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Immigration Update during COVID-19 Pandemic15th June 2020 Immigration
We are updating this page as further information is released by the government on 08 June 2020
The UK is currently working through the latter three stages of the four-stage strategy outlined by Boris Johnson in the fight against Covid-19 Coronavirus: Contain, Delay, Research and Mitigate. In order to follow this plan effectively, the Home Office have extended some immigration policies it had introduced at the start of United Kingdom’s lockdown which were due to end on 31 May 2020 to now end on 31 July 2020.
The Home Office have confirmed the following on applications made inside the UK:
Extending a visa
- If the individual already has leave in the UK and planned to remain and apply to extend their leave when it expired, they must continue to do this.
- No individual who is in the UK legally and whose visa expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July, or is due to expire, will be regarded as an overstayer or suffer any detriment in the future if they cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions related to COVID-19.
- A visa will be extended to 31 July 2020 if an individual cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19).
- Individuals must update their records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) if their visa is expiring and were not planning to stay in the UK. The Coronavirus Immigration Team will aim to reply to an individual’s application within 5 working days.
- Individuals do not need to do anything else once they have submitted the online e-form and their status in the UK is secure from the point they have submitted. This requirement to contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team applies to individuals of any nationality whose leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020.
- Once you have requested an extension, you won’t need to make another request if UKVI extends visas further due to coronavirus. Their visa will be extended again automatically.
- Individuals are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK before this date where it is possible to do so.
- Until 31 July 2020 an individual can apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa if their leave is expiring between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020.
- This includes applications where they would usually need to apply for a visa from their home country.
- They will need to meet the requirements of the route they are applying for and pay the UK application fee.
- This includes those whose leave has already been automatically extended to 31 July 2020.
- They can apply online. The terms of their leave will remain the same until their application is decided.
Completing your application
- Some UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) have already reopened for existing customers.
- Service and Support Centres (SSCs) remain temporarily closed because of coronavirus (COVID-19).
- The Home Office will contact individuals who have submitted an application informing them when they can book a new appointment.
- An individual’s immigration status in the UK will not change as a result of them not being able to attend an appointment.
If an individual applied for a Tier 4 visa and are waiting for a decision on an application
- The Home Office have confirmed that an individual can start their course or studies before their visa application has been decided if:
- An individual’s sponsor is a Tier 4 sponsor
- An individual has been given a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS)
- The individual submitted an application before their current visa expired and show evidence to their sponsor of this
- The course they start is the same as the one listed on their CAS
- The individual has a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if required
- It is to be noted however that if an individual’s application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused the individual must stop their course or studies.
If an individual applied for a Tier 2 or 5 visa and are waiting for a decision on an application
- Individuals can start work before a visa application has been decided if:
- An individual has been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
- An individual submitted an application before their current visa expired and show evidence to their sponsor of this
- The job they start is the same as the one listed on their CoS
- If an individual’s application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused the sponsor will stop sponsoring them and individual must stop working for the sponsor.
NHS and frontline health workers
The Home Office continue to extend their support to frontline health workers and their families by granting them an automatic extension of their visa’s because of coronavirus.
There are also changes to the conditions of visas for some frontline health workers. These changes will apply to customers if they work for the NHS or independent health and care providers. A full list of the types of health care professionals who this applies to can be found here.
The Home Office have further confirmed:
- Individuals can work at any NHS hospital during the coronavirus outbreak if their sponsor can maintain their sponsorship duties. Their sponsor will not need to notify UKVI of the change in their place of work.
- Individuals can carry out supplementary work in any role at any skill level during the coronavirus outbreak. There is no restriction on the number of hours they can work.
- There is no longer a limit on the number of hours an individual can work or volunteer each week if they work for the NHS as a doctor, nurse of paramedic and they are a:
- Tier 4 student
- Tier 2 worker and their NHS job is a second job
- Visiting academic researcher
- Holder of a short-term visa and are permitted to volunteer
- If an individual is a pre-registration nurse currently in the UK, the deadline for them to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been extended to 31 December 2020.
- If individuals do not pass on the first attempt they will have until 31 May 2021 to pass the exam.
Students in the UK
- New international students who have been issued a Tier 4 visa but have been unable to travel to the UK are permitted to undertake distance learning and sponsorship does not need to be withdrawn.
- New international students who have not yet applied for a visa but wish to commence a course by distance learning do not need to travel to the UK to do so and therefore do not require sponsorship under Tier 4.
- These arrangements apply initially until 31 July 2020.
