Sacha Wooldridge gives an overview of this month’s visa and immigration updates.
Reporting hybrid working of sponsored workers
The Home Office Business Helpdesk have indicated that sponsors of Skilled Workers/Tier 2 (General) employees “should report that they have a hybrid working arrangement with a sponsored worker via the Sponsorship Management System”. The Sponsor policy guidance is yet to be updated to formally reflect this position but businesses are advised to take a cautious approach.
Visa processing times
We are continuing to experience disruption to visa processing times for both in country and out of country applications as a consequence of the UKVI prioritising the processing of Ukraine Family Scheme applications. It is unknown at present when ‘normal’ processing times will resume.
The Home Office has however reduced the processing times for Study visas from 5 weeks to 3 weeks after attending a biometric appointment or using the ID Check app.
Work visa processing times have however increased further and are more typically taking 10-12 weeks to process.
Family visa and Ancestry visa processing times are estimated at 6 months.
The Home Office does not guarantee processing times and applicants are advised not to travel whilst the application is in process.
Removal of visit visa requirements for Gulf Corporation Council Nationals
From 2023, the UK is introducing a new electronic visa scheme and the Gulf Corporation Council countries will be the first to benefit.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar are among a number of countries who have been added to the United Kingdom’s Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system. The ETA scheme is a fundamental part of the UK government’s move to have a fully digital border by the end of 2025. Once granted, an ETA will be valid for multiple trips over an extended period of time.
However, until the introduction of ETAs, Gulf Corporation Council state nationals can continue to use Electronic Visa Waivers, which can be completed online before their visit to the UK.
This is a significant benefit for business travellers looking to travel to the UK from this region, as they will no longer be required to undergo the full visit visa application process at an in-person visa centre.
Right to Work Checks for British and Irish nationals
From 30th September 2022, the Home Office plan to bring to an end the COVID concessions that enable employers to undertake Right to Work checks for employees remotely/by video call. The Home Office has therefore this week announced the list of the initial 6 officially approved providers of IDVT software – a pay per use service, that will enable employers to undertake digital right to work checks for British and Irish nationals in the UK from 1st October. The list can be found here.
Organisations that do not use the IDVT service will need to revert to undertaking manual right to work checks.
Offshore wind workers Immigration Rules concession 2017
The Home Secretary has confirmed that the concession to the Immigration Rules to allow the employment of foreign nationals who are joining vessels engaged in the construction and maintenance of offshore wind projects in UK territorial waters will not be granted beyond 31 October 2022. The Home Secretary confirmed that this is the final extension for this concession and it will not be renewed beyond this date.
The Commonwealth Games
From 28 July until 8 August, the Commonwealth Games will take place in Birmingham and the West Midlands. This is an international multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations.
Given the huge processing delays at present, the UKVI have strongly advised that individuals who are looking to attend the games, i.e. competitors, coaching staff, media and press, should apply for visas early and should attend their biometrics appointments where they have been booked.
Youth Mobility Scheme visa: ballot system
The second ballot for the 2022 Youth Mobility Scheme opens for 48 hours from Monday 25 to Wednesday 27 July.
You need to enter the ballot if you want to apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa and you are a national of:
- Hong Kong, with a SAR passport;
- South Korea; or
You must also meet the following eligibility requirements to enter the ballot:
- You must be aged 18 to 30 on the date you apply for the visa; and
- You must have at least £2,530 in your bank account to show you can support yourself in the UK. You will need to have held this money for at least 28 days in a row and day 28 must be within 31 days of applying for this visa; and
- You do not need to enter the ballot if you’re a British Overseas Citizen, British Overseas Territories Citizen or a British National (Overseas).
Applicants can only submit one ballot entry and to enter the ballot, they must send an email in English, to their country’s corresponding email address (see below) which details their name, date of birth, passport number and mobile number. The subject line of the email must be written in the format: Lastname Firstname – DD/MM/YYYY – passport number.
- Hong Kong – [email protected] – email between midday Monday 25 July and midday Wednesday 27 July 2022 (Hong Kong time) to enter the ballot.
- Japan – [email protected] – email between midday Monday 25 July and midday Wednesday 27 July 2022 (Tokyo time) to enter the ballot.
