Coronavirus Update – Can you stay in the UK if your visa is due to expire?
We are all rightly worried about how Covid 19 may affect our friends, families and loved ones. As central London immigration solicitors, who are now working remotely to support our clients, new and old, we are being inundated with requests for help by those worried about their own Immigration position or that of a family member who is in the UK on a temporary visa and concerned about how to get back home before their visa expires or how to sort out their Immigration status and travel plans in the midst of a lockdown and pandemic. Thankfully, the Home Office has just released new Immigration guidance.
Online Immigration solicitors
If you have questions about your visa, need to apply for a visa extension or need advice on any aspect of personal immigration law or business immigration law then the specialist Immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors can offer specialist visa advice and help with your application. Call us on 02039 599123 or complete our online enquiry form to arrange a video conference, Skype or telephone appointment.
New Home Office coronavirus visa policy
In light of the prime minister’s announcement on the 23 March 2020 that the UK was being placed in semi-lockdown because of the Covid 19 pandemic, immigration solicitors and those of you in the UK on visas due to expire shortly, were waiting anxiously for a further announcement from the Home Office.
On the 24 March 2020 the Home Office released its updated coronavirus policy. The key message will be a real relief to those who are in the UK and whose leave was due to expire at the end of March.
The Home Office has said that if you are in the UK with temporary leave to enter then your leave will be extended to the 31 May 2020 provided that your visa or leave was due to expire (or had expired) between the 24 January 2020 and the 31 May 2020 and you cannot leave the UK because of :
Travel restrictions or
Self-isolation because of the coronavirus.
The Home Office guidance says that to secure your visa extension you or your Immigration solicitor needs to contact the Home Office Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT). They will then update your Home Office record so you are not classed as an overstayer because you remain in the UK after your original visa expiry date provided you leave by the new visa expiry date of the 31 May 2020 or apply for a new visa.
Information needed to get a coronavirus visa extension
The Home Office guidance says that in order to obtain a Covid 19 visa related extension you, or your Immigration solicitor, need to supply the Home Office with the following information:
Date of birth
Previous visa reference number
The reason why you can’t go back to your home country. For example this may be because of travel restrictions, the closure of borders, a Covid 19 diagnosis or self-isolation because you or a member of your household is displaying coronavirus symptoms.
The Home Office say that they will inform visa applicants when the visa extension application is received and if your visa extension application has been granted.
However, the Home Office has warned that:
You may experience delays with visa process times and the slow return of original paperwork
If you ask the Home Office for a short term visa extension to the 31 May because of the coronavirus you will be expected to return home as soon as you can after any flight or border restrictions are lifted. Whilst the Home Office say they won't take Immigration enforcement action whilst you can't get a flight they don’t spell out how quickly you will be expected to leave and how it may affect your Immigration record if there is a delay after flights resume, for example because you are helping family get over the coronavirus.
What happens if I still can't return home by the 31 May?
Sadly, none of us know how long the Covid 19 pandemic will last for and when lock down and travel restrictions will be lifted. The Home Office has acknowledged that we live in turbulent times and has said that whilst any visa extension will last until 31 May the government will keep the Covid 19 situation under review in case further Home Office visa extensions are needed beyond the 31 May.
Switching visa from within the UK
If you are in the position that you were planning to go back to your home country so that you could apply to switch visa as the UK Immigration Rules say you can't apply to switch to some visas from within the UK, then there is good news in the Home Office announcement.
Immigration solicitors say the temporary expansion of in-country switching provisions will be a great relief to those trapped in the UK and unable to return to their home country to make their planned visa switch application. For example, if you are wanting to move from a Tier 4 (student) visa to Tier 2 work visa you can now do so from within the UK.
Sponsored students and workers
If you are in the UK on a sponsored student visa or a work visa and under the terms of your visa you are obliged to attend college or university or your work place then compliance with those conditions are temporarily waived if you can't comply with them because of the impact of coronavirus. For example, the closure of your college and move to online learning or if you are having to stay away from work because you are self-isolating because you or a member of your household is displaying signs of Covid 19.
Online Immigration solicitors
If you are worried about coronavirus and your Immigration status or have questions about any aspect of personal immigration law or business immigration law then the specialist personal Immigration and business immigration law teams at OTS Solicitors can help you with advice through video conference appointments, Skype or telephone appointments. Call us on 02039 599123 or complete our online enquiry form.
If you are an existing client and used to coming to see us at our London offices then rest assured you will still receive the same level of client service but delivered remotely through our advanced infrastructure and processes that enable our professionals and support teams to function fully without disruption. Contact us on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment via our online platform, skype or telephone conferencing.