As with most areas of life, the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the UK’s immigration system is far-reaching.  In this regularly updated blog, we monitor the key developments around immigration, including those that may affect your immigration status or how your visa or citizenship application or appeal is processed.

We will cover key Home Office concessions as they emerge, track the latest closures (or hopefully, in the not too distant future, re-openings) of visa application and test centres, and tribunals.  We will also cover the latest guidance around sponsor duties for sponsor licence holders.

We do our best to keep this blog up to date, as fresh news emerges. If you are aware of any useful information which we have omitted, please let us know.

Live Updates

Apply for a visit visa from any UK visa application centre (13 October 2020)

The Home Office has confirmed you can apply for a visitor visa from any UK visa application centre overseas. All other types of application should be submitted from the country you are living in.

Biometrics and use of previous fingerprints (2 July 2020)

In another important concession which will help speed up visa processing, the Home Office has announced that, for certain people, it will reuse fingerprints given in a previous application.

Individuals will be emailed by the Home Office to tell them if eligible and asked to send an image of their face and supporting documents. This would appear to obviate the need to enroll biometrics and appears to apply to applications made from within the UK. If you cannot provide the requested information, then you will need to attend a biometrics appointment as usual.

This is no doubt a measure to counter-act the backlog of people waiting for biometrics appointments. Quite why it has taken a pandemic for them to make this seemingly obvious move, is anyone’s guess. For those who have already submitted a visa application, they will face a difficult choice of whether to hold out for an invitation letter, or to keep trying to book an appointment.

UKVCAS booking system open to more customers (2 July 2020)

Sopra Steria, which runs UKVCAS, the in-country visa application centres, has announced that more appointments will be made available, specifically for those who had already registered with UKVCAS between 27 March and 30 April 2020. Those affected should receive an email from Sopra Steria with instructions including how to book an appointment.

If you do not receive an email it might be because you will be contacted by the Home Office and told they are able to reuse your biometrics from a previous application.

Overseas visa application centres continue to open

Many more overseas centres run by VFS Global or TLS Contact continue to reopen, allowing people to enroll biometrics and complete their application. The Home Office does not maintain a centralised, public record of which are open or closed. The decision to reopen is taken by VFS/TLS Contact factoring local COVID conditions.

You should check their company’s website and then check the specific location, to see the latest. For VFS go here, for TLS Contact, it is here.

Minimum income requirement for Spouses/Partners (9 June 2020)

In an important concession which will help many, the Home Office finally announced a concession in respect of the minimum income requirement for spouses and other couples who fall under the Home Office definition of a ‘partner’.

If you experienced a loss of income due to the pandemic, then the Home Office will consider your employment income for the period leading up to your loss of income. However, you would need to have accrued at least six months at a level that satisfies the threshold, leading up to March 2020.

In the alternative, the Home Office will consider any earnings under furlough, as if you were earning 100% of your salary.

For the self-employed, a loss of income due to the coronavirus between 1 March 2020 and 31 July 2020 will generally be disregarded.

Meanwhile the minimum income requirement has been debated in Parliament, as part of the Government’s new immigration bill.

twitter image

Breaks in continuity and lawful residence (9 June 2020)

If you have/had leave to remain under the family life or private life category, and you are/were stranded abroad due to the coronavirus, then the Home Office has introduced a temporary concession. If your visa expired whilst abroad whilst you could not return to the UK due to the pandemic, then the Home Office will overlook a short break in your continuity of residence.

Fiancés visa (9 June 2020)

If you are in the UK on a fiancé visa, but your ceremony could not take place due to the coronavirus, then you have two options. You can either apply for the general extension to 31 July 2020 (see below), or you can apply to extend your fiancé by a further six months.