- South Korea – [email protected] – email between midday Monday 25 July and midday Wednesday 27 July 2022 (Seoul time) to enter the ballot.
- Taiwan – [email protected] – email between midday Monday 25 July and midday Wednesday 27 July 2022 (Taipei time) to enter the ballot.
Ballots will only be open for 48 hours and applicants will receive an automated reply confirming their entry. If you are successful in the second ballot, you will receive an email by 29 July. You will then have 30 days to submit your application and pay. After you have paid, you will then have 90 days to book your appointment at a visa application centre to provide your biometric information.
You should then receive a decision within 3 weeks of attending your appointment and if your application is successful, you will have 90 days to enter the UK. Your visa will be valid for 2 years.
The Youth Mobility scheme visa is a great non-sponsored visa category, enabling applicants to live, work and study in the UK or be self-employed for a period of 2 years. This route doesn’t require company sponsorship or a minimum salary requirement (except for National Minimum Wage)
Changes to Youth Mobility Visas for New Zealand Nationals
The Home Office has announced that New Zealand nationals will soon be eligible to apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme up to the age of 35 – rather than 30, which applies for other nationalities – and will be able to stay in the UK for three years rather than two years.
The same will apply for British citizens applying for Working Holiday visas in New Zealand.
This change is not yet in force with the Home Office announcing that ‘more information will be provided next year’.
Potential changes to Life in the UK test
The Justice and Home Affairs committee has concluded that the Life in the UK test is in urgent need of reform. Immigration minister, Kevin Foster, informed the Lords committee that his department plans an ‘in-depth review’ of the test and will say more about potential reforms ‘over the next 12 months’.
Life in the UK test certificate are currently required for adult applicants seeking to secure Indefinite Leave to Remain status or British Citizenship.
Naturalisation applications – clarification of policy re: Comprehensive Sickness Insurance
The Home Office has this month issued revised guidance in respect of Naturalisation applications. Previously EEA nationals that had resided in the UK on the basis of free movement rights as students or as self-sufficient persons were required to provide evidence of having held comprehensive sickness insurance. This policy has since been reversed and guidance now states “people who did not hold comprehensive sickness insurance under the EEA regulations whilst either a student or a self-sufficient person… can now meet the lawful residence requirement simply by showing you have been granted settled status under the EU [Settlement Scheme].’“
This will now mean that more applicants are eligible for naturalisation.
Updated Fee Waiver Policy for family visas
The Home Office has published guidance on fee waivers for individuals applying to come to the UK on the basis of their right to family or private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
More specifically, applicants will only be granted a fee waiver under Article 8 ECHR rights on the basis of their right to family or private life where ‘the underlying human rights claim which they rely on forms a substantive basis of their application’.
The Home Office has amended its previous ‘unlawful’ policy, which allowed discretion to be exercised to waive fees in ‘exceptional circumstances only, such as civil war or natural disasters’. The new guidance emphasises that the test is affordability, and whether the applicant and their sponsor ‘do not have sufficient funds at their disposal, after meeting their essential living needs, to pay the fee’.
The guidance confirms that applicants can request the waiver for both themselves and their dependents. However, applicants cannot request that part of the fee is waived i.e. the Immigration Health Surcharge only.
The benchmark for the weekly cost of ‘essential living needs’ has been set against the standard cash allowances paid to people seeking asylum – £40.85 per week.
Applications may be rejected where caseworkers deem that insufficient efforts have been made to save for the fee, or if the applicant’s need to travel to the UK is not urgent and they and the sponsor could save for the fee in the coming months. The guidance requests that applicants provide evidence including payslips, bank statements, tenancy agreements and utility bills; however, this list is not exhaustive.
Relocation and closures of Visa Application Centres in Poland
The Warsaw Visa Application Centre in Poland is moving to new premises. As of 11 July 2022, their centre’s new address is:
Business Garden Business Centre
Żwirki I Wigury 16A
On 22 July 2022, the temporary Visa Application Centre in Rzeszow, Poland which was opened to deal exclusively with Ukraine Scheme visa applications will close.
Customers who have outstanding visa applications submitted through the Visa Application Centre in Rzeszow will be advised where to collect their passports.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at July 2022.