The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, stated that UK will extend visa rights for as many as 300,000 Hong Kong British National Overseas (BN(O) passport holders if China continues down the path of imposing repressive security laws. This would allow them to visit the UK without a visa for an extendable period of 12 months and lead to the possibility of an application for British citizenship in the future.
Currently Hong Kong British National Overseas passport holders are allowed to visit the UK for six months without a visa.
The new security laws have been widely condemned internationally. Australia, Canada, the UK and the US are of he opinion that the proposed laws would undermine Hong Kong’s “one-country, two-systems” autonomy.
“In relation to BNO passport holders, currently they only have the right to come to the UK for six months,” he said. “If China continues down this path and implements this national security legislation, we will change that status. And we will remove that six-month limit and allow those BNO passport holders to come to the UK and to apply to work and study for extendable periods of 12 months and that will itself provide a pathway to future citizenship.”
The announcement received a mixed response, with some welcoming the change, whilst some were disappointed that a full right of abode was not offered, as many Hong Kong BNO holders had been hoping for.
The foreign secretary stressed that the offer was dependent on the precise next steps China seeks to take to impose its security laws.
For the fifth year in a row, Richmond upon Thames has been voted the happiest place to live in London. The riverside town is the capital’s home of rugby and has great sports facilities. The town itself has a mix of boutiques, independents and high street brands with bars and pubs on the riverbank.
This all comes at a cost: the average asking price of a home in Richmond is £802,240 — down 6.1 per cent on this time last year but much higher than the London average asking price of £609,506.
Savills’ Daniel Hutchins says most people who move to Richmond have a link to the area or grew up there. “This has created a real sense of community,” he says.
Richmond was followed by leafy Kingston upon Thames and mega-expensive Kensington & Chelsea. Average asking price in Kensington & Chelsea £1,570,219, scored well on restaurants and shops.
Camden and Wandsworth came in fourth and fifth in the ranking published today. Camden has moved up the Rightmove rankings from sixth last year to fourth this year. Property is expensive given its proximity to central London, with the average price of £961,367 pulled up by areas such as Primrose Hill and Hampstead.
The other two boroughs in the top five, Kingston and Wandsworth, have a much lower average price point, with stock designed for first-time buyers.The average asking price in Kingston is £579,250 — 5.9 per cent lower than this time last year as the outer London market continues to cool. It scored well on culture and people feel they can “be themselves”. The average asking price in Wandsworth is £757,895.
Hackney is now firmly in the top 10 ahead of Merton, Westminster and Waltham Forest. Hackney has secured a £2 million grant from the Mayor’s Regeneration Fund, matched by the council, to turn it into a fashion and shopping hub.
Bromley came sixth. Two thirds of the borough is green space and there are 954 sports facilities.The average asking price is £534,535, which has edged down this year by 0.2 per cent.
The rapid and complete shutdown of the property market resulting from coronavirus lockdown could cause UK house prices to fall by as much as 10% this year.
However, according to the research from Savills, while we can expect a severe economic shock in the immediate term, a robust recovery is expected by 2022 and a cumulative rise of around 15% in five years, in line with Savills’ previous forecast of November 2019.
In a mark of the uncertainty of the current climate, Savills head of research Lucian Cook offered two possible scenarios, depending on how quickly the UK contains the spread of the disease and how long restrictions remain in place.
In the event of a longer downturn, Lucian Cook says a an average house price will fall by 10%, while if the economy experiences more of a short, sharp shock, he expects price falls of 5% this year.
Savills expects the number of home sales to drop drastically to between 566,000 and 745,000 this year, from just under 1.2 million last year.
The Government’s swift action to support jobs and earnings, more than a decade of strict affordability checks from mortgage lenders, plus historically low interest rates will all underpin consumer confidence and buyer demand.
And, although Cook predicts it will likely take until 2022 for buyer confidence to return in earnest, Savills is already seeing tentative green shoots of interest with its web traffic back at pre-coronavirus levels last week following a dip during the fortnight after lockdown was imposed. After a number of weeks working from home, people are in the early stages of thinking what to do next.
