02-04-20 – Coronavirus and the UK immigration system (as of 02 April 2020)

Immigration tribunal hearings HM Courts and Tribunals Service is now issuing a daily operation update. The latest version usefully summarises the position with First-tier and Upper Tribunal immigration and asylum cases: The [First-tier] tribunal has suspended face to face hearings (other than in exceptional circumstances) until further notice. A notice containing instructions on the next steps in your case will be sent to you. We are working through the listed cases in priority and date order and you should wait until we contact you. Please do not call us unless your enquiry is urgent. Bail a...

01-04-20 – Coronavirus and the UK immigration system (as of 01 April 2020)

UK visa application centres Outside the UK A second Home Office factsheet of 24 March notes that “many of the UK’s Visa Application Centres (VACs) are currently closed and we anticipate more closing”. That includes all the visa application centres run by VFS Global on behalf of the Home Office. As of 1 April, the VFS website reports that “UK has stopped accepting visa applications globally”. All other visa centres overseas are run by TLScontact. It does not appear to have a centralised list of closures, but applicants can check the situation in their country through the TLScontact website. Op...

31-03-20 – Coronavirus and the UK immigration system (as of 31 March 2020)

Right to work checks As the labour market collapses under the weight of pandemic restrictions, the Home Office emphasises that employers must still carry out checks on the immigration status of employees to see if they have the legal right to work in the UK. But those checks can now be carried out remotely. Guidance published on 30 March says that employees can submit a copy of their passport or ID rather than the original, and verify it by showing the employer the original on a video call. An accompanying press release says that the changes are “effective immediately”. The process for conduct...

31-03-20 – NHS frontline workers visas extended so they can focus on fighting coronavirus

Doctors, nurses and paramedics with visas due to expire before 1 October 2020 will have them automatically extended for one year. As part of the national effort to combat coronavirus, doctors, nurses and paramedics will automatically have their visas extended, free of charge, for one year. The extension, announced today (31 March) by the Home Secretary Priti Patel, will apply to around 2,800 migrant doctors, nurses and paramedics, employed by the NHS whose visa is due to expire before 1 October. The extension will also apply to their family members, demonstrating how valued overseas NHS staff...

30-03-20 – Coronavirus and the UK immigration system (as of 30 March 2020)

UK visa application centres Within the UK  All visa application centres within the UK are closed as of 28 March. Sopra Steria, which runs the network of Visa and Citizenship Application Centres on behalf of the Home Office, has the following message on its website: The UKVCAS service is currently suspended The worldwide response to COVID-19 continues to affect the UK’s Visa and Immigration Service. As a result, the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS), led by Sopra Steria on behalf of UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), has suspended all services to help protect the health and we...

30-03-20 – Home Office can ignore human rights claims bolted on to normal immigration applications

The case of MY (refusal of human rights claim) Pakistan [2020] UKUT 89 (IAC) represents yet another cutback in the rights of migrant victims of domestic abuse, and in appeal rights more generally. The Upper Tribunal has ruled that the Home Office can simply refuse to engage with a human rights claim which is not made in the particular way the department wants it made. When refusing to engage with a human rights claim submitted in the “wrong” format, the Home Office is not refusing that claim, and therefore there is no right of appeal. Some migrants will have to make very difficult decisions as...

27-03-20 – Remote hearings in the immigration tribunal: what could possibly go wrong?

Over recent weeks we have all had to spend more of our personal and professional lives online. The justice system is also shifting towards holding hearings via live video or audio link wherever possible. Taking stock of what we stand to lose from the expansion of these technologies may help us navigate the challenges ahead.  The immigration tribunal goes remote During the coronavirus pandemic, Immigration and Asylum Chamber cases that cannot be decided on the papers will most likely be heard remotely. A Pilot Practice Direction of 19 March 2020 informs us that hearings should be conducted remo...

27-03-20 – Coronavirus and the UK immigration system (as of 27 March 2020)

Sponsor duties under Tiers 2, 4 and 5 of the Points Based System There is now brief Home Office coronavirus guidance for organisations who sponsor overseas workers or students under Tiers 2, 4 and 5 of the Points Based System. It promises: “We will not take enforcement action against sponsors who continue to sponsor students or employees despite absences due to coronavirus”. Sponsors are not currently required to report any absences from students or employees sponsored under Tier 2, Tier 4, or Tier 5, where those absences have been the result of the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak.  S...

26-03-20 – Coronavirus and the UK immigration system (as of 26 March 2020)

Relaxation of sponsor duties Sponsors are not currently required to report any absences from students or employees sponsored under Tier 2, Tier 4, or Tier 5, where those absences have been the result of the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak.  Sponsors will also not be required to withdraw sponsorship for affected students who have been unable to attend for more than 60 days or for employees who have exceeded four weeks of absence without pay. Immigration detention The Home Office has already released around 350 people from immigration detention. But a senior official told the Home Affai...

26-03-20 – The chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced 26.03 that self-employed workers will be able to apply for a grant of up to £2,500 a month to help them cope with the financial impact of coronavirus.

The money will be paid in a single lump sum but will not begin to arrive until the start of June at the earliest. Self-employed people will be able to apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month. Mr Sunak said the grants would be available to people across the UK for at least three months, and longer if necessary. In all, 95% of people who earn most of their income as self-employed would be covered, the chancellor added. The Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support scheme is targeted at up to 3.8 million of the 5 million people...