Covid-19 – an immigration update
In their latest published guidance, the Home Office has granted some limited relief to the visa status of UK based overseas-nationals. Travel restrictions resulting from the outbreak of Covid-19 mean that in some cases, foreign nationals are prohibited from returning to their country of origin.
For many individuals, these restrictions could mean overstaying their leave to remain in the UK.
The Home Office has therefore determined that in order to alleviate some of the risk to affected individuals, overseas nationals will be given an automatic extension to their visas up to 31 May 2020. Therefore no individual who is in the UK legally, but whose visa is due to, or has already expired (expiry between 24 January 2020 and 30 May 2020), and who cannot leave because of travel restrictions arising from the outbreak of Covid-19 will be regarded as an overstayer or suffer any detriment in the future.
Please note that overseas nationals seeking to take advantage of the automatic extension must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team at the Home Office (CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk) to advise of their situation.
Absences from study or work
In addition, the Home Office has introduced a measure to combat unforeseen absences from study or employment due to illness, quarantine or travel restrictions.
Sponsors do not need to report student or employee absences related to coronavirus which they have authorised. Additionally, sponsors will not be required to withdraw sponsorship if they consider there are exceptional circumstances when:
- a student will be unable to attend for more than 60 days;
- an employee is absent from work without pay for four weeks or more.
Students will be permitted to undertake distance learning without breaching the requirements of their Tier 4 visas, whether this is from the UK, or if they have returned to their home country.
Pending leave to remain applications
For those with pending leave to remain applications, biometrics appointments are currently still going ahead, however applicants are advised not to attend appointments if they are experiencing symptoms. These individuals should notify Sopra Steria with the subject heading ‘Covid-19’ and include details of the unique application number, location, date and time. Sopra Steria will refund the fee and update the Home Office accordingly.
Applications to switch visa categories
In normal circumstances, individuals seeking to extend their stay in the UK through switching to a new visa category may have been required to return to their home country to submit their applications. This restriction has now been lifted, meaning that individuals may exceptionally apply to switch visa categories from within the UK until further notice.
The above policies will be kept under review by the Home Office.
Read all related covid-19 articles here.
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