Country homes are proving very popular, which is understandable given the practical implications of a lockdown and people’s desire for more space.
Five-year house price growth forecast
2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 Cumulative
2019 forecast 1% 4.5% 3% 3% 3% +15.3%
Scenario one -5% 5% 8% 4% 4% +15.4%
Scenario two -10% 4% 12% 6.5% 3% +15.0%
The Home Office guidance published on 24 March 2020 confirmed that if you are currently in the UK and unable to return home due to the COVID-19 crisis and your current visa expires between 24 January 2020 – 31 May 2020, then your leave will be extended until 31 May 2020.
However, this is extension not automatic, and you must now notify the Home Office by submitting a COVID-19 UK Visa & Immigration form at https://gov.smartwebportal.co.uk/homeoffice/public/webform.asp?id=199&id2=5C97E7.
You will be required to provide the following details:
– your full name (include any middle names)
– date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
– your previous visa reference number
– why you cannot go back to your home country (for example if the border has closed)
If you are on a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa and your business has been disrupted you no longer need to employ at least 2 people for 12 consecutive months each. The 12 month period you are required to employ someone for can be made up of multiple jobs across different months.
Time when your employees were furloughed will not count towards the 12 month period.
If you have not been able to employ staff for 12 months in total by the time your visa expires, you will be allowed to temporarily extend your stay to give you time to meet the requirement.
These arrangements will continue for applications made after 31 May 2020, where the jobs you are relying on were disrupted due to COVID-19.
If you have questions regarding your immigration status and compliance with immigration rules please do not hesitate to contact Svetlova LLP.
If you cannot maintain your current workforce because your operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19), you can furlough employees and apply for a grant that covers 80% of their usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions on that subsidised furlough pay.
The scheme open to any employer in the country, will cover the cost of wages backdated to 1 March 2020 and will be open before the end of April. It will continue for at least three months, and can include workers who were in employment on 28 February. The scheme may be extended if necessary and employers can use this scheme anytime during this period. It is designed to help employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to retain their employees and protect the UK economy.
To claim under the scheme employers will need to:
- designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers’, and notify employees of this change. Changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation; and
- submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal. HMRC will set out further details on the information required.
HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
While HMRC is working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement, we understand existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.
If employees are working reduced hours
If an employee is working, but on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, they will not be eligible for this scheme.
If employee is self-isolating or on sick leave
If your employee is on sick leave or self-isolating as a result of Coronavirus, they’ll be able to get Statutory Sick Pay, subject to other eligibility conditions applying. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness, and there is a 3 week minimum furlough period.
If employee is on a fixed term contract
Employees on fixed term contracts can be furloughed. Their contracts can be renewed or extended during the furlough period without breaking the terms of the scheme. Where a fixed term employee’s contract ends because it is not extended or renewed you will no longer be able claim grant for them.
House sales in the UK are expected to fall this year, as the Covid-19 pandemic put the property market into deep freeze.
According to Knight Frank, if the current lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic continues in the UK for the next couple of months, the number of residential sales across the U.K. is estimated to fall 38% year-over-year in 2020. Knight Frank expects the number of sales to drop from 1,175,000 to 734,000 this year.
Knight Frank expects the house prices to fall by 3% in 2020, but then bounce back by 5% in 2021. House prices in central London are expected to remain stable in 2020 and to increase 8% in 2021. Knight Frank’s forecasts are based on the assumption that the British economy will shrink by 4% in 2020 before growing by 4.5% next year as the pandemic recedes.
