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Visas Extended Until 31 May 2020
Visa nationals who cannot return home due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to extend their visa until 31 May 2020. The extension announced by the Home Secretary Priti Patel, will apply to anyone whose leave expired after the 24 January and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation. The Home Office are keeping the situation under review in case further extensions are needed.
A dedicated COVID-19 immigration team has been set up within the Home Office to make the process as straightforward as possible. Anyone in this situation just needs to contact the COVID-19 team, via this email address CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk, to let them know their visa has expired and they will be issued with an extension.
Home Secretary Priti Patel outlined “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”
Many foreign nationals have found themselves unable to return home since the outbreak of COVID-19 due to flight cancellations and border restrictions. The extension has been put in place to give these individuals peace of mind that they will not be penalised for overstaying their visa when the situation is out of their control due to COVID-19.
Those who contact the Home Office for these visa extensions will be expected to return to their home countries as soon as possible once flight and border restrictions are lifted. No immigration enforcement action will be undertaken during this time for those who email the Home Office as outlined above.
Tier 2 Employees and Tier 4 Students
Individuals who hold Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visa status are not normally permitted to switch into the Tier 2 (General) visa category from within the UK. The Home Office are allowing such visa holders to apply from within the UK if their visa expires before 31 May 2020.
Sponsored Tier 2 workers and Tier 4 students may not be able to attend work or studies due to COVID-19 restrictions. Under normal circumstances absences should be reported through the sponsor licence. However, the Home Office have outlined that an exception will prevail without having to make individual reports on employees and students working from home. Normally Tier 2 workers who have been absent from work for 4 weeks or more would be expected to withdraw sponsorship of the employee. The Home Office have indicated employers can continue sponsoring a Tier 2 worker without paying them for a period of up to 4 weeks during the COVID-19 outbreak. A sensible approach for any employer is to keep clear paperwork agreeing to such a move.
Cancelled Biometrics and Delayed Processing
Many of the biometric centres in the likes of the US and India have been shut down indefinitely as countries systematically enter a period of quarantine to control the COVID-19 virus. Other global visa application centres are running with a heavily reduced service with increased processing times for visas. For applications made inside the UK Sopra Steria (which runs all UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres within the United Kingdom) are cancelling some appointments. They have issued clear guidance should you have any COVID-19 symptoms:
“If you have Coronavirus symptoms and should be self-isolating, or if you have Coronavirus, you must not attend your appointment. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘COVID-19’ and your UAN in the subject to say that you cannot attend. We will refund your fee and will tell the Home Office.”
The Home Office have created a “Coronavirus Immigration Helpline” which can be contacted via telephone on 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) with calls free of charge. At Cleaver Fulton Rankin we continue to actively monitor the latest immigration rules and changes during the COVID-19 outbreak.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our Immigration team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.