Reopening of some overseas centres (28 May 2020)

Although most overseas visa application centres remain closed, some centres are resuming service. From 1 June 2020, the following centres will open:

  • Bangkok
  • Beijing
  • Berlin
  • Brisbane
  • Canberra
  • Chongqing
  • Dusseldorf
  • Fiji
  • Guangzhou
  • Hong Kong
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Melbourne
  • Minsk
  • Munich
  • Perth
  • Shanghai
  • Sydney
  • Taipei
  • Ukraine

The visa centres are run by either VFS Global or TLS Contact. You should check their company’s website and then check the specific location, to see the latest. For VFS go here, for TLS Contact, it is here.  These centres will not resume all services. For example, it will not be possible to use Priority or Super Priority services.

As explained below, even if a centre is closed, it is still possible to submit your application online – you just cannot complete the application process as you cannot attend a visa application centre to enrol your biometrics.

Any application already submitted is likely to be subject to extensive delay.  You might want to refrain from applying for now.  On the other hand, there might be important reasons why you wish to still submit your application, even though you will be unable to get a biometrics appointment for some time.

Bear in mind, the ‘date of application’ is the date you submit the application online and pay for your fee.  Therefore, there may be tactical reasons why you would still wish to apply sooner rather than later.  For example, if you are considering making a spouse application, and your (or your partner’s, if an eligible income source) anticipated pay is likely to decrease in the future then your best chance of meeting the Financial Requirement might be to apply now.

Also, if you apply now then it will still be closer to the front of the queue, when restrictions are lifted, and the Home Office start work on the inevitable backlog.

Contact us if you want to discuss this further.

Cancelling your visa or citizenship application (26 May 2020)

There is updated guidance regarding cancelling (or ‘withdrawing’) your visa or citizenship application. The general rule is that you can only get a refund if you have not yet attended your biometric appointment. There are slightly different ways of cancelling your application, depending on whether you applied from inside or outside of the UK.

In addition, if you need to cancel due to the coronavirus (or have already cancelled due to the coronavirus), then the Home Office appears to have opened the door to getting a refund, even if you have already submitted your biometrics. You would need to contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre by email.

Reopening of some UKVCAS centres (26 May 2020)

As noted below, applicants applying for leave to remain from within the UK are required to enroll their biometrics through UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS).  Most of UKVCAS is outsourced to the private company Sopra Steria.

All UKVCAS centres had been closed due to the coronavirus. However, the Home Office has now announced that certain centres will be open from 1 June 2020. We understand that these are open to those who had pre-existing appointments that were cancelled, due to the pandemic.

Even if you cannot get an appointment, you should still submit your application prior to any deadline and register on the Sopra Steria website.

Cancelling your visa or citizenship application (26 May 2020)

There is updated guidance regarding cancelling (or ‘withdrawing’) your visa or citizenship application. The general rule is that you can only get a refund if you have not yet attended your biometric appointment. There are slightly different ways of cancelling your application, depending on whether you applied from inside or outside of the UK.

In addition, if you need to cancel due to the coronavirus (or have already cancelled due to the coronavirus), then the Home Office appears to have opened the door to getting a refund, even if you have already submitted your biometrics. You would need to contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre by email.

Visa extension concession extended to 31 July 2020 (22 May 2020)

The existing concession as explained below, for those stuck in the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation related to the coronavirus, has been extended. This provision covers those with leave expiring between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020. Anyone who wants to extend must make a request to the Coronavirus Immigration Team.

However, if you have already extended your visa to 31 May 2020 then your visa will be automatically extended to 31 July 2020.

Switching concession extended to 31 July 2020 (22 May 2020)

The switching concession already covered below, which allows people to switch into long-term immigration routes in circumstances where they would ordinarily be required to leave to the UK, has also been extended. The concession now covers those whose leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 and includes those whose leave has already been extended up to 31 July 2020.

This important concession allows those in the UK on a short-term leave, such as Visitors, to potentially apply to switch into a longer-term category.

