COVID-19 Update: Immigration and travel provisions for the UK and Singapore
Between 29th July and 3rd August 2020, the Home Office has made vital updates to the current set of information on visa expirations and the status of Visa Application Centres (VACs). As travel restrictions associated with COVID-19 are beginning to lift on a global scale, the operation of VACs has resumed albeit where local conditions permit. In addition, visa customers are now encouraged to make their own suitable arrangements when it comes to staying or remaining in the UK.
Visa expirations and extensions
Individuals who have expired visas or visas facing expiry must bear in mind the following pointers:
- Removal of visa extensions
Previously, individuals could request for an automatic visa extension if their visa expired between the period of 24th January and 31st July 2020 and were unable to return to their home country because of the COVID-19 travel limitations. This has now changed completely whereby individuals can no longer request for a visa extension in such circumstances.
Individuals are now advised to take the necessary steps towards their exit from the UK but only where conditions permit them to do so. If individuals wish to stay in the UK, they must now apply to regularise their stay in the UK. They have until 31st August 2020 to submit their applications.
- A grace period up until 31st August 2020
If individuals wish to leave the UK and they face visa expiry between now and 31st August 2020, they can make their travel arrangements and remain in the UK until 31st August 2020. The conditions of their stay from 1st to 31st August 2020 will be the same as the conditions of their visa that is due to or has expired. This means if their visa was granted based on work or study or for any other reason, individuals are permitted to continue staying in the UK on that specific basis throughout August.
Should individuals intend to leave on 31st August 2020 but are unable to do so, they can request an additional stay period in the UK. This is known as an ‘exceptional indemnity’ and will protect individuals from any potential consequences caused by overstaying the terms of their current visas. Individuals must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team.
If individuals wish to stay in the UK, they must apply for the appropriate leave to remain in the UK before 31st August 2020. Where individuals would normally apply for a visa from their home country, they must submit an additional application form prescribed by the Home Office, meet all the requirements for their respective immigration routes and pay the application fee.
Visa Application Centres
Most UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) have now reopened entirely for existing customers. In addition, some Service Support Centres (SSCs) are still operating albeit at limited capacity.
However, some SSCs and UKVCAS may not require individuals to attend an appointment. Instead, individuals can use their fingerprints and the relevant documents confirming their identity from their previous applications. Should individuals be unable to do this, they can still book an appointment.
Electronic monitoring for Singapore travellers
Whilst updated provisions have been asserted in the UK, the rules for travellers arriving into Singapore have also been updated. The current rule for travellers arriving into Singapore is they must abide by a stay-home notice period (SHN) of 14 days upon their arrival. This requirement will now be enlarged to include an additional requirement.
From 11th August 2020, it will become mandatory for such travellers to wear an electronic tracking device during the stay-home notice. This condition will also apply to citizens, permanent residents, long-term pass holders, work pass holders and their dependants, albeit children under the age of 12 will be exempt.
Once arrivals into Singapore have cleared immigration, they will be issued with an electronic wristband by authority officials. This wristband must be activated upon arrival to their respective places of residence and must be worn throughout the entire duration of the stay-home notice.
The purposes of this added proviso are to improve on the effectiveness of the surveillance measures carried out by the Singaporean authorities over these individuals during their SHN periods. It will ensure that the authorities will be alerted automatically should individuals choose not to comply.
How it works
GPS, 4G and Bluetooth signals will be utilised to determine an individual’s location and whether they are within the parameters of their place of residence. If they are found to be outside of these parameters or be tampering with the device, this will send an automatic alert notification to the authorities.
The authorities may also send notifications to individuals via this wristband. Individuals are advised to respond in a timely fashion, so this does not trigger a response from the authorities.
Individuals should bear in mind the following during their SHN periods:
- Ensure the registered app on the wristband with is always on
- Ensure the device is always on throughout the SHN period
- Do not remove the wristband at any time once worn. It must always be worn
- Once the SHN period ends, cut off the wristband and dispose of it according to e-waste disposal rules or return it to the local authorities
Individuals who choose not to comply with this additional requirement may be liable to either a fine of $10,000.00, a jail period for a period up to six months or even both punishments. These punishments may be imposed if individuals tamper or remove the device during the stay-home notice period or fail to activate their wristbands for reasons not associated with technical difficulties.
Foreigners who do not comply may have their visas, work permits or passes shortened or revoked.
Should you require further information or if you require legal assistance with your private immigration matters, please get in touch with a legal professional at Hudson McKenzie via email at email@example.com or by telephone +44(0) 20 3318 5794.