07 May 2020
The new normal: Employment, Covid-19, business immigration and the new normal
Huge change is already afoot in the UK’s immigration system as a result of Brexit. It doesn’t look like the Government is planning to delay the end of free movement of EU citizens on 31 December 2020, to postpone the introduction of the UK’s new immigration system on 1 January 2021 or to extend the deadline for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme, which is currently 31 June 2021. In many ways, therefore, it’s full steam ahead.
That said, visa applicants should expect delays for the time being. All UK visa application centres are closed worldwide until further notice as a result of the pandemic. The Home Office is aiming to automatically reschedule appointments, but whatever happens there is bound to be a huge backlog of applications to be processed once the application centres reopen.
On the other hand, while the pandemic is ongoing, the Home Office is temporarily being slightly more flexible than usual, particularly for Tier 2 sponsors. For example, some sponsored employees who have been assigned a certificate of sponsorship but have not yet received a decision on their visa application may nevertheless be able to start working, although this is subject to strict conditions. In addition, the Home Office has slightly relaxed sponsor reporting requirements so that sponsors do not need to make a report if a sponsored employee is working from home due to the coronavirus. It has also allowed sponsors to temporarily reduce the salary of sponsored employees to enable them to benefit from the furlough scheme – provided, always, that the reduction is temporary and the employee’s pay will return to its previous level.