Traveller exemptions from quarantine (22 May 2020)

Anyone travelling to the UK from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man is exempt from the general rule requiring travellers to the UK to quarantine for 14 days. In addition, there is a long list of people undertaking specific roles or entering the UK for a specific purpose that are exempt from the quarantine requirement, such as road haulage workers or a registered health or care professional coming to provide essential healthcare.

14-day quarantine for travellers coming to UK – start date to be confirmed (10 May 2020)

Alongside measures to ‘ease’ the lockdown, the Prime Minister has announced the introduction of quarantine measures for people arriving at UK airports, ports and Eurostar railway stations. Such people will be required to self-isolate for two weeks. They will be required to complete an online form and specify the address at which they will self-isolate.

These measures will apply to all travellers, including British citizens. There is no date yet for when these measures will be introduced.

Free visa extensions extended to other health and frontline workers (29 APRIL 2020)

On 30 March 2020, the Government announced that doctors, nurses and paramedics would have their visas automatically extended by one year if their visa was/is due to expire by 1 October 2020. This would be at no cost, so no application fee or Immigration Health Surcharge. Subsequent guidance then restricted this to those on a Tier 2 visa.

This concession has now been extended to ‘frontline workers’, including midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists. This includes those working in the NHS and independent sector. Family members are also covered.

This concession applies to anyone whose visa expires between 31 March 2020 and 1 October 2020. Anyone who has paid for an ‘unresolved application’ (i.e. an application which has not been decided) will be offered the ‘option of a refund’ (quite why someone needs the ‘option’ of a refund is unclear).

However, concerns remain about who is precisely covered by this announcement, or rather, which essential workers that have cared for the UK population during this pandemic might be left out. Does this concession only apply to those on a Tier 2 visa? Does this cover social care workers?

social care tweet

Within this announcement is a further concession, that family members and dependents who passed away as a result of contracting the virus will be offered immediate indefinite leave to remain.

If your 30-day visa has expired (28 APRIL 2020)

If you are applying for a visa to come to the UK, then you will often be given a 30 day initial visa or ‘vignette’ (a sticker) which is placed into your passport. You are expected to enter the UK within the validity of this 30-day period.

This has naturally caused a headache for many who, due to the pandemic, have been unable to enter the UK within this timeframe. The standard way to get a new 30-day sticker in your passport was to apply for a Transfer of Conditions, a process which would cost £169 and which required further biometric enrolment, something not possible when all the visa application centres are closed.

Now, you can make the request by contacting the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre by email. Further detail about what to include in your email is here. Once your visa application centre reopens you will be contacted to arrange a replacement sticker being placed in your passport.

Benefits and support migrants (23 APRIL 2020)

The Home Office has produced new guidance around support available for migrants. There are no new concessions as such, just a restatement/clarification of the existing provisions.

A problem for many migrants, particularly during a crisis like the present, is that those on a time-limited visa will normally have a condition of their visa that they have No Recourse to Public Funds. You can find a list of what is classed as public funds, under paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules, here.

The guidance makes it clear that this does not stop individuals from being able to access support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, if furloughed. The self-employed, meanwhile, can make a claim through the Coronavirus Self-employment Income Support Scheme.

Where otherwise eligible, those with a No Recourse to Public Funds restriction can also claim Statutory Sick Pay and claim contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

You can also apply to have your No Recourse to Public Funds conditions lifted. To do this you need to make a Change of Conditions application. In our experience, it has usually taken a determined struggle to get the condition lifted. However, it is possible that the Home Office might be softening in their handling of such requests. We live in hope.

The No Recourse to Public Funds network has further information on this. This might be a response to pressure brought about through judicial review action brought  by the Unity Project, instructing Deighton Pierce Glynn, challenging the legality of No Recourse to Public Funds policy.  The High Court is set to consider the legality of the policy in early May.

unity project tweet

‘Clarification’ that Automatic visa extensions for NHS workers only apply to Tier 2 visa holders

On 31 March 2020 we reported the new Home Office concession for doctors, nurses and paramedics working for the NHS, as well as their family members.  We were told they would get their visas automatically extended, if their visa is due to expire before 1 October 2020, free of charge. This concession was not originally contingent on the type of visa held.

