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Home Office makes important updates to COVID-19 concessions

13 August 2020

Recent amendments to the Home Office’s COVID-19 guidance for applicants mean that more people will be able to make an application to switch immigration categories without the need to go abroad. The updates also have significant right to work implications for employers whose employees are covered by the grace period the Home Office has put in place until 31 August 2020.

The Home Office has confirmed it will allow migrants whose leave expires on or after 1 September 2020 to switch immigration categories in-country, where they would normally be required to apply from abroad, if they can demonstrate their application is urgent. Starting a new job or a new course are listed as examples of urgency, however these reasons are not exhaustive.

The relevant in-country fees must be paid and the requirements of the immigration category must be met, aside from the requirement to apply from abroad.

The concession was published on 7 August 2020. Unlike the previous concession which was deleted on 29 July, the new concession does not require an applicant to show they cannot leave the UK to apply from abroad. The new concession still leaves the Home Office discretion to accept or reject the reasons advanced regarding urgency, so submissions and evidence of this should be carefully set out.

It is not stated how long this concession will remain in place, so individuals who wish to use it should look to submit their application as soon as reasonably practical.

Right to work implications of the grace period and exceptional assurance

On 7 August the Home Office revised its wording on the arrangement that will apply to people who cannot leave the UK by 31 August 2020. This is now called ‘exceptional assurance’ rather than ‘exceptional indemnity’. Presumably the Home Office has received advice that the word indemnity should not be used.

Employers should be aware that employees whose immigration conditions allow them to continue during the grace period ending on 31 August 2020 cannot continue working beyond this date if they apply for and obtain exceptional assurance. Where an employee wishes to continue to work beyond 31 August 2020, a formal application for further leave to remain will need to be made by this date.

Employers should also carry out further right to work checks for employees who are covered by the grace period and who continue to have the right to work. We have updated our article on pandemic right to work check procedures with suggestions on options for doing this.

We expect the Home Office to make further significant amendments to the guidance before the end of this month, so early action is advised.

If you have any queries about these developments or need assistance with an application or right to work check, please contact a member of our immigration team as soon as possible. 

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