March 31, 2020

The UKVCAS service is currently suspended

UKVCAS Service Status

The UKVCAS service is currently suspended

The worldwide response to COVID-19 continues to affect the UK’s Visa and Immigration Service. As a result, the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS), led by Sopra Steria on behalf of UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), has suspended all services to help protect the health and wellbeing of our customers and staff.

This will remain under review with UKVI as the situation evolves.

UKVI has now issued guidance that all foreign nationals whose permission to stay in the UK expired from 24th January 2020 may access a visa extension until 31st May 2020 therefore you will not be disadvantaged in any way due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Please refer to UKVI’s Immigration Guidance at GOV.UK for more information on applying for this extension.

We are committed to offering the very best service to you our customers and will notify you of any changes to government guidance and news regarding the re-opening of our sites via our website.
How Does this Affect Me?
Customers with Existing Appointments

If you already have an existing appointment, you do not have to do anything. UKVCAS will automatically reschedule your appointment. Initially appointments will be rescheduled for 6 weeks ahead of your original appointment. Please monitor your UKVCAS account to find out when your new appointment has been scheduled for.

Use the following link to log on to your account at any time Log in to UKVCAS account.

If you can’t make the rescheduled appointment, you can cancel this online and receive a full refund. However, you will not be able to rebook until the online booking system reopens.

Alternatively, you can wait until the online booking system reopens when you will be able to see all available appointments.

Please regularly check this website for updates on the service status.
New Customers

New customers are being asked to register your account as normal at our website. You will receive a prompt to register, from the ‘Book your Appointment’ link on the UKVI pages of GOV.UK.

Please regularly check this website for further updates on the service status.
Impact on Visa Applications

UKVI has now issued guidance that all foreign nationals whose permission to stay in the UK expired from 24th January 2020 may access a visa extension until 31st May 2020 therefore you will not be disadvantaged in any way due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Please refer to UKVI’s Immigration Guidance at GOV.UK for more information on applying for this extension.

Don’t worry if you can’t book an appointment or your appointment has had to be rescheduled. UKVCAS are making the Home Office (UKVI) aware of all affected customers for records to be updated.
Next Steps

Please keep checking this website for further updates and monitor your account and registered email.

Please note we will never contact you to ask for payment details

March 27, 2020

Claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme

Use this scheme if you’re self-employed or a member of a partnership and have lost income due to coronavirus.
Published 26 March 2020

From:
HM Revenue & Customs

Contents

Who can apply
How much you’ll get
How to apply
After you’ve applied
Other help you can get

This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed.
Who can apply

You can apply if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:

have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19
traded in the tax year 2019-20
are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19

Your self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000 and more than half of your income come from self-employment. This is determined by at least one of the following conditions being true:

having trading profits/partnership trading profits in 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constitute more than half of your total taxable income
having average trading profits in 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constitute more than half of your average taxable income in the same period

If you started trading between 2016-19, HMRC will only use those years for which you filed a Self-Assessment tax return.

If you have not submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, you must do this by 23 April 2020.

HMRC will use data on 2018-19 returns already submitted to identify those eligible and will risk assess any late returns filed before the 23 April 2020 deadline in the usual way.
How much you’ll get

You’ll get a taxable grant which will be 80% of the average profits from the tax years (where applicable):

2016 to 2017
2017 to 2018
2018 to 2019

To work out the average HMRC will add together the total trading profit for the 3 tax years (where applicable) then divide by 3 (where applicable), and use this to calculate a monthly amount.

It will be up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for 3 months.

We’ll pay the grant directly into your bank account, in one instalment.
How to apply

You cannot apply for this scheme yet.

HMRC will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online.

Individuals do not need to contact HMRC now and doing so will only delay the urgent work being undertaken to introduce the scheme.

You will access this scheme only through GOV.UK. If someone texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it is a scam.
After you’ve applied

Once HMRC has received your claim and you are eligible for the grant, we will contact you to tell you how much you will get and the payment details.

If you claim tax credits you’ll need to include the grant in your claim as income.
Other help you can get

The government is also providing the following additional help for the self-employed:

deferral of Self Assessment income tax payments due in July 2020 and VAT payments due from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020
grants for businesses that pay little or no business rates
increased amounts of Universal Credit
Business Interruption Loan Scheme

If you’re a director of your own company and paid through PAYE you may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme.
Published 26 March 2020

March 11, 2020

Writing incredibly credible statements: the key to winning your clients’ cases

In asylum and criminal deportation and probably all areas of immigration, credibility is the key.

Some of my own techniques for building credibility into a statement include:

I “read” or “watch” the client’s narrative like a novel or a film. I then ask whatever question springs to mind to make sense of the film I’m watching/novel I’m reading, filling holes in the narrative and providing explanations where needed. To the reader/watcher, there’s a flow to credibility. Stilted accounts can sound like lies. “Flow” feels like truth.
Google the facts that the client is telling you as you go along. I very frequently (within reason) copy and paste from Google at relevant points in a statement to support what the client is saying and so that the reader immediately understands that the client’s views, thoughts or facts are objectively true.
Decide how you’re going to portray your client. If, for example, they are well educated, their “voice” in the statement must come across as intelligent, serious and knowledgeable. If on the other hand the client is uneducated and vulnerable, that should come across either in their statement or any witness statements about them.

Remember that you control the words that go into the statement. The facts and words must be true and agreed by the client – but if the client’s or interpreter’s words come across as incoherent or confused, it’s up to you to establish what is being said and make sure those true facts are presented in the statement in a coherent and sensible manner.

That said, the clients have to live up to the statements. It is pointless writing a statement that comes across as super intellectual for a client who won’t come across like that at interview or at appeal.

Another part of our role is to help the client “educate” the asylum interviewer, caseowner or judge about the specific country situation where relevant. Don’t hesitate to appropriately and helpfully explain, teach and include googled sources.

Remember that the asylum caseowner’s job is (or so it seems) to spot holes in our clients’ accounts and then jump on them to cast doubt on the person’s credibility. It’s our job to foresee potential holes and help the client plug them.

While that exercise helps the client credibly explain themselves, remember also that you’re not a Home Office interviewer trying to catch the client out. You are the client’s advocate, the statement driver, helping them present their protection claim and helping them to get safety.

Ask questions. Questions are like keys that unlock information. Be really inquisitive. I became a “specialist” in Palestinian asylum cases by asking my clients lots and lots of questions, from the most basic to the most complex (Who is Yasser Arafat? Where is Palestine?). Google as you go along so that you’re educating yourself as well as the decision-maker.

Statements are dynamic and case/person-specific. Enjoy putting them together. Enjoy taking instructions from your clients. Be interested in their lives, in the social and political context in which they were raised.

Great cases don’t walk through your door ready-made. Great cases are built by the lawyer.

PS: Where Article 8 is your strongest element, make them cry.

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