However, new guidance specifically limits this concession to NHS workers and their families that are on a Tier 2 General visa.  Although most medical workers are on Tier 2, some are on Tier 5 and so will not benefit from this concession– an unnecessarily harsh restriction, given the sacrifices being made by all health workers.

The new concession will give eligible NHS workers a cost-free extension for one year. But this is a mere reprieve from the usual crippling fees.  As recently highlighted by the Guardian, NHS workers must usually pay £400 per year through something called the Immigration Health Surcharge. This gives them access to the NHS: the same service they are already dedicating their lives to.  Furthermore, from 1 October 2020 the Surcharge will increase to £624 per year.

guardian NHS article

Meanwhile calls continue to grow to grant NHS workers working through the pandemic British citizenship or at least indefinite leave to remain.

NHS petition

Concession to allow Tier 2 and Tier 5 employees to start work before visa decided (14 APRIL 2020)

Ordinarily, there is a general rule which prevents an individual from commencing employment with an employer until their Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa is granted by the Home Office.  However, a new concession allows individuals who have applied under Tier 2 and Tier 5 to start employment with their employer, before their application has been approved.

This is provided that:

  • The individual has been assigned a certificate of sponsorship
  • The individual submitted their application before their current visa expired
  • The role they will be employed in is the same as is stated on their certificate of sponsorship

The new policy reminds us of existing guidance, that an employer’s responsibility towards the employee starts from the date the certificate of sponsorship is assigned to the individual (as opposed to the date their visa is approved).  The employer is expected to continue to maintain proper records and monitoring in respect of the individual.

Naturally, if the individual’s application is refused or rejected then their employment must be immediately terminated.

Confirmation that all foreign nationals eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. And that it is not classed as ‘public funds’ (9 APRIL 2020)

Most individuals in the UK on a time-limited visa will have a restriction preventing them from having recourse to public funds.  This naturally caused many individuals and employers to query whether foreign nationals are eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

In new guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the government has confirmed that foreign nationals are eligible to be furloughed and that any grant under this scheme is not classed as ‘access to public funds’.  The guidance confirms that this applies to employees on all types of visa.

To see which benefits are classed as ‘Public Funds’, for immigration purposes, look to the interpretative section under paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules.

Visa extension concession to 31 May 2020: Online Form released (6 APRIL 2020)

As we already highlighted below, on 27 March 2020, the Home Office announced that individuals in the UK who cannot leave the UK due to coronavirus can request that their visa is extended to 31 May 2020.

Whereas previously, individuals had to email or telephone a dedicated team, the Home Office has managed to cobble together an online form.  You are advised to take a screenshot of the form before hitting the submit button, for your records.

The Home Office state they will respond to you within five working days.

Biometric enrollment and UK visa application centres: inside the UK

Sopra Steria UKVCAS centres now closed (APRIL 2020)

Applicants applying for leave to remain from within the UK are required to enroll their biometrics through UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS).  Most of UKVCAS has been outsourced to the private company Sopra Steria.

Latest Home Office guidance is that all UKVCAS centres are now temporarily closed, meaning it is not possible to enroll biometrics (or submit supporting documents via UKVCAS).

According to the UKVCAS website, those who had already booked an appointment will have their appointments rescheduled for 6 weeks ahead of the original appointment.  Log into your UKVCAS account to monitor your appointment scheduling.

If you cannot make the rescheduled appointment then, for the time being, you are merely offered the opportunity to cancel online and receive a full refund, as you are not able to rebook until the online booking system reopens.  You should exercise extreme caution before withdrawing an application, as this could have grave consequences on your immigration status, for example, if withdrawal would lead to you becoming an ‘overstayer’.

