This is advice for Tier 2, 4 and 5 visa sponsors in the UK who are sponsoring those affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).
If your student or employee is absent
We will not take enforcement action against sponsors who continue to sponsor students or employees despite absences due to coronavirus.
You do not need to report student or employee absences related to coronavirus.
This can include absences due to illness, their need to isolate or inability to travel due to travel restrictions.
You do not need to withdraw sponsorship if because of coronavirus:
- a student is unable to attend for more than 60 days
- an employee is absent from work without pay for more than 4 weeks
We will keep this under review.
If you’re sponsoring a student who is distance learning
You can continue to sponsor existing Tier 4 students who are continuing their studies through distance learning, or starting a new course, whether they’re in the UK or another country.
You can also start sponsoring new students who will start studying through distance or blended learning in the 2020-2021 academic year, provided you intend to transition to face-to-face learning as soon as it is possible to do so.
If a student has permanently withdrawn from their studies or deferred their studies for reasons unrelated to coronavirus, you must report this as usual.
You do not need to withdraw sponsorship for new students who have been issued a Tier 4 visa but are distance learning because they have been unable to travel to the UK. If a student stops engaging with their distance learning, whether overseas or in the UK, you must withdraw sponsorship immediately.
New international students who have not yet applied for a visa but want to start a course which will wholly be studied overseas by distance learning do not require sponsorship under Tier 4. This is because they do not need to travel to the UK.
You do not need to tell the Home Office when students have moved to distance learning.
This distance learning concession will be in place for the duration of the 2020-21 academic year. The concession will be subject to regular monitoring to ensure it is working as intended, and it will be subject to review at the end of the 2020-21 academic year.
If you have issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) or a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) and the sponsored employee or student has not yet applied for a visa
The employee or student will still be able to apply for a visa.
The start date for the course or employment stated on the CoS or CAS may have changed. We will not automatically refuse such cases.
For example, we may accept a CoS or CAS if they have become invalid because the employee or student was unable to travel as a result of coronavirus. We will consider this on a case by case basis.
If you’re sponsoring a student who’s waiting for their Tier 4 visa application to be decided
You may allow students to start their studies before their visa application has been decided if:
- you are a Tier 4 sponsor (other than Tier 4 Legacy Sponsors)
- you have assigned the student a CAS
- the student submitted their application before their current visa expired and has shown you evidence of this
- the course they start is the same as the one listed on their CAS
- the student has a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if required
Your reporting responsibilities start from the date that you issue the CAS, not from the date that their application is granted.
If the student’s application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused you must terminate the student’s studies.
If you’re sponsoring employees who are working from home
You do not have to notify us if you’re sponsoring employees who are working from home due to coronavirus.
Other changes to their working arrangements must still be reported as usual.
If you’re sponsoring an employee who’s waiting for their Tier 2 or 5 visa application to be decided
You may allow employees to start work before their visa application has been decided if:
- you have assigned them a CoS
- the employee submitted their application before their current visa expired
- the role they are employed in is the same as the one on their CoS
Your reporting responsibilities for an employee start from the date you have assigned them a CoS, not from the date that their application is granted. You will not be able to report information to us using the sponsor management system. You must however ensure that you record and maintain all the relevant information set out in the sponsor guidance on your own systems. Any changes that will impact the eventual consideration of the migrant’s visa application should be updated on the CoS, as normal.
If the employee’s application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused you must terminate their employment.
If you cannot pay the salaries of sponsored employees because you’ve temporarily reduced or ceased trading
You can temporarily reduce the pay of your sponsored employees to 80% of their salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is the lower.
Any reductions must be part of a company-wide policy to avoid redundancies and in which all workers are treated the same.
These reductions must be temporary, and the employee’s pay must return to at least previous levels once these arrangements have ended.
You can submit scanned documents as evidence due to the exceptional circumstances of coronavirus. We may write to you to request original or certified documents. Your application will be refused if you do not send us the evidence or documents we ask for and do not contact us to agree an extension within the given time limit.
On-site visits have been suspended due to coronavirus. If we need to visit, we will not decide the application until we are in receipt of the compliance visit report.
These arrangements will apply until 30 June, when they will be reviewed.
If you need more information about the measures in place for students and their sponsors
Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre
If you have immigration queries related to coronavirus, please email the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre.
Email: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk. Your email must be in English.