Workers in the UK
- The Home Office have stated that they are aware that many workers sponsored under the Tiers 2 and 5 immigration routes are now working from home rather than their normal workplace due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tiers 2 and 5 sponsors are normally required to notify the Home Office of such changes of circumstances. However, due to the current exceptional situation, the Home Office have confirmed that will not require sponsors to do so if working from home is directly related to the pandemic.
It is important to note that other changes must still be reported as usual.
When will the Home Office return to normal functioning?
As the UK Government starts to lift certain restrictions, the Home Office will reopen UKVCAS in some locations initially to assure themselves that they can open safely, protect customers and staff, and can ensure every part of the application process can be delivered effectively. Once this is the case, they will then move to open more locations.
Customers will be kept informed of UKVCAS openings via GOV.UK and the commercial partner website.
If an individual had an appointment at a UKVCAS that was postponed, will they be prioritised as the Home Office reopen application centres?
As UKVCAS reopen, UKVI will be prioritising activity to ensure those customers who had an appointment that was postponed as a result of the lockdown restrictions be prioritised before they process new applications. The commercial partner will contact each customer to arrange this new appointment as services resume.
Can an individual now apply to switch visa types in the UK?
If your leave is expiring between 24 January and 31 July 2020, you will be able to apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa, including if you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country. You will need to meet the same visa requirements and pay the UK application fee. This includes those whose leave has already been automatically extended to 31 July 2020.
The Home Office have confirmed that you will not be regarded as an overstayer or be subject to enforcement action if you are unable to attend a biometric appointment due to coronavirus or if there are delays in processing their application.
The Home Office have confirmed the following on applications made outside the UK:
Application Centres abroad
- Some UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) are resuming services where local restrictions allow. Services will reopen in phases.
- Ongoing global restrictions mean some UKVI services will remain closed. Where services are resuming, existing customers will be contacted.
- As VACs reopen the return of customer passports will be prioritised.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on all UKVI services, and public health restrictions are still in place in most countries. Whilst the Home Office aims to assess applications within their normal service standards, there may be delays as the operation restarts and the operating environment is evaluated.
British nationals abroad who need to apply for a passport
- Her Majesty’s Passport Office is accepting online passport applications.
- If an individual’s country’s VAC is still closed, they won’t be able to apply for a British passport until it re-opens.
- If an individual urgently need to travel to the UK, they should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to discuss their options.
Compelling and compassionate circumstances
- Where there are compelling or compassionate circumstances, the Home Office may issue a visa waiver to those unable to apply for a visa, or authority to carry for those applicants with an issued but uncollected visa due to the disruption.
Individuals should contact the British embassy, high commission or consulate of the country they are in if they think they fall into this category.
English Testing Centres
- Some English Testing Centres are also resuming services. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS)’s website, the Pearson Test of English website or the LanguageCert website will have more information on where they are reopening and how you can book their Secure English Language Test.
Applicants for a Global Talent, Start up or Innovator visa
- If an individual’s endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because they have not been able to travel to the UK, they may still be eligible for a visa.
- They should make their application as planned and the Home Office will consider all applications on a case by case basis.
If an individual’s 30-day visa to work, study or join family has expired
- If an individual’s 30 day visa to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired, or is about to expire, individuals can request a replacement visa with revised validity dates free of charge until the end of 2020.
- JMW can assist you in obtaining a replacement 30 days visa.
- Individuals will not be penalised for being unable collect their BRP while coronavirus measures are in place.
Guidance for those who have a valid visa but haven’t travelled to the UK yet.
Individuals who hold a valid visa should check initially with their own government websites to ensure that they are up to date on latest travel restrictions from their current locations.
- There will be changes at the border because of coronavirus (COVID-19). Individual’s must check what they need to do before they travel.
- As VACs reopen, the Home Office will prioritise returning customer passports.
- If an individual wants to withdraw their application before their biometric appointment and is overseas, they can do this in the same place that their application was made, on Access UK or Visas4UK.
Self-isolation upon arrival to the UK
On 08 June 2020 the UK Government announced that when an individual arrives in the UK, they will not be allowed to leave the place they are staying for the first 14 days. This is known as ‘self-isolating’.
Before you travel, you will be required to provide your contact details and the address where you will self-isolate. In order to do this, you will need to complete the public health passenger locator form 48 hours before you arrive. You must present these details on your arrival in England.
You may be refused permission to enter the UK (if you are not a British citizen) or fined if you do not to provide your contact details or do not self-isolate when you arrive in the UK on or after 8 June 2020.