UK Government has recently released advice for Tier 2, 4 and 5 sponsors who sponsor people in the UK affected by COVID-19 pandemic.
Absences from work or studies
The Home Office will not take action against Tier 2, 4 and 5 sponsors whose students or employees are absent from work or studies due to coronavirus illness, the need for them to isolate or inability to travel due to travel restrictions.
There is no need to report to the Home Office absences of students or employees that are related to COVID-19.
Tier 2 and 5 sponsors do not need to update the Home Office if workers are now working from home provided that the change to home working is because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The sponsors are not required to withdraw their sponsorship if because of coronavirus a student is unable to attend his studies for over 60 days or an employee is absent from work without pay for over 4 weeks.
Reduction of pay for sponsored employees
Importantly, Tier 2 and 5 sponsors can temporarily cut the pay of sponsored employees to 80% of salary or £2,500 a month (whichever is lower).
Any reductions must be part of a company-wide policy to avoid redundancies and all workers must be treated the same.
Such reductions must be temporary, and the salaries must return to at least previous levels once these arrangements have ended.
Distance learning for Tier 4 students
Tier 4 sponsors can continue sponsoring their existing students who continue their studies through distance learning whether in the UK or outside.
There is no need to inform the Home Office about the students that have moved to distance learning.
These arrangements are due to be reviewed by the UK government on 31 May 2020.
Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) or Confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) when visa application has not yet been made
If Tier 2, 4 and 5 sponsors issued CoS or CAS to their student/ employee, but they have not yet applied for their visas, they will still be able to do so even if the start date of the course or employment changed.
The Home Office will not refuse such applications automatically. They may accept invalid CoS or CAS if an employee or a student was unable to travel as a result of the coronavirus. The Home Office would consider individual circumstances on a case to case basis.
Students waiting for their Tier 4 visa applications to be decided
Tier 4 students that are waiting for their applications to be decided can start their studies, if:
- They are sponsored by a Tier 4 sponsor (other than Tier 4 Legacy Sponsors).
- The student has been assigned a CAS.
- They have submitted their application before the expiry of their current visa and provided evidence to prove that.
- The start the same course as listed on their CAS.
- They must have a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if required.
If Tier 4 application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused by the Home Office, the Tier 4 sponsor must terminate such student’s studies.
Employees waiting for their Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa applications decisions
Tier 2 or 5 sponsor may allow employees to start working before their visa applications are decided if:
- They have assigned CoS;
- The employee submitted their application before the expiry of their current visa;
- The job role they are employed in is the same as the one recorded on their CoS.
Tier 2 or 5 sponsors’ reporting responsibilities for an employee start from the date they have assigned them a CoS, not from the date that their application is granted.
Tier 2 or 5 sponsors have responsibility to ensure that they record and maintain all the relevant information set out in the sponsor guidance on their systems.
If the employee’s application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused by the Home Office Tier 2 or 5 sponsors must terminate their employment.