As a UK visa holder, it is essential that you continue to meet the terms and conditions of your visa to avoid any potential breach of the immigration rules. Unfortunately, in some cases, a visa holder or applicant may breach the immigration rules without even realising it. One way that this can happen is by not having your visa “activated” on arrival at the immigration border in the UK. This could be the case regardless of the type of visa you possess, including a student, work visa, spouse visa etc. In this article, we will explain what happens on arrival at the UK border, what is meant by activating your visa, what happens if your visa is not properly activated, and how to activate your visa.
When a Skilled Worker visa is activated, this means that UK Visas and Immigration record the date, location and type of visa you used to enter the UK. As such, the activation of your work visa marks the official point at which you arrived for the purposes of work, study etc, in the UK.
As a visa holder who is entering the UK, you will need to go through some checks on arrival at the UK’s border control. You will need to show your passport containing your valid visa. If you are entering as a visitor, is important that your passport be valid for the whole length of your stay in the UK. Your visa may be in the form of a vignette (sticker) placed into your passport, or you may have a digital immigration status. Assuming you meet the identity checks and your visa is valid, you will be granted entry into the UK, and your visa will be stamped and activated.
If you have a visa vignette sticker in your passport (your visa needs to be stamped by a UK Border Officer) you cannot use the automatic ePassport gates. If, on the other hand, you have a digital immigration status, you will be able to use an automatic ePassport gate. Nationals of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland nationals with a biometric passport (with a chip) who used the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ mobile app will not normally receive a vignette sticker to enter. Instead, they will be given a digital immigration status.
It is also important to bear in mind that if you are entering the UK via the Republic of Ireland, there may be no UK Border Force Officer present to validate and stamp your visa on arrival to the UK. In this case, it is important to keep evidence of your date of travel (e.g. in the form of a boarding card) in case you need to prove when you arrived at a later date. In addition, if you enter the UK through an e-gate, it is also advisable to keep evidence of your arrival in the UK (i.e. your boarding card).
If you have a vignette sticker you will normally need to collect your biometric residence permit (BRP), on arrival to the UK. You can then use your BRP to travel to and from the UK. On each future entry to the UK, you will have your fingerprints checked against the ones stored on your visa.
Sponsoring employers are required to carry out full right-to-work checks on all employees. They must additionally check that overseas sponsored workers arrived in the UK on or after the issue date of their entry clearance. This is to ensure that they entered during the validity of their sponsored visa (for example a Skilled Worker visa).
It is important to bear in mind that if an overseas worker arrives in the UK before the issue date of their Skilled Worker visa, technically, they will not have entered on the basis of their Skilled Worker permission. If they did not enter on a visa that permits employment, allowing them to work at this stage would mean that they will be classed as an illegal worker, which also puts the employer’s sponsor licence at risk and the company at risk of a hefty fine. Additionally, if the employee does not leave the UK, they may become an “overstayer” since someone admitted as a visitor can only stay for 6 months at a time. A sponsor licence may be downgraded, suspended, or even revoked if UKVI discovers that an employer employed an overseas worker illegally, or even for the sole reason that the sponsor did not check the migrant’s date of entry to the UK (failure to comply with their record-keeping duty).
If an overseas worker has arrived in the UK too early, they will need to leave the common travel area and re-enter on or after the issue date of their Skilled Worker visa. Leaving the common travel area and re-entering after the issue date will also ensure that the Skilled Worker visa is properly stamped and activated, and the Home Office will have a proper record of the arrival of the worker in the UK.
Before travelling to the UK, your visa must have been approved and issued to you. Travelling to the UK before your visa is granted can jeopardise your legal immigration status and the ability of your employer to employ you legally. If you are unsure of the conditions attached to your visa, when you can travel to the UK to start work, whether your visa has been correctly activated, or what to do if you have arrived too early, speak to an immigration Solicitor who can advise what to do. Likewise, if you are a sponsoring employer and you discover that one of your overseas workers arrived in the UK before their visa was issued and activated, an immigration Solicitor can advise on the best course of action.
A Y & J Solicitors is a specialist immigration law firm with extensive experience with all types of visa applications. We have an in-depth understanding of immigration law and are professional and results-focused. For assistance with your visa application or any other UK immigration law concerns, please contact us on +44 20 7404 7933 or at contact us today. We’re here to help!