1. Incoming employees may be delayed
With visa centres closed, individuals applying for work visas cannot progress their applications or in some cases cannot collect their passports with the visa decisions. In addition, there are restrictions on travel which may prevent people taking up posts.
For those with Tier 2 (General) visas this creates an issue, as there is a limit on how many days their start date can be delayed by. At the moment the Home Office have not issued guidance on this issue, but we hope this will change in the coming days but any business in this situation should seek advice about their sponsor compliance obligations to avoid long term consequences for their Sponsor Licence.
2. Employee’s switching Tier 2 sponsors inside the UK will be delayed
We are currently working on cases where skilled workers were due to move between licensed Tier 2 sponsors, but their start date will be delayed as they cannot attend a UK visa centre. In these cases, businesses should give consideration to paying for priority services, if available once restrictions are lifted as this will ensure a speedy decision
3. Tier 2 workers placed on furlough
There is no rule preventing a Tier 2 worker from being placed on furlough, or making use of the Government support to pay 80% of their salary. However, at the current time, there is no guidance to allow the Tier 2 worker’s salary to be reduced to below the thresholds set in the immigration rules as a result of furlough. While this may change, we would recommend any employer considering placing a Tier 2 visa holder on furlough take advice about the implications of this for their Sponsor Licence
4. Existing employees with expiring visas
Another problem likely to arise is employees who submit visa applications but cannot attend biometric centres to complete the process. Where previously a number of these applicants would pay for 24 hour processing, to ensure their new visa was granted before the old one expired, they will now be unable to do so. Employers need to be aware that submitting an online application is enough to protect an employee’s right to work, but the employer needs to take steps to verify the position with the Home Office.
5. Right to Work checks
Although there are unlikely to be many new starts in the current climate, there will be some and other employees will have new visas that need to be verified. With many employees now working remotely this presents a challenge for employers who need to carry out right to work checks with physical documents. There are some limited exceptions to this, so employers should take advice on how to apply these while maintaining a robust defence to any illegal working fines.
Businesses are currently dealing with a number of coronavirus considerations, but they should not let immigration and right to work fall to the bottom of their to do lists. It is vital to take detailed advice to ensure the business remains compliant with right to work and Tier 2 sponsorship obligations.