News & Insights

COVID-19 temporary measures for migrants and sponsors

Now that travel restrictions appear to be lifting worldwide, COVID-19 measures will start to ease in the UK.  Many areas have been impacted since the lockdown began.  The Home Office will continue to accept applications from migrants in the UK up to the end of August, but after that, only those who cannot leave the UK because of COVID-19 can remain on an indemnity.

Migrants in the UK whose leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 must now take action to either regularise their stay in the UK or make arrangement to leave.  Migrants will no longer be able to extend their visas automatically.

To allow time to make the necessary arrangements to leave the UK, the Home Office have introduced a grace period from 1 August to 31 August 2020, for migrants to either make arrangements to leave the UK or apply for a visa status to remain.

Changes to current restrictions

From 1 to 31 August 2020, the conditions of the migrant’s stay in the UK will be the same as the conditions of their previous leave.  If the conditions of stay permitted work, study or rent accommodation, the migrant may continue to remain in the UK during August 2020 ahead of their departure.  There is no need to notify the Home Office if the migrant leaves the UK by the 31 August.

If a migrant intends to leave the UK but cannot before 31 August 2020, they must request additional time to stay, also known as ‘exceptional indemnity’, by contacting the coronavirus immigration team (CIT).  The indemnity does not grant visa status but will act as a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after a visa has expired.

The Coronavirus Immigration Team will advise the individual on what evidence is required to grant the indemnity. This may include providing details of the reasons why they are unable to leave the UK and supporting evidence, for example, a confirmed flight ticket with a date after 31 August or confirmation of a positive coronavirus test result.

Migrants who want to stay in the UK, should apply for the necessary leave to remain in the UK.  Migrants may apply from within the UK for many routes where they would usually need to apply for a visa from overseas.  All requirements must be met for the visa route in the UK.

The terms of the migrant’s leave will remain the same until any application is decided. If a migrant is switching into work or study routes, they may be able to commence work or study whilst the  application is under consideration.

If a migrant’s visa or leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 there will be no future adverse immigration consequences if the migrant failed to make an application to regularise your stay during this period. However, such concessions will not apply after 31 August 2020 unless the migrant has been granted an indemnity.

Reopening visa centres

Many UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) have reopened for those who have already made applications during the lockdown to provide biometric information.  In an attempt to speed up the process, the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) have decided to reuse some migrant’s fingerprint records.  If UKVI can reuse fingerprints, they will contact the migrants by email.  Once contacted the migrant must upload a facial scan using the IDV app together with supporting papers to have their application processed.

Migrants will not have to attend a UKVCAS or an SSC service point appointment to provide biometric information.


Migrants can start a course or studies before their visa application has been decided if:

  • the sponsor is a Tier 4 sponsor
  • they have been given a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS)
  • an application was submitted before the current visa expired and the new sponsor has seen evidence of this
  • the course the migrant starts is the same as the one listed on their CAS
  • they have a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if required

If the visa application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused the migrant student must stop their course or studies.

Sponsored workers

Migrants who have applied for a Tier 2 or 5 visa can start work before the visa application has been decided if:

  • they have been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
  • an application was submitted before the current visa expired and the new sponsor has seen evidence of this
  • the job the migrant starts is the same as the one listed on their CoS

If the application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused the sponsor must terminate sponsorship and the migrant must stop working.


Sponsors do not have to report where migrants are working from home due to COVID19.  However, all other changes relating to the migrant’s working arrangements must be reported within the relevant reporting guidelines.

The reporting responsibilities for an employee start from the date the sponsor assigned the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), not from the date that their application is granted. Sponsors will not be able to report information using the sponsor management system (SMS), however, sponsors must ensure that all relevant information set out in the sponsor guidance is recorded and maintained on a local system.  Any changes that will impact the migrant’s visa application should be updated on the CoS, as normal.

If the employer cannot pay the salaries of sponsored employees because of a reduction in or ceased trading, they can temporarily reduce the pay of their sponsored employees to 80% of their salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is the lower.  Any reductions must be part of a company-wide policy to avoid redundancies and in which all workers are treated the same.  These reductions must be temporary, and the employee’s pay must return to at least previous levels once these arrangements have ended.

It is important that sponsors comply with their sponsor duties, as failure to do so could result in the suspension or revocation of their licence.  If the licence is revoked, they will lose the ability to sponsor migrants.

Health workers

Some health workers and their families will get their visas automatically extended because of coronavirus. The extension will apply from the date the migrant’s visa is due to expire.

If a health worker’s visa is due to expire after 1 October 2020, they’ll need to apply to extend their visa as usual.

If the health worker will be working at a different NHS site than their usual place of work because of coronavirus, they can work at any NHS hospital during the coronavirus outbreak if their sponsor can maintain their sponsorship duties.  Sponsors will not need to notify UKVI of the change in your place of work.

If the migrant does any different or extra work due to coronavirus, they can carry out supplementary work in any role at any skill level during the coronavirus outbreak. There is no restriction on the number of hours they can work.

Additionally, there is no longer a limit on the number of hours the health worker can work or volunteer each week if they’re a:

  • tier 4 student
  • tier 2 worker and the NHS job is a second job
  • visiting academic researcher
  • holder of a short-term visa and are permitted to volunteer

Pre-registration nurses in the UK, will have the deadline extended to 31 December 2020 to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) and if the migrant does not pass on the first attempt, they’ll have until 31 May 2021 to pass the exam.

Migrants working as scientists researching coronavirus (COVID-19), may be able to apply for a Global Talent visa using the UKRI endorsed funder option. Find out about the requirements for coronavirus researchers.

Travelling to the UK

There are changes at the border because of COVID19. Travellers must check what to do before travel.  This advice is changing regularly, so travellers must check before organising travel.

Most UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) have resumed services where local restrictions allow.  Priority and Super Priority services are only available in some locations. If these services are available, applicants will be able to purchase these services when booking appointments.

Ongoing global restrictions mean some UKVI services will remain closed. Where services are resuming, existing customers will be contacted to rearrange appointments.

Expired visa vignette

If a migrant’s 30-day visa to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired, or is about to expire, they can request a replacement visa with revised validity dates free of charge until the end of this year.  New visa vignettes will be issued for 90 days to allow time to travel to the UK.  Migrants cannot travel to the UK on an expired visa vignette.

The migrant must request a replacement visa by contacting the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre (CIT) by email.  They must provide the following details, name, nationality, date of birth and GWF reference number with ‘REPLACEMENT 30 DAY VISA’ in the subject line. If a migrant has already made such a request by email, this should be stated (within the email) to avoid any duplication.

When a migrant arrives in the UK they would normally pick up their biometric residence permit (BRP) within 10 days of entry.  The Home Office will not penalise any migrants for failing to pick up their cards while coronavirus measures are in place.

If you or your staff are affected by the temporary measures in place for COVID19, please get in touch with [email protected] in the immigration team at FSP.