Coronavirus and the UK immigration system as of 23 April 2021

NHS workers

The Home Office announced on 31 March 2020 that around 2,800 doctors, nurses and paramedics with visas due to expire by 1 October 2020 would get a free one-year extension. A month later, the department said that it was broadening the scheme to cover other frontline workers, including midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists.

In November 2020, the scheme was extended to cover people with visas expiring by 31 March 2021. However, unlike the first phase in which extensions were “automatic”, those with visas expiring after 1 October 2020 have to apply to have them extended for free.

A second extension of the scheme pushed the cut-off date back again, to 1 October 2021. There doesn’t seem to be any reason that eligible workers can’t get two of these free extensions in a row. So a nurse whose visa was originally due to expire on, say, 1 July 2020 could have got an extension to 1 July 2021 and could now apply for another extension taking them out to 1 July 2022. Any fees paid for a normal extension can be claimed back if it turns out the person was eligible for the free deal.

Family members of NHS workers who die from COVID-19 can get indefinite leave to remain for free. On 20 May 2020, this was broadened to cover “NHS support staff and social care workers” as well.

Travel from the UK

There is a general ban on leaving the UK, subject to exceptions. The government has said that overseas holidays, which are caught by the current ban, can resume from 17 May 2021 at the earliest. Expect further announcements in the next couple of weeks. Migrants with non-leisure reasons for travel may well be able to avail of the existing exceptions, though.

Immigration tribunal hearings

Emergency measures, including a shift to remote hearings where possible, have been extended to September 2021.

The Senior President of Tribunals first issued an emergency practice direction on 19 March 2020 which says:

Where it is reasonably practicable and in accordance with the overriding objective to hear the case remotely (that is in any way that is not face-to-face, but which complies with the definition of ‘hearing’ in the relevant Chamber’s procedure rules), it should be heard remotely.

Right to work checks

Checks on the immigration status of employees to see if they have the legal right to work in the UK can be carried out remotely under a concession in place since 30 March 2020 and due to end on 16 May 2021.

The policy originally said that once the emergency was over, employers would have to re-check people hired under the temporary procedure. The Home Office has since announced that this will no longer be required: “You do not need to carry out retrospective checks on those who had a COVID-19 adjusted check between 30 March 2020 and 16 May 2021 (inclusive)”.

Normal checks for new workers resume from 17 May 2021.

Right to rent checks

Much the same procedure applies for landlords checking the immigration status of new tenants, also ending on 16 May 2021.

No retrospective checks on existing tenants assessed under the Covid concession between 30 March 2020 and 16 May 2021 will be required after all. Normal checks resume from 17 May.

Posted on Apr 23, 2021.

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