Liam Bailey, the global head of research at Knight Frank, said: “Once the current crisis passes and activity begins to resume, we have to expect weaker economic activity in the first half of 2020, the dislocation in the jobs market and weakened consumer sentiment will impact on prices – however, the relatively finite timespan of the crisis means declines will be limited,”
Estate agents say their businesses have all but collapsed. Lucy Pendleton of agents James Pendleton said: “Even before an outright housing market freeze was declared, we had been forced to furlough more than half of our staff. Last week the number of sales being agreed was down 84.2% annually, exchanges were down 66.6%, the volume of offers had fallen 70% and viewings had ceased altogether.
However, Ms Pendleton is hoping the situation will change soon: “The housing market will come roaring back to life as soon as the lockdown ends, aided by interest rates that are significantly lower than when it began.”
Guidance has been issued by the Home Office concerning Tier 2 visa sponsor licence responsibilities.
With an increasing number of non-UK employees likely to be absent from work or working remotely, the Home Office has instructed Tier 2 visa sponsors to follow certain steps to remain compliant with their duties as a sponsor.
Any employee absence that has been authorised due to coronavirus does not need to be reported
The guidance, issued on 24 March, specified that while absences from work for more than 10 working days without permission and a change in working location should typically be reported to the Home Office within 10 working days, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tier 2 visa sponsors will not be required to notify the Home Office of an employee’s absences and working location where the absences have been a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Additionally, Tier 2 visa sponsorship does not need to be withdrawn should an employee be absent without pay for four weeks or more due to COVID-19.
It is recommended that the employer keeps records of all communication with the sponsored migrant as evidence of the period of absence.
Absences may be due to the following reasons:
- The migrant, or a relative, are unwell;
- The migrant is unable to travel to the UK;
- The place of work closes completely or partially.
Can a Tier 2 migrant work from home?
Sponsors have an obligation to report a change in work location. However, given the current circumstances, unless the migrant’s usual place of work changes, for the time being, a sponsor does not have to report if their workers are working from home.
It is recommended that before any employee works from home, the employer checks that their records are up-to-date with their current residential address and direct contact details.
What are the rules on Tier 2 sponsored migrant taking unpaid leave or a reduced salary?
The Home Office confirmed that it will not take any compliance action against sponsors if they authorise short periods of unpaid leave (up to four week’s in a calendar year) during the current exceptional situation.
A reduction in salary is permitted providing the new rate is not below the current appropriate rate requirements for the role sponsored under Tier 2.
If you require advice or assistance with your current immigration status or wish to discuss your specific circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact us
If you are in the UK and your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020, you can apply to switch to a long-term UK visa from within the UK.
This includes those who would not normally be able to switch to a visa from within the UK, and would normally need to apply from abroad.
Unfortunately, it seems that others who do not meet these requirements will need to apply from abroad. There is currently great difficulty in applying for an UK visa from abroad as many UK visa centres around the World are either closed or are offering a limited service.
You will need to meet the same visa requirements and pay the UK application fee.
You can apply online. The terms of your leave will remain the same until your application is decided.
UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) and Service and Support Centres (SSCs) are temporarily closed because of coronavirus (COVID-19). You cannot book an appointment.
If you’ve already made an appointment
If you’ve already made an appointment to attend a UKVCAS service point, or a Service and Support Centre (SSC), you’ll be contacted and told what to do next.
Your immigration status will not be negatively affected as a result of you not being able to attend an appointment.
If you are considering submitting an application or your application is currently with the Home Office and you require advice or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The government announced temporary changes to the VAT payments to help businesses manage their cash flow.
If you’re a UK VAT registered business and have any VAT payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, you have the option to defer the VAT payment until a later date or you can pay the VAT due as normal.
HMRC will not charge interest or penalties on any amount deferred.
Please note that you will still need to submit your VAT returns to HMRC on time.
If you choose to defer paying your VAT
If you choose to defer your VAT payment as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19), you must pay the VAT due on or before 31 March 2021.
You do not need to tell HMRC that you are deferring your VAT payment.
If you’re in temporary financial distress because of COVID-19
If you are experiencing financial difficulties more help is available from HMRC’s Time to Pay scheme here.