For the time being, you are still able to submit your online application, you just cannot complete the next step of enrolling your biometrics.  If your visa is expiring then it is likely that you should continue to submit any extension on or before the expiry of your visa, although you may want to contact us to discuss this further.

On 12th April, Open Democracy posted this tweet:

open democracy tweet

Service and Support Centres Closed (APRIL 2020)

Certain individuals who require more support during the application process are directed to use Service and Support Centres (SSCs), run by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).  However, SSCs are now closed.

It is no longer possible to book an appointment. Those who had already booked an appointment will be contacted by UKVI.  The webpage states your immigration status will not change as a result of you not being able to attend an appointment.

Biometric Appointments: Overseas applicants (3 APRIL 2020)

If you are applying from overseas, it is still possible to submit an online application, and we explain why you might possibly still want to, below.  In normal times, after submitting your application, you would then book an appointment at a visa application centre run by one of the two commercial partners of the Home Office: VFS or TLSContact.  This is in order to enroll your biometrics, and potentially to provide supporting documents.  However, all visa application centres are now closed.

This means that, in practice, you cannot complete you cannot submit all of the required data which the Home Office require, and the Home Office cannot therefore process your visa application.

Any application already submitted is likely to be subject to extensive delay.  You might want to refrain from applying for now.  On the other hand, there might be important reasons why you wish to still submit your application, even though you will be unable to get a biometrics appointment for some time.  Bear in mind, the ‘date of application’ is the date you submit the application online and pay for your fee.  There may be ‘tactical’ reasons why you would still wish to submit an application sooner rather than later.  For example, if you are considering making a spouse application, and your (or your partner’s) anticipated pay is likely to decrease in the future then it might still be best to submit your application now.

Also, if you submit an application now then it will still be closer to the front of the queue, when restrictions are lifted and the Home Office start work on the inevitable backlog.

Contact us if you want to discuss this further.

English testing centres

Many individuals will need to take an English language test, from an approved test centre, often IELTS.  Many of these ILETS test centres, including all centres in the UK, are now closed.  In the case of UK IELTS test centres, those who had already booked appointments are being offered appointment from May onwards.  They are alternatively being offered a refund.

The inability of most to now be able to sit this test presents yet a further challenge – if you cannot pass the test then you may not be able to satisfy all of the requirements of your immigration category.

If you are in a position of having to urgently apply, whilst being unable to physically sit test due to closures, then we might be able to help you with a workaround.  Contact us for advice.

Automatic extensions for NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics (31 MARCH 2020)

On 31 March 2020, the Home Office announced a special concession specifically for doctors, nurses and paramedics working for the NHS, as well as their family members.

Any person who falls into this category, and whose visa is due to expire before 1 October 2020, will have their visa extended for one year. This extension will be automatic and completely free of charge – so no visa or Immigration Health Surcharge fees to pay.

It remains to be seen whether other key workers that are here on a temporary work visa, and who are risking their lives to help others during this pandemic, will be given the same recognition.

Twitter user May Bulman posted a comment about this alongside an article from The Independent:

may-bulman-tweet

Life in the UK test (31 MARCH 2020)

Passing the Life in the UK test is now a requirement for most indefinite leave to remain and citizenship applications.  However, due to the pandemic, all 30 test centres providing Life in the UK tests are now closed, until at least 30 April 2020.

If you had already booked a test to be taken prior to 30 April 2020, then your test will be automatically rescheduled to a date after 1 May 2020.

For anyone looking to book a test, test dates are available from 1 May 2020.

Citizenship ceremonies (31 MARCH 2020)

Those applying for citizenship, aged over 18, must attend a citizenship ceremony.  In fact, by law, it is only once you attend the ceremony, and make the appropriate oath/affirmations and pledge, that you become British and receive your certificate of British citizenship.

