On 20 April, the Immigration Law Practitioner’s Association (ILPA) submitted a response to the Home Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into the Home Office’s preparedness for and response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The full response can be found on ILPA’s website here.
While ILPA did applaud the Home Office actions of widening their policy in some areas, its response highlights various issues which have been of concern for many immigration professionals very early on in the Covid-19 crisis.
ILPA’s view is the Home Office’s response has been out of step and delayed when compared with real-time changes implemented by the government in other areas (employment, closure of travel routes, closure of UK and overseas biometric enrolment centres). ILPA’s submission sets out the extent of this delay and the remaining gaps in policy and systems.
As a member of ILPA, we regularly contribute to ILPA submissions to the Home Office and provide questions, queries and practical solutions to issues that arise. We very much agree with the issues raised by ILPA and are seeing the consequences of the shortcomings in policy with our advice to clients.
In addition, the Home Office have created various avenues to circulate information about the Covid-19 crisis, however, it has been raised that these could be more concise and easier to locate. Currently, these include:
- the Home Office’s official coronavirus web pages, where policy changes are announced and a brief summary of changes are provided;
- a Coronavirus Immigration Helpline email contact service; and
- fact sheets, which include some detail on new policies and procedures being implemented as part of the Home Office’s Covid-19 response; however, these are sent directly to specific stakeholders by email and are not accessible to the public.
We are eager to see if the Home Office will implement practical policy solutions to address the issues that are still outstanding, and continue to develop and publish detailed information on its website as a priority.
Our team will continue to monitor the updates from the Home Office and assess how these updates will affect clients and applicants in various situations. If you require assistance with an immigration matter due to Covid-19, please do contact our team for further assessment.
Sector focus: Covid-19, the tech sector and immigration
Covid-19 has had a significant impact on business and how businesses operate. However, it is commonly assumed that IT and technology is one of the sectors which remains relatively unmarked by the crises. This could likely be due, in part, to the nature of how business is already conducted within the sector, and the pace of change those in the sector have come to accept as "normal".
While relatively new for many businesses, the notion of remote working has been a cultural norm for many IT and technology businesses for some time, however, just because normal working life will be able to accommodate the restrictions put in place due to Covid-19, there are still major challenges in the delivery of these companies’ products and services and in their ability to drive new business.
The Home Office consider many IT and technology roles as highly skilled or "shortage occupations" (meaning they accept there are insufficient resident workers who can fill these roles). However in light of the COVID-19 crisis the Home Office have had to:
- Close most Visa Application Centres (VAC) overseas.
- Close in country biometric centres.
- Close all priority options inside the UK.
- Put in place concessions for change of employment applications.
In light of the Home Office actions, this has undoubtedly meant that there has been a delay in getting the skilled workers to the UK. This delay could possibly mean disruption to IT and technology businesses that rely on skilled individuals to meet their client's needs.
For in-country applications, there is a concession for individuals switching employers, and those individuals requiring an extension should still submit as normal (up to the appointment booking which is currently closed) to ensure their leave is extended and they are able to remain and work in the UK.
If you require skilled workers or have skilled workers and are concerned about sponsorship or expiry dates, please contact our team for a full assessment.