COVID 19: Innovator and Start-Up visas

In these unprecedented times, Innovator and Start-Up applicants might find themselves in the situation, where they may experience difficulties fulfilling their business plans and maintaining contact with their endorsing bodies.

The Home Office has been prompt in addressing the issues surrounding Innovator and Start-Up migrants may face due to the Coronavirus outbreak:

1. Individuals who have not yet been endorsed

Endorsing bodies may still issue endorsements. If prospective applicants are outside the UK, the endorsing bodies should ask them whether they are able to make a visa application and to travel. The endorsing bodies should also consider with all applicants whether they are likely to be able to start developing their business in the UK under the current situation. If not, they should consider delaying the applicants’ endorsements until a later date.

2. Individuals who have been endorsed but have not yet applied for a visa

Endorsement letters are valid for 3 months. If an individual is unable to make a visa application within this timeframe, the endorsing bodies will need to issue them with a new endorsement (using a new secure reference number) before they can apply. The endorsing bodies should have a discussion with the applicants (as set out above) before they do so.

3. Individuals who have applied for a visa but are unable to travel

Individuals should refer to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) immigration guidance on website for the latest information.

4. Individuals who are due to have a checkpoint with their endorsing body

Endorsing bodies should maintain contact checkpoints with the individuals they have endorsed wherever possible. It is not necessary for these to be face-to-face. The Home Office encourage endorsing bodies to arrange checkpoints via telephone or video conferencing. It is important for applicants to know that they continue to have the support of their endorsing bodies. The endorsing bodies should make allowances for the current situation when considering the applicants’ progress against their business plans and where possible, discuss future contingencies. The endorsing bodies must notify the Home Office if an applicant misses a checkpoint without their authorisation.

5. Individuals who need to apply to extend their stay

The endorsing bodies should continue issuing endorsements as normal to individuals who are in the UK, whose visas are expiring and who wish to apply to switch into the Start-Up or Innovator categories or to extend their stay in the Innovator category. For those applying to switch from Start-up to Innovator or to extend their Innovator visa, as with the checkpoint guidance above, the endorsing bodies should make allowances for the current situation when considering the applicants’ progress against their business plans and where possible, discuss future contingencies.

At Chan Neill Solicitors we continue assisting clients with their Immigration enquiries. If you are concerned about your current visa or about your prospective visa application, please do not hesitate to contact our Immigration team.

UK work visa: Sponsorship of EU and non-EU nationals post 1 January 2021

On 6 April 2020 the Home Office published a new version of a “Tier 2 and 5 of the point-based system: guidance for sponsors”, wherein they have provided the guidance for employers who wish to apply for a Sponsorship License to sponsor migrant workers under the new point-based immigration system that will come into effect from 1 January 2021.

There will be a single immigration system in place for EU and non-EU citizens once the freedom of movement with the EU has ended on 1 January 2021. As such, in order for EU and non-EU nationals to work in the UK legally, they would be required to obtain a valid visa under skilled worker route which will replace Tier 2 (General) visa route. The job on offer will need to be at level 3 or above of the Regulated Qualifications Framework (“RQF”) or equivalent level in Wales or Scotland. This level is approximately equivalent to A-level standard. The minimum salary threshold will be reduced from £30,000 to £25,600 (lower salary level may apply for “new entrants”). The ability to speak English will be a mandatory requirement. According to the Home Office, the applicant would be able to “trade” certain characteristics against the salary that they would otherwise be required to earn in relation to the job on offer.

Those UK based companies, who do not currently hold the Sponsorship License but intend to sponsor migrant workers post 1 January 2021, can apply for one as of now. It is important to note that Licensed sponsors would not be able to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (“COS”) to a migrant worker at RQF level 5 or below until 1st of January 2021. The Home Office intends to start accepting applications under the new point-based system from Autumn 2020.

Should you require any assistance with the Sponsorship License application, or you require legal advice, please do not hesitate to contact our Immigration team.

Can I access UK public funds due to COVID-19?

If you have a temporary visa that allows you to live in the United Kingdom, it may include the “no recourse to public funds” condition. This means that you are not able to claim most benefits that are paid by the UK Government.

On 23 April 2020, the UK Government published guidance outlining the support available to migrants with “no recourse to public funds”. This article summarises the support offered by the state.

If you currently hold a UK family or private life visa, you can make a “Change of Conditions” application to access UK public funds if:

- You are destitute or at risk of destitution;

- Your child’s welfare is at risk due to low income;

- You are in other exceptional financial circumstances.

When considering making such an application, you ought be aware of the fact that removing “no recourse to public funds” condition would not only place you on the 10 years’ route towards settlement in the UK, but also, if you manage to change it back to 5 years’ route towards settlement, your clock will start from 0.

If you need a medical treatment in the UK (including being tested for the virus and result comes back negative), you will not have to pay for diagnosis of treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19). If you have a medical condition that makes you vulnerable to coronavirus, you can get help, such as deliveries of medication and food.

If you are employed in the UK, you may be able to access:

- Statutory Sick Pay;

- Contributory Employment and Support Allowance;

- Support provided to employers through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

If you are registered as self-employed, you may be able to apply for a grant through the Coronavirus Self-employment Income Support Scheme.

If you cannot afford rent, the landlord cannot initiate all eviction and possession proceedings, which have now been suspended for 90 days from 27 March 2020. Mortgage lenders offer repayment holidays of 3 months if you are in financial difficulty due to COVID-19 and cannot afford mortgage payments.

Asylum seekers may be able to get housing and money to support themselves and their family members while waiting to find out if they would be granted asylum.

If you are concerned about your immigration status in the United Kingdom, please do not hesitate to contact our Immigration Team for guidance.