China and the Coronavirus – are you in the UK from China and at risk of overstaying on your visa?
If you from China and are in the UK on a visit visa or a student visa then you are probably very worried about the news from home. If you are a parent of a Chinese student or tourist in the UK then you are probably just grateful that your family member isn’t in Wuhan and is safe in the UK. We are starting to get calls from worried students, visitors concerned about being at risk of overstaying removal on their UK visa but being urged to stay clear by their families. In this blog we look at overstaying but if you are worried about Coronavirus and your Immigration status just call us.
UK Immigration solicitors
Central London based OTS Solicitors can help you with all aspects of personal and business immigration law providing the best Immigration outcomes. If you have questions about how Coronavirus will impact on your Immigration status and plans call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.
Coronavirus and Immigration
With the official death toll from Coronavirus in China being today put at about 560 people, but many fearing that the real statistics run into the tens of thousands of victims, people are starting to worry about whether they should return home. In times of trouble your natural inclination is to go home but parents of Chinese students and tourists are urging them to stay put in the UK.
With the global spread of Coronavirus the likelihood is that it won't just be Chinese students, visitors and visa holders who face this dilemma and who are urged to stay in the UK by anxious relatives.
In this blog we look at your visa options and what happens if you stay in the UK after your visa has expired. You could be in the UK on:
• A visit visa
• A student visa
• A spouse visa or family visa
• A Tier 2 (General) visa
Or on one of the many other types of visa and leave to enter and leave to remain that the UK offers. Whatever type of visa you are on it will be time limited. If your UK visa expires while you are still in the UK, you will be classed as an ‘overstayer’ by the Home Office.
If you, or your family, are worried about Coronavirus then you probably know exactly when your visa is due to expire. However, if you are not sure when your visa will end, it is important that you are aware that the Home Office doesn’t normally tell or remind visa holders when their visa will expire. That is because the Home Office takes the view that it is your responsibility to either leave before the expiry of your visa or to apply to extend your visa or apply to switch to a new visa category.
My visa is due to end, what should I do?
If your visa is due to end and your family are urging you not to return home (or travel to your home country that has been disrupted by Coronavirus) then you must act. Whilst it is tempting to do nothing it isn’t the best long-term option. That is because if you just stay in the UK, you will be classed as an overstayer and that will affect your ability to return to the UK as a tourist, student, worker or family member at a later date.
Immigration solicitors can't say what you should do in your individual circumstances without knowing what type of visa or entry clearance you entered the UK on and your personal, family and financial circumstances. So, if your visa is going to end in the next few weeks and your plans are uncertain because of the Coronavirus the best thing to do is call us on 0203 959 9123 to discuss your best Immigration options or use our online enquiry form.
Is overstaying on your visa a criminal offence?
We regularly get calls from worried students and visitors who are concerned because they forgot their visa departure date and fear that they have committed a criminal offence.
If you do overstay on any UK visa then you will commit a criminal offence under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971. However, the Act says that it is a criminal offence to overstay on your visa ‘without reasonable cause’.
If your visa has ended you have:
• Thirty days to leave the UK on a voluntary basis and at your own expense or cost. If you don’t leave within thirty days then you face a ban on coming back to the UK as a visa holder
• Fourteen days from the date of expiry of your visa to apply to extend your visa or to make a Home Office application to switch to a new visa category. You can only use the fourteen-day extension period if you have good reason to have not applied for a new visa prior to the expiry of your old visa.
What is a good reason to have delayed a visa application to stay in the UK?
Under the Immigration Rules if you make a late visa renewal or visa extension application, the Home Office will disregard an overstay if it is for fourteen days or less before you submitted a new Immigration application to the Home Office.
The important point to emphasise is that all you need to do is submit a renewal, extension or new visa application within the fourteen-day rule. Your visa application doesn’t have to be decided by the Home Office within that timeframe.
However, even if you put in a well prepared Immigration application, if it is late by up to fourteen days you must have a good reason for the delay, such as:
• Serious illness
• Family bereavement.
Forgetting that your visa is due to end or being too busy with work or your studies isn’t classed by the Home Office as a good reason to delay your visa extension or new visa application.
The Home Office guidance says you need to be able to show exceptional circumstances to count as good reason for not submitting your Home Office visa extension or renewal visa or switch visa application and provide supporting evidence.
Coronavirus has not been tested yet on whether it will count as good reason for delaying in submitting a visa extension or renewal Immigration.
Can I work while waiting for a visa extension or switch?
If you decide you want to stay in the UK and wait out the Coronavirus the current Immigration Rules say that if you have a pending visa application you can't continue to work until your visa extension or new visa is granted.
Your employer won't want you to continue to work after the expiry of your visa because:
• You will commit a criminal offence if you work in the UK without a visa allowing you to do so if you are a non-EEA national
• Your employer will commit a criminal offence if they know that your visa has expired and they allow you to work in the UK without a visa allowing you to do so. They also risk losing their Home Office sponsor licence giving them the authority to employ non-EEA workers on Tier 2 (General) visas.
What happens if my new visa application is refused by the Home Office?
If you applied for a new visa before your old visa ended, then if your application is refused you have fourteen days after the date of being told that your application is rejected to apply again. Therefore, if your application has been refused it is best to take urgent legal advice from specialist Immigration solicitors on your best Immigration options.
Leaving the UK as an overstayer
If you overstay on your visa then provided you leave the UK within thirty days of the end of your visa then you should not face a ban on your returning to the UK.
If you leave the UK voluntarily more than thirty days after the end of your visa then you could be banned from re-entering the UK. The Immigration Rules on the length of ban will depend on:
• When you leave the UK
• Whether you leave the UK voluntarily
• Whether you paid your own return home fare or had to accept UK government help with your travel costs
• Whether you were deported.
Immigration solicitors emphasise that there are long term consequences for you if you decide to overstay on your visa, whether it is a visit visa, student visa or other type of visa. That is why it is essential that if your plans to leave the UK have changed because of the Coronavirus that you take urgent legal advice so you don’t face being barred from returning to the UK for up to ten years.
UK Immigration solicitors
At central London OTS Solicitors the Immigration team of specialist dedicated lawyers are caring and friendly. If you are worried about how the Coronavirus may affect your plans to return to China, or elsewhere in the world, then give us a call and we will discuss your new visa or visa extension options. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.