The official announcement on 16th July 2020 that unemployment rose by 649,000 between March and June will have come as no real surprise, especially given the gloomy predictions of many commentators. While this is undoubtedly a high number of job losses in such a short period, the furlough scheme has not yet ended, and, therefore, it is expected that worse is yet to come. Those who have been made redundant will now be looking for a new job, and many will be forced to look in other sectors and for roles outside of their immediate skillset. This poses a headache for anyone who now finds themselves unemployed, but for anyone whose legal immigration status in the UK depends on them keeping their job, the situation will be all the more worrying and stressful. In this article, we will discuss the options available to a Tier 2 visa holder who has recently been made redundant due to COVID-19.
Unfortunately, as of the current date, there is no concession in place to help protect the position of Tier 2 workers who are in the UK and have been made redundant due to COVID-19. Your employer is legally required to inform the Home Office that you have left their employment within ten days of your leaving, which will then trigger the cancellation of your visa by the Home Office. However, it may take some time before you are told by the Home Office that your visa has been cancelled and your leave has been shortened (curtailed). Remember, until you have been informed that your visa has been cancelled, you can remain in the UK legally and work. At this point, it will be beneficial to engage the services of an immigration law firm that can respond back to the Home Office on your behalf to make the argument that you should be allowed to stay in the UK. It is not clear to what extent the Home Office will consider such cases, but given that junior minister, Kevin Foster said in the House of Commons on 23rd March 2020 “We are very clear that no one will have a negative outcome through the immigration system due to a circumstance that was beyond their control”, it is possible that they may consider options other than outright cancellation.
Either way, the best course of action will very much depend on the circumstances of the individual person and their family situation. Indeed, some may be surprised that they have options they had not even considered. So if you are from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and you have recently been made redundant, exactly what are your options?
In any event, there is nothing now stopping you from applying for another job, and if successful, you can then make an application to switch to a new Tier 2 employer. The challenge here is finding an employer with a Tier 2 sponsor license. If they already hold a sponsor license, if your role is not on the Shortage Occupation List, then they will most likely need to complete a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) to verify that no settled worker can do your job. This means they must advertise the job for 30 days, and hence this will delay the date at which you can be offered a role. That said, if the job has already been advertised for 30 days (or part thereof), then this time will be reduced. If you are successful in applying to switch employers, you will then be given a new Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from your new employer.
You can also use this great tool to find jobs with employers that have a Tier 2 sponsor licence.
A very real option if you want to stay in the UK is to switch to another visa type. There are many options to choose from including the:
Before applying for a different visa category, you will need to check whether you can technically make the switch from your existing visa category, and also how long this process might take. In some cases, you may be able to use the Super Priority service to expedite the decision-making process (it should be noted this is not currently available due to COVID-19 but may soon be restarted). Again, if you are considering making the switch to another visa type, do seek the guidance of immigration Solicitors who can rapidly assess your situation, explain all of your options, and then manage the application process on your behalf.
If you the partner or parent of a British citizen (or a settled person), you may be eligible to apply for a spouse or parent visa under the family immigration route. In terms of the partnership, you will either need to be married, in a civil partnership or have been in a relationship that is like marriage for at least two years. If you are not able to apply as a partner/spouse, but you have a child who is either British, has settled in the UK (i.e. they have ILR), or they have lived in the UK for seven years continuously, and it would not be reasonable for them to leave, then you may be able to apply under the parent route for a family visa.
One other option if you have been in the UK for five or more continuous years is to apply for ILR. The challenge here is in meeting the minimum income requirement of £35,800 if you have been made redundant. It may be that the Home Office will exercise its discretion if you have until recently held an income of this level but have lost your job due to COVID-19, however, this cannot be guaranteed. Again, if you are eligible and would like to consider applying for ILR, seek legal advice as soon as possible.
If you are a non-EEA worker who has had the misfortune of being made redundant due to COVID-19, be reassured that you have a range of options and there is plenty of help available. While one option is to return to your home country to wait for the pandemic to run its course, the risk of doing this is that, if you do wish to return to the UK to work, you will need to wait out the 12-month ‘cooling-off’ period which applies to Tier 2 visa holders who leave the country. For many, being made redundant will force them to review their options, and, may lead to new opportunities that have not previously been considered. Regardless of your situation, seeking help from immigration Solicitors as soon as possible will allow you to relax in the knowledge that you have all of the expertise and resources you need at your disposal.
Finding the best approach to search for Tier 2 visa sponsorship in the UK
A quick guide to UK family visa income requirements
Does change in visa and switching company in the UK affect you ILR?
How to find Tier 2 or 5 sponsor employers in the UK
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