COVID-19: Visa Extensions Granted and Advice for Visa Customers, Visa Holders and Short-Term Residents: - | Hudson McKenzie

COVID-19: Visa Extensions Granted and Advice for Visa Customers, Visa Holders and Short-Term Residents:

March 26, 2020 | Immigration, Latest Thinking, News

On Tuesday 24th March 2020, the Home Office publicly announced visa extensions to be granted to those who cannot leave the UK for reasons such as self-isolation and travel restrictions because of COVID-19.

Individuals whose visas expired after 24th January 2020 will be able to apply for such an extension until 31st May 2020. This policy will be continuously monitored in case future extensions need to be enforced.

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel has outwardly declared the rationale behind this updated immigration policy:

The UK continues to put the health and wellbeing of people first and nobody will be punished for circumstances outside of their control.

By extending people’s visas, we are giving people peace of mind and also ensuring that those in vital services can continue their work.

As a consequence of the outbreak of COVID-19, multiple foreign nationals find themselves panic-stricken because they can no longer return to their home countries due to exceptional circumstances such as flight cancellations and entry restrictions. This policy guarantees that such individuals will not be reprimanded for overstaying their visa duration periods for reasons beyond their control. 

To assist foreign nationals with applying for visa extensions, The Home Office has formed a new body named The Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) to assist these individuals by making this process as simple as possible. All individuals have to do is solely email the CIT to advise them on their current cases and visa expirations and they will be subsequently issued with an extension. Their contact details are:
CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk
Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday-Friday, 09:00AM-17:00 PM GMT). Calls are free of charge.

The Home Office has also published a set of guidelines for specific individuals directly affected by travel curtailments as a consequence of the coronavirus. This can be found on Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents and applies to the following: –

Visa holders in the UK:

  • Foreign nationals who hold a visa that is due for renewal or has expired and cannot leave the UK for reasons related to COVID-19 will not be regarded as an “overstayer” or suffer any reprimands or penalties. Similarly, individuals will not be regarded as an “overstayer” or be reprimanded if they cannot attend a biometric appointment or if there are delays and interruptions when processing an application.
  • Grants of visa extensions will be made up until 31st May 2020. These can be applied for by emailing the Coronavirus Immigration Team and advising them on their individual set of circumstances at: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk. This condition to email the Coronavirus Immigration Team applies to anyone whose leave terminates between 24th January to 30th May 2020.

    The contents of the email must be in English and include their full name; date of birth; nationality; existing visa details and the reasons why their visa stay must be extended (e.g flight cancellations to their home country).
  • Those who cannot depart from the UK due to reduced travel prospects or self-quarantine reasons and wish to stay in the UK on a long-term basis need to apply for a visa from their home countries normally.
  • For those looking to apply for a visa in a different category, normally they would have to return to their own country of residence to apply. As of now, such individuals can apply from the UK to switch. Individuals must switch to/from a known and qualified route, meet the identical visa requirements and pay the application fee. This also applies to those whose leave has been auto extended to 31st March 2020.
  • Applications are to be made online ordinarily. Individuals must select an appropriate biometric submission appointment to go to if they are in alignment with public health guidance. Applications will be processed as quickly and efficiently as possible however it cannot be guaranteed that there will not be any interruptions due to the coronavirus. The terms of their leave will stay the same until their application has been processed.

Students in the UK:

  • Ordinarily, Tier 4 students are prohibited from completing distance learning courses and sponsors will be in breach of their sponsorship duties if they offer such a route of study. However, because of COVID-19, an exception has been made to the rule. This means that sponsors can proffer distance learning to Tier 4 students in the UK or those who have returned abroad but wish to pursue their current studies. Sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship in such a scenario and if students wish to defer or be permanently removed from completing their education, then the typical reporting obligations apply.
  • Sponsors do not need to withdraw their sponsorship in the event that overseas students holding a Tier 4 visa cannot come to the UK and are permitted to complete distance learning.
  • International students who do not yet have a visa but wish to start a distance learning course do not need to come to the UK and thus, do not require Tier 4 sponsorship.
  • All these provisions apply until 31st May 2020 and will be reviewed again at this date.

Workers in the UK:

  • Typically, Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsors are required to notify The Home Office on changes in circumstances regarding their employment, such as working from home. Now, in spite of the fact that many workers sponsored under Tier 2 & 5 immigrations are obliged to work from home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, The Home Office no longer needs such notification. Other changes unrelated to the pandemic are to be reported as normal.

Visa Customers outside of the UK:

  • Numerous Visa Application Centres (VACs) are already closed with many more predicted to close in the future. The centres still open will be offering curtailed services.
  • If individuals require up to date advice on services in each country, they should access the appropriate commercial partner:
    -Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East: uk.tlscontact.com
    -All other countries visit: vfsglobal.co.uk
  • Considering the border restrictions directly affecting global commercial partners (TLS and VFS) consignment logistics are being affected detrimentally. This translates to The Home Office not being able to send visa vignettes across certain prescribed borders and routes.
  • Where visa applicants have an appointment, but the appropriate VAC is closed, commercial partners will contact customers to inform them that their appointments are no longer being held.
  • Where customers have paid for courier return, commercial partners will send their passports back (where couriers remain open and allow them to do so). If applicants have concerns about retrieving their passports, please contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team for help and guidance.
  • If an individual’s passport is currently being withheld at a VAC but they have not arranged for it to be returned by courier, then please contact TLS or VFS directly.
  • English Testing Centres are currently experiencing restrictions by local authorities across the world. For the latest information please visit the IELTS’s website or email them directly.

If you have immigration queries related to coronavirus, please email the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre. A reply should be submitted within 5 working days. The email address is:
 CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk

Please also visit for further advice: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents

Should you require further information regarding the above, please get in touch with a professional at Hudson McKenzie via email at londoninfo@hudsonmckenzie.com or by telephone +44(0) 20 3318 5794.

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