Due to coronavirus, local registry offices are not holding ceremonies, which presents something of an impediment to becoming British or to obtaining indefinite leave to remain.

Ordinarily, an individual must book their ceremony within 3 months of receiving an invitation from the Home Office.  This deadline is now being extended to 6 months, although the guidance states, ‘Any delays caused by COVID-19 will not affect decisions around your application.’

Tier 1 Entrepreneurs and job creation

The Tier 1 Entrepreneur category closed for new applicants on 29 March 2019.  However, for those already in the UK, the Home Office has provided some important clarification with regards to the requirement that Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa holders create a certain number of jobs during the currency of their stay as a Tier 1 Entrepreneur (usually two jobs but potentially 10 if applying for ‘accelerated settlement’).

New guidance, gives some assistance to those whose business has been disrupted by the Coronavirus. Whereas ordinarily, you would need to employ at least two people for at least 12 consecutive months each, the concession allows the 12-month period to be made up of multiple employees across different months.  This should allow Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa holders more ‘wiggle room’, to rely on shorter periods of work undertaken by a number of employees, provided the total time worked adds up.

However, if you furlough staff, then that time spent furloughed cannot count towards the 12-month period.

When your initial Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa comes to expires, and you now face the next step of extending your visa, it is normally at this stage that you need to show you have created at least two jobs (which will now include the more generous interpretation of job creation, as set out above).  However, a new concession states:

‘If have not been able to [sic] employ staff for 12 months in total by the time your visa expires, you will be allowed to temporarily extend your stay to give you time to meet the requirement.’

Although light on detail, individuals will be given opportunity to temporarily extend their visa, if affected by the coronoavirus and thereby unable to meet the job creation requirement when it comes to extension.  However, we will have to await further information to see how this will play out in practice, as this statement raises various questions.

For example, this is unlikely to be a ‘get out of a jail’ card for businesses which have wholly failed to make progress with job creation – to what extent will the Home Office review progress towards job creation pre-pandemic, before granting a temporary extension?  How much of a temporary extension will be granted, in these circumstances?

Global Talent, Start-up or Innovator visa

Anyone looking to apply under the Global Talent category, Start-up or Innovator visa categories needs an endorsement from an endorsing body, before they can apply for their visa.

Ordinarily, these endorsements must be ‘used’ within three months, meaning the individual must submit his or her visa application within three months of the date of endorsement.  However, the new Home Office guidance on this issue states:

If your endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because you have not been able to travel to the UK you may still be eligible for a visa. You should make your application as planned and we will consider all applications on a case by case basis.

This amounts to a concession of sorts: there is no guarantee that an ‘old’ endorsement can be used, given that the Home Office will look at a person’s application on a ‘case by case’ basis.

The Global Talent visa replaced the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route, on 20 February 2020.  However, endorsements granted under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route can still be used for Global Talent applications.  Anyone wanting to rely on a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent endorsement would ordinarily still have to use it within 3 months.  Presumably there may be some individuals with a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent endorsement who could still seek to rely on this concession.

Right to Work Checks (30 MARCH 2020)

Given that Right to Work checks usually require face-to-face contact with the employee to undertake a document check, it is unsurprising that measures have been introduced to allow for remote checks to be done.

The following measures will apply until we are told otherwise.

As of 30 March 2020, checks can now be carried out remotely through video calls.  Right to Work documents can now be sent as scanned documents or as a photograph of the document, rather than as original documents.

If a person cannot provide an acceptable document then the employer is invited to use the Employer Checking Service.   If the person has a right to work then the employer is given a Positive Verification Notice, giving the employer a statutory excuse for six months.

Once the measures end (and apparently we will be told in advance when they will end) then you will need to do ‘normal’ checks going forwards.

It is also important to note that, when the measures end, you will be required to carry out retrospective checks on existing employees who either started working for you during the special measures, or who required a follow-up right during this time.

