 

On or after 08/06/2020 all passengers arriving in the UK  be required to go self-isolation for two weeks when returning from overseas. This applies to all persons entering /returning to the UK ie  also  applies to persons who have a right to live in the UK and British citizens persons with permanent residence.  Persons who do not meet the requirements by providing details where they can be quarantined e.g. hotel, at home with friends/family will be required to self-isolate for two weeks in facilities arranged by the government at the person’s own expense. Travelers will be required to provide their details and onwards travel plans via an online form. There are some exceptions to these quarantine rules which I will not touch upon in this article and I expect there will be growing exceptions over the coming days

Quarantine will be enforced by Border Force, police officers and Public Health England officials. There will be spot checks conducted at address and there will be penalties for breaking the quarantine.

Whilst on the face of it this appears to be a good public health measure, my concern is that it will be used for refusing entry into the UK  because it may give an opportunity to Immigration Officers to Interview arrivals and coming to a  conclusion that the passengers stated intentions in coming to the UK are not as stated. There will be penalties for breaking the quarantine.

 

EU Settlement Scheme – ( EUSS)

Today, we completed an online application for a non European under the EU Settlement scheme.

Fee – waiver policy 

In my last article I touched upon fee – waiver policy in which the Secretary of State for the Home Office has agreed to waiver an application fee if failure to do so would be contrary to an applicant’s human rights. The fee waiver policy has been declared unlawful by the Immigration Asylum Chamber Upper Tribunal because it applies an incorrect and excessively strict test to people who cannot afford application fees. The Home Office will have to revise the policy so it complies with the judgment of the Upper Tribunal. The revised policy hopefully will assist greater number of applicants but normally in these circumstances, the Home Office begrudgingly revise guidance at the strictest level they think they can get away with. In the meantime, we will need to wait and see how the Home Office continues to implement their policy.

 

Manjit Singh

Senior Immigration Caseworker

 

28/05/2020

 

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