We asked Bee Rudki of Nathanson Partnership Immigration Services, specialising in Immigration law, about how Covid19 is impacting the visa application process currently and potential changes on the horizon.
Who makes the decisions regarding the Visa process?
Ultimately the decision lies with the Home Office, however, the Home Affairs Committee has published a call for evidence on the Home Office’s preparedness for Coronavirus, see here for further details https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/83/home-affairs-committee
During lockdown, could visa appointments be conducted by video?
Even though Skype interviews are held for other categories (recently introduced for ‘Right to Work checks’ and for specific entry clearance visa interviews such as Tier 1 Entrepreneur in the past and Business Start Up applications), the Government seems hesitant in bringing it in across the board. It is unlikely the government would allow Skype interviews only because the applicants need to provide their biometrics in person. However, under the current, unexpected ‘lock down’ situation it is entirely possible that new measures could be introduced so as not to hold the process up any more than necessary. The future of UK Immigration is to be based on business intelligence software possibly allowing migrant applicants to conduct biometrics online, similar to the process implemented for the EU Settlement Scheme. However, this is speculative at the moment.
Are we expecting changes to the system?
The Immigration Law Practitioners Association ‘ILPA’ has been corresponding with the Home Office, having put forward a vast document containing a number of questions including urgent temporary measures for migrant workers with visas in place to enable travel. This would be a similar measure to those put in place during the ‘Ash Cloud’ in 2011, and specific visa restrictions were lifted. However, it remains to be seen whether the Home Office see this as too high a risk.
What will happen to Certificates of Sponsorship that were previously issued but the applicant could not attend their visa appointment?
The government have now confirmed that even if the work dates have changed, the visa would not automatically be refused – cases will be considered on a case by case basis. You can read the full guidance online.
Will all visa applicants not able to fly to the UK because of Covid19 need to pay to have their visa vignette updated with a new entry clearance period?
It is not yet clear whether applicants will be re-charged for this fee. We await further guidance on this from UKVI.
Will overseas nurses still be required to sit the OSCE within their first 8 months of working in the UK in order to maintain their sponsorship, even though the OSCE test centres have closed?
The deadline for all overseas nurses to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been extended to 31 December 2020.
What will happen to nurses already working for the NHS who need to renew their visas during Covid19?
NHS visas will be automatically extended by one year if it is due to expire before 1 October 2020. Family members with a visa due to expire before 1 October 2020 will also have their visa extended. The extension is free and individuals will not have to pay the immigration health surcharge.
How could the immigration process be improved during Covid19?
One way in which the process could be quickened is to introduce electronic signatures for sponsor licences. Currently The Nathanson Partnership has confirmed that on a case by case basis and through close liaison and correspondence with the Home Office, sponsor licence application are being accepted with electronic signatures / electronically. This has helped tremendously to speed things up by allowing more of the process to be handled online.
For more information, please contact Bee directly: [email protected]
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