The Home Office has updated its guidance for sponsors of Tier 2, 4 and 5 visas in light of the COVID-19 situation. Additional updates have been issued for Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Global Talent, Start-up and Innovation visa applicants.

Key points:

Salary reductions

  • Employers who have suspended or reduced operations because of coronavirus may temporarily reduce the pay of sponsored employees to 80% of their salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is less.
  • Any salary reductions must be part of a company-wide policy to avoid layoffs that treats all workers the same.
  • These salary reductions must be temporary and the employee’s pay must return to at least previous levels once these arrangements have ended.
  • The Home Office has confirmed that payments through the Job Retention Scheme do not count as public funds for immigration purposes.

Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)

  • If a sponsor has already issued a CoS and the employee has not yet applied for a visa, they will still be able to apply for a visa, and the Home Office will not automatically refuse cases where the start date changes. For example, the Home Office may accept on a case-by-case basis a CoS which has expired because the employee was unable to travel because of coronavirus.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa holders

  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa holders whose business has been disrupted because of coronavirus will no longer need to employ at least two people for 12 consecutive months each. They may count multiple employees across different months to make up the 12-month period.
  • Time when the employees were furloughed will not count towards the 12-month period.
  • Those unable to employ staff for 12 months total by the time their visa expires will be allowed to temporarily extend their stay to give them time to meet the requirement.

Global Talent, Start-up and Innovator visas

  • Individuals applying for Global Talent, Start-up or Innovator visas whose endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because they are unable to travel to the U.K. may still be eligible for a visa. Those individuals should continue to submit their applications, and the Home Office will consider all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Fees for 2020

  • There will be no increase to Home Office application fees this year.

Analysis & Comments: The updates provide important guidance for sponsors and offer flexibility to employers facing temporary reductions or suspension of services or delayed start dates of employees because of COVID-19. Deloitte is closely following developments and will report additional measures or clarifications as information becomes available.

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