According to a People Management and CIPD survey undertaken in March, one-quarter of UK employers were expecting to make permanent redundancies as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, and around half of all businesses thought they might need to furlough staff. These were truly worrying predictions, but for those in the UK on tier 2 work visas, the situation is even more concerning. Those in the UK on a work visa face not only losing their jobs but also their right (and that of their dependant family members) to remain in the country. The reality is that many tier 2 visa holders are facing this exact situation. Whether you have already been made redundant, or if you have been told your position is at risk, it is important to understand your position from an immigration standpoint.
Unfortunately, the UK Home Office has not put in place any specific provisions to help those on tier 2 visas who have been made redundant as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. This means that the standard process would apply in this situation. There are, however, options that are available to those who wish to remain in the UK which should be explored as soon as possible.
The first part of the standard process is that your employer will inform the Home Office within ten days of your final day of work that you have been made redundant, and your leave will be 'curtailed'. According to the current immigration guidance, the Home Office will reduce your remaining stay in the UK to 60 days from the date of the decision to curtail your leave. One of the challenges here is that there is no set timescale for when you will likely receive your curtailment of leave. Given a potential backlog of applications at the Home Office, it maybe takes several weeks or even months. Within the 60 days, you will have time to apply for a visa under a different tier, or if you can find a job with another licensed sponsoring business, you can apply to move employer. Remember, until you are given notice of curtailment of your leave by the Home Office, your visa remains valid, and you can remain in the UK. Once you do receive your notice of curtailment of your tier 2 visa, you are not afforded a right of appeal.
It might be that rather than simply issuing curtailment of leave outright, you may be advised in writing that this is being considered and you may be asked to submit any relevant information to assist in the decision-making process. If this does happen, you would be well advised to enlist the help of a UK immigration specialist who can help you to construct a robust response.
Use this Job tool to find a job with another licensed sponsoring business in the UK.
If you are able to secure new employment with a licensed sponsor, you will need to make a change of employment application. This is required because you cannot remain on your existing Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), and will need to be issued with a new one. You will also need to satisfy the Home Office that you still meet the points requirements. If your new job is not on the shortage occupation list, then your employer will likely have to conduct a resident labour market test (RLMT) to prove that no settled person can fulfil the role you are being offered.
Related Article: Read more on 'How to change Jobs while on a tier 2 visa' here.
There is a range of other visa categories that you may be able to consider including the tier 1 innovator or investor visas or tier 4 study visas. If you have made the decision to switch to another visa type, it is important to make your application before your current visa expires - whether you have been curtailed or not. It is highly advisable to engage the services of an immigration law consultant in the UK who will be able to advise you of your category options and your chance of success in each, and then help you make your application.
There are two potential scenarios in this situation. If you are not going to remain in the UK, either because you wish to leave, or because you cannot switch to another category or to another employer, then you will need to leave the UK by the date of your tier 2 visa's expiry. If, however, you are unable to leave the UK to return to your home country due to ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions and/or lockdown, then you can take advantage of the automatic extension of your visa. Under the latest Home Office guidancerelating to COVID-19, if you're in the UK and your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020, your visa will be extended to 31 July 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19). This automatic extension has already been extended from 31 March 2020 to 31 July 2020, and there is a chance it will be further extended, potentially to 31 October 2020. This will give you longer to find new employment with a licensed sponsor, or to switch to another visa category.
Also bear in mind that if you plan to leave the UK before your tier 2 visa expires, and later return, under the existing tier 2 rules, there is a 'cooling-offperiod' which will prevent you from reapplying for a tier 2 visa within a year; Where you left the UK before your last period of Tier 2 leave expired, the 12 month period during which you will not be able to reapply can start earlier than the date your leave expired but only if you can provide evidence of having not been in the UK for a period of 12 months immediately prior to that date.
Anyone in the UK on a tier 2 visa who is facing redundancy, it is important to act quickly before your visa expires or is curtailed. Remember, you do have options including applying for a new sponsored role, or switching to a new visa category. If you and your family do wish to remain in the UK for the long-term, do not give up hope. If you are unsure of the best option to take now, ask for guidance from experienced immigration Solicitors as soon as possible who will help you formulate the optimal strategy. Doing so will give you and your loved ones the very best chance of remaining in the UK, and will help remove the burden and worry from your shoulders.
Related Article: Read 'How to find tier 2 visa sponsors in the UK' here.
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