Temporary Adjustments to Right to Work Checks in light of the Coronavirus Pandemic
By Shazia Akhtar, Head of Immigration Services.
The government have published new guidance in respect to the employer process for conducting right to work checks during the coronavirus pandemic.
It is imperative that employers comply with new guidance as carrying out Right to Work check continues to be a mandatory requirement.
If an employer fails to carry out a Right to Work check then they run the risk of employing an illegal worker which could potentially lead to civil and, in the most serious cases, criminal sanctions.
As of 30 March 2020, the following temporary measures will now be permitted:
·        Checks can now be carried out via video call.
·        Job applicants can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending the original document.
Employers should take the following steps when carrying out checks via video call:
If a prospective employee is unable to provide their documents, then employers must use the Home Office  Employer Checking Service
If the person has a right to work, the Employer Checking Service will send employers a 'Positive Verification Notice'. This provides them with a statutory excuse for six months from the date in the notice.
Adjustments are ‘temporary’
It is important for employers to note that these adjustments are temporary.
When these changes end, employers will be required to carry out retrospective full checks on existing employees who commenced employment during the pandemic.
This check must be performed within eight weeks of the COVID-19 measures ending, and this, along with the initial adjusted check, should be kept on record.
If the employee does not have permission to be in the UK and this is discovered at the point of the retrospective check, the employer must end their employment.
The impact of Coronavirus (COVID 19) on the UK Immigration System
by Angel Masih, Immigration Solicitor at Deo Volente
There is a growing concern about the rapid spread of the coronavirus also known as COVID 19 and the impact it will have on the UK immigration services.
Home Secretary, Priti Patel confirmed on 24th March 2020:
·        Visa nationals who cannot return home due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to extend their visa.
·        This will apply to anyone whose leave expired after 24th January 2020 and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation.
·        This will last until 31st May 2020 and this will be reviewed on a regular basis if further extensions are needed.
The Home Office has temporarily permitted individuals to switch routes from within the UK. For example, an individual will be able to switch from a Tier 4 (Student) to Tier 2 (General Worker). 

The UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UK VCAS)

Sopra Steria have advised that those suffering with coronavirus symptoms should self-isolate and those with coronavirus must not attend their appointment.
Most pre-booked appointments are being automatically re-booked at the same location, approximately in six weeks’ time. Sopra Steria will also notify the Home Office of these changes.
UK Visas application centers (VACs) based abroad
VFS Global who manage visa services outside of the UK, have stopped accepting applications from most of the countries around the world. A full list of these countries can be found through the below link:
Immigration Tribunal Hearings
President of the First Tier Tribunal has stated that “From 25th March 2020, there will be no face to face hearings listed in any centre. Application for bail and emergency work will continue to be given priority but, save in exceptional circumstance, applications and hearing will be conducted remotely”.
At Deo Volente Solicitors, we understand that individuals will be facing uncertainty relating to their immigration status and we are happy to assist you during this difficult time. We are further offering telephone consultations to address any queries that you may have.
Please do not hesitate to contact us on 01234 350244 and speak to one of our team members within the immigration department.

How the Coronavirus will affect the property market and your prospective transactions.

By Daniel Masih Hans, Trainee Solicitor, Conveyancing Department at Deo Volente LLP
How will the novel Covid 19, commonly known as Coronavirus, affect those of us that are buying and selling properties? 
The big issue we are facing as a country is that these are unprecedented times; it is a blanket grey area. We have never seen an illness have such a global impact as Covid-19 has. The exponential rate at which the viral disease has travelled and been transmitted to populaces worldwide is causing much concern. So much so that consumers are beginning to lose confidence. This lack of confidence is not limited to the property market, as we have witnessed with stockpiling of Toilet Roll and Hand Sanitisers. People are unsure what the future holds and so are panicking. 

The lack of confidence has led to a short-term decline in the property market. Online Real Estate Agents, Zoopla, predicts housing transactions will drop by up to 60% over the next three months. We have witnessed an increasing number of sales, that had been agreed before the PM’s limitations, fall through: "Would-be homebuyers paused major decisions and took stock of the unfolding events in the UK and around the world, even before [restrictions] announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson," Zoopla said.

The Financial Times has reported bankers are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on property valuations, furthermore they are cautious about issuing loans due to uncertainty about the effect the virus will have on the economy. A number of banks and specialist lenders have already withdrawn new mortgages to focus on existing customers.

Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, suggested on 24th March 2020 that people should cancel plans to exchange house contracts, instead he advised they should rent somewhere new and stay home.
The Law Society provided the following guidance on 25th March 2020 “If you’re acting for someone who has exchanged contracts and has a completion date within the next few days, and you, your client and the other side are able to proceed, which may be very difficult given the position with removal firms, there’s currently nothing to prevent you doing so. This is subject to following current guidelines in respect of public health:
- properties not being occupied with cases (or suspected cases of) coronavirus (COVID-19)
- occupants not being in a state of isolation, and
- all parties abiding to social distancing requirements”
The economic model of supply and demand perfectly demonstrates the likely outcome of this pandemic. The surrounding confusion of the virus alongside recent restrictions implemented by the Government will lead to a decrease in supply and demand. People are fearful to sell their property or purchase one during the pandemic. By and by, this will in effect lead to reduced property prices. 

Colum Masih, Managing Director at Gold Crown Estate Agents, commented “In the past few days the property market has already seen a dip in property values as a cause of the Pandemic.” He continued, “It is going to get worse before it gets better.” 
Colum’s comments are further echoed when we review the increasing rate of unemployment, a severely unfortunate side effect of the Pandemic. For consumers to have a demand, in whatever sector, they need to be able to facilitate such. There will be a long-term downfall in the property market. 

Research into past pandemics has revealed quantitative patterns as to how a pandemic can affect the housing market. Rather than speculate, we can gain from the below statistics that the market will bounce back: 
- During epidemics such as the 1918 influenza or the 2003 SARS outbreaks, economic activity fell sharply during the epidemic (a 5-10% temporary hit to GDP or industrial production over the course of the epidemic) but snapped back quickly once the epidemic was over.
- During SARS, Hong Kong house prices did not fall significantly, but transaction volumes fell by 33-72% as customers avoided human contact (“avoidance behaviour” like avoiding travel, restaurants and public gatherings). After the epidemic was over, transactions snapped back to normal volumes.
- At the start of the Covid 19 outbreak in China, early news reports indicated that home prices had not fallen although transactions had nearly ceased.

Could this mean that the dip in the market will be shorter lived than most people think? It is a possibility. I infer again that this is an unprecedented time, it is a waiting game to ultimately see how the housing market will be impacted by coronavirus. With high volatility in global markets, the safe bet and recommendation is to hold off any transactions unless absolutely necessary. 
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