For further information on precisely how to carry out Right to Work check during the special measures, and how to conduct a retrospective check, look at the detailed guidance.

‘Switching’ concession (27 MARCH 2020)

Another key concession from the Home Office in response to the coronavirus, is to allow individuals to ‘switch’ into longer-term visa routes from within the UK, rather than them having to apply from outside the UK.

If an individual wants to change from one visa route to another, often he or she must first leave the UK before entering under the new category, as the new category ordinarily requires ‘entry clearance’ and an application made from abroad.  For example, if someone is here as a visitor, he or she cannot ordinarily ‘switch’ into the spouse category, instead he must normally return home before applying from abroad.

However, the new concession confirms that, up until 31 May 2020, individuals can now ‘switch’ into a new category from within the UK.  This includes individuals who have already had their leave extended under a previous concession to 31 March 2020 (the concession does not presently state that individuals who have applied to have their visa extended to 31 May 2020 under the concession above are also eligible, although logically this should follow).

It is important to understand that this concession is not some big green light to allow anyone here to necessarily be able to switch; for although the requirement to apply from abroad is being waived, the other rules of any given category you want to switch into, will still need to be met.   And you must pay the same application fee.

For certain individuals already in the UK, this may represent a good opportunity to regularise their stay in a longer-term category, a sliver of a silver lining in these generally unforgiving times.  Contact us if you want to discuss this option in more detail.

Visa extension concession (27 MARCH 2020)

On 27 March 2020, the Home Office announced an important concession for individuals already in the UK who are unable to leave the UK due to the coronavirus: ‘if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19)’ then you can request your visa is extended until 31 May 2020.

This measure applies to individuals of any nationality whose leave to remain (i.e. visa) expires between 24 January 2020 and 30 May 2020.

A Home Office fact sheet states:

‘No individual who is in the UK legally, but whose visa is due to, or has already expired, and who cannot leave because of travel restrictions related to COVID-19, will be regarded as an overstayer, or suffer any detriment in the future.’

You must still contact the newly created Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre, to request your visa be extended. Any visa extension does appear to be contingent on you contacting the Home Office and so, in this respect, this concession is far less generous than the concession for doctors, nurses and paramedics, who get an automatic extension without needing to do anything.

You can either email [email protected] or telephone 0800 678 1767 (although there are reports of long queues if contacting by telephone).  You will need to provide the Home Office with certain information, more details are here.

If you made the request by email, then you should receive a response within 5 working days.

Of course, this is hardly an act of generosity on the part of the Home Office, given that individuals are simply unable to return, for reasons well beyond their control.  There might well be an extension to this scheme or associated concessions.

Changes to the Immigration tribunals 25 MARCH 2020

The tribunals have significantly increased their capacity for phone and video hearings, as an alternative to face-to-face hearings.   In respect of the First-Tier Tribunal, the President of the Tribunal, Mr Clements, directed there should no further face-to-face hearings in any tribunal centre, from 25 March 2020.

Many tribunals are closed, whilst, somewhat confusingly given the advice of Mr Clements, others remain open for ‘essential face-to-face hearings’.  Other courts and tribunals will be ‘staffed courts’, meaning staff and judges will work from these buildings but they will not be open to the public.  You can follow a Courts and Tribunal tracker to see which type of service is being run, here.

The Upper Tribunal is no longer holding face-to-face hearings.  Any hearing will be held remotely.  Those participating in remote hearings will need Skype or Skype for Business.

____________________

We will do our best to keep this guide up to date.  However, do check directly with the relevant body before acting on any information in this blog.  You can keep an eye on Home Office announcements, here.

If you are concerned about UKVCAS centres you should check for any latest developments here.

If you are applying from abroad, you should check the TLSContact or VFS websites, depending on which is handling the application in the country you are applying from.

If you would like to speak to an immigration expert about how the coronavirus could affect your application, appeal or immigration status, book a consultation with us today.