Coronavirus and Immigration: What You Need to Know

If you have questions about coronavirus and immigration implications, we have put together a list of guidance for various cases.

Visa Extensions for People Who Should Be Leaving the UK

If you are in the UK and your Visa is about to expire but you cannot leave due to travel restrictions, the UK Home Office are granting extensions. This currently applies to those whose leave expires before 31 July 2020. You apply for the extension using an online form.

NHS Workers

A long list of NHS professionals and their families are to get a one-year extension “automatically”. They do not have to make an application. If their leave is due to expire before 1 October 2020, they will simply get a one year extension and so will their families.

Changing to a Long Term Visa While Still in the UK

Due to the complications with coronavirus and immigration, this concession allows people to “apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31 May 2020. This includes applications where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country”. This only applies to people whose leave expires before 31 May 2020. So, if you would normally have to return to your home country to apply for leave to enter the UK, you can do it while still in the UK - if you are eligible.

Visa Renewals/Extensions for People who Want to Stay in the UK

If your current Visa is a longer term Visa such as Leave to Remain as the partner of a British Citizen, you must apply to extend this leave before the expiry date as normal. This will protect your position and allow you to stay in the UK on your current leave, although there will be a delay with the decision from the Home Office.

Students

There is detailed guidance from the Government here.

In summary, the following concessions for students due to Covid 19 are: 

  • Distance learning is now permitted.
  • Extending a Tier 4 visa can be done if leave expires by 31 May 2020. The guidance says “Students who need to repeat a year, retake a module, or resit an exam are exempt from demonstrating academic progression as would normally be the case for those applying in the UK.”
  • Police registration is suspended.
  • Working hours: the 20-hour a week restriction has been lifted for doctors, nurses, paramedics and those whose sponsor has suspended all study.
  • Volunteering is permitted for NHS Volunteer Responders.
  • Social distancing applies to overseas students just like everybody else.
  • Time limits: “discretion may be applied” if someone applies for an extension that would take them over the normal maximum period allowed on a Tier 4 (General) visa.
BBC News article featuring coronavirus information

Business and Education Sponsors

Businesses and Educational Institutions that have a Sponsorship Licence to employ overseas workers or take on overseas students have been given several concessions during Covid 19. They are:

  • Sponsors do not currently need to report absences of employees or students that are due to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Sponsors are also not required to withdraw sponsorship for affected students who have been unable to attend for more than 60 days or for employees who have exceeded four weeks of absence without pay.
  • Tier 2 and 5 sponsors do not need to update the Home Office if workers are now working from home provided that the switch to home working is because of the pandemic. The same applies for Tier 4 Students undertaking distance learning.
  • Employers can temporarily cut the pay of sponsored employees to 80% of salary or £2,500 a month (whichever is lower). In other words they can 'furlough' sponsored workers. This implies that if the salary drops below the minimum for that type of job, sponsorship will not have to be withdrawn as it usually would be.

There are also details on what to do if a certificate of sponsorship (COS) or confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) has been issued but the person has not been able to use it to come to the UK. Essentially the person will still be able to apply for a visa and the Home Office will not automatically refuse the application just because the COS or CAS is out of date. The employee or student will have to show they will unable to travel due to coronavirus.

There are more details here.

Right to Work Checks

Employers must continue to make Right to Work Checks to ensure all workers are in the UK legally and are able to work. Employers can now carry out Right To Work Checks remotely.

Right to Rent Checks 

The same applies to Landlords who must continue to check tenants' right to rent property. Landlords can conduct these checks remotely.

Tier 2 Workers

See the section on Business Sponsors above.

Application Centres - UK and Abroad

All UK Visa Application Centres are currently closed. This means applicants in the UK cannot attend an appointment to present their passport and register their biometric information. This will cause a delay with the decision on their application. We are waiting to hear when they will open again.

All Application Centres abroad are also closed and will open according to the situation in each country. Again, this means new applicants cannot attend the centre and this will lead to delays with decisions. Applications submitted before they closed are being considered but there is likely to be a delay with decisions also.

Entry Clearance Visa Expiry

The Home Office issued some people with a Leave to Enter Visa. This lasted for one month but were unable to travel within that time due to Covid 19. The Home Office now says:

If your 30 day visa to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired, or is about to expire, you can request a replacement visa with revised validity dates free of charge until the end of this year.   

This does not apply to visit visas. To make a request for coronavirus and immigration advice, contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre. You’ll need to include your name, nationality, date of birth and your GWF reference number with ‘REPLACEMENT 30 DAY VISA’ in the subject line.

Coronavirus letter from the Prime Minister

Asylum

The Home Office has decided to “pause face to face substantive asylum interviews for now”, according to correspondence from the Asylum Operations team. All interviews scheduled from 19 March onward have been cancelled by the Home Office. There seems to be no mention of delays with decisions but most Home Office departments are reporting delays.

Travel Documents, Citizenship and EU Settlement Scheme

The Home Office has said that there is likely to be delays with decisions on these applications.

Call us if you have any questions on coronavirus and immigration. Similarly, get in touch if you need help with any other immigration problems during this difficult time.

The Home Office has also set up a Special Coronavirus Helpline.

Email: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk. Your email must be in English.

Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

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