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Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents

Contents

1. If you’re in the UK
2. If you’re working for the NHS
3. If you’re outside the UK
4. If you’re applying to enter the UK or remain on the basis of family or private life
5. If you want to cancel your visa
6. Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre

If you’re in the UK

If you had a visa that expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 you were able to request an extension if you were not able to return home because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Additionally, if you had leave which expired between 24 January and 31 August 2020, including those who received an extension between this period, you were able to take advantage of a grace period between 1 August to 31 August 2020. The conditions of your stay in the UK were the same as the conditions of your leave. If conditions allowed you to work, study or rent accommodation you were able to continue doing so during August 2020.

Now travel restrictions are lifting globally you will no longer be able to extend your visa on this basis and you are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so or apply to regularise your stay in the UK.

If you intend to leave the UK but have not been able to do so and you have a visa or leave that expires between 1 September and 31 October 2020 you may request additional time to stay, also known as ‘exceptional assurance’.

If you are granted ‘exceptional assurance’ it will act as a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after your leave has expired. If conditions allowed you to work, study or rent accommodation you may continue to do so during the period of your exceptional assurance. Exceptional assurance does not grant you leave.

After you’ve completed the form, you’ll be told what you’ll need to submit to show why you can’t leave the UK.

For example, if you can’t leave the UK because you can’t find a flight before your leave/visa expires, you’ll need to submit a copy of a confirmed flight ticket. If you can’t leave the UK because you have coronavirus, you’ll need to submit confirmation of your positive coronavirus test result.

If you’ve already completed the form to request exceptional assurance and you’re waiting on the outcome, you do not need to notify the UKVI again or complete the form again. They are considering all requests and they will contact you to let you know the outcome. During this time, you will not be treated as an overstayer or suffer any detriment in any future immigration applications for this consideration period.

If you’ve already been given assurance but your circumstances have changed or you’re unable to leave the UK by the assurance date previously given, you must reapply. You’ll need to clearly state that you’re making a subsequent application. You’ll be asked to provide new supporting evidence.

If you intend to stay in the UK

If you decide to stay in the UK, you should apply for the necessary leave to remain in the UK. You’ll also be able to submit an application form from within the UK where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country.

You’ll need to meet the requirements of the route you’re applying for and pay the UK application fee.

The terms of your leave will remain the same until your application is decided. If you are switching into work or study routes you may be able to commence work or study whilst your application is under consideration.

If your leave expires after 31 August 2020

You can submit an application form from within the UK where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country.

You’ll need to show your application is urgent, for example if you need to start a new job or course of study, please provide full details of this in a covering letter with your supporting documents.

You’ll need to pay the fees and meet all requirements of your visa as normal, except the need to submit the application in your home country.

This is being kept under review.

If you have overstayed your leave

If your visa or leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 there will be no future adverse immigration consequences if you didn’t make an application to regularise your stay during this period. However, if you did not apply for an exceptional assurance by 31 August 2020 you must make arrangements to leave the UK.

Application and Service Centres in the UK

Some UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) have reopened for existing customers.

Service and Support Centres (SSCs) are offering a reduced number of appointments because of coronavirus. As more appointments are made available UKVI will invite you to arrange an appointment by email or post.

If you’re a Student or Child Student applicant in the UK and have given your fingerprints before

If you’re applying in the UK as a Student or Child Student (including Tier 4 student), UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may be able to reuse your fingerprints.

If UKVI can reuse the fingerprints you’ve already given, you’ll be emailed with instructions on how to send them an image of your face and your supporting documents.

This will mean you do not have to attend a UKVCAS or an SSC service point appointment to provide biometric information.

If you cannot send the information through the instructions given, you’ll be able to book an appointment.

English language testing centres in the UK

Some English Testing Centres are resuming services. For more information on how you can book your English Language Test, contact either:

• your test centre
• Trinity College London
• International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
• LanguageCert website
• Pearson Test of English

If you’ve already made an appointment

The UKVI may have contacted you if you made an appointment to attend a UKVCAS or SSC that is still temporary closed to let you know it has been postponed. You’ll be contacted when you can book a new appointment.

Your immigration status in the UK will not change as a result of you not being able to attend an appointment.

If you’re on a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa and your business has been disrupted

You no longer need to employ at least 2 people for 12 consecutive months. The 12 month period you’re required to employ someone for can be made up of multiple jobs across different months.

Time when your employees were furloughed will not count towards the 12 month period.

If you’ve not been able to employ staff for 12 months by the time your visa expires, you’ll be allowed to temporarily extend your stay to give you time to meet the requirement.

These arrangements will continue for applications made after 31 May 2020, where the jobs you’re relying on were disrupted due to coronavirus.

If you’ve applied for a Student or Child Student visa (including Tier 4 visas) and are waiting for a decision on your application

You can start your course or studies before your visa application has been decided if:

• your sponsor is a Student sponsor
• you have been given a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS)
• you submitted your application before your current visa expired and you show your sponsor evidence of this
• the course you start is the same as the one listed on your CAS
• you have a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if required

If your application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused you must stop your course or studies.

If you’ve applied for a Tier 2 or 5 visa and are waiting for a decision on your application

You can start work before your visa application has been decided if:

• you’ve been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
• you submitted your application before your current visa expired and you show your sponsor evidence of this
• the job you start is the same as the one listed on your CoS
If your application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused your sponsor will stop sponsoring you and you must stop working for them.

If you’re working for the NHS

Some health workers and their families will get their visas automatically extended because of coronavirus. The extension will apply from the date your visa is due to expire.

If your visa is due to expire after 1 October 2020, you’ll need to apply to extend your visa as usual.

These changes will apply to you if:

• you work for the NHS or an independent health or care provider
• your visa expires between 31 March and 1 October
• you work as a:
o biochemist
o biological scientist
o dental practitioner
o health professional
o medical practitioner
o medical radiographer
o midwife
o nurse
o occupational therapist
o ophthalmologist
o paramedic
o pharmacist
o physiotherapist
o podiatrist
o psychologist
o social worker
o speech and language therapist
o therapy professional

If you’ll be working at a different NHS site than your usual place of work because of coronavirus

You can work at any NHS hospital during the coronavirus outbreak if your sponsor can maintain their sponsorship duties.

Sponsors will not need to notify UKVI of the change in your place of work.

If you do any different or extra work due to coronavirus

You can carry out supplementary work in any role at any skill level during the coronavirus outbreak. There is no restriction on the number of hours you can work.

Changes to the current restrictions on the number of hours you can work or volunteer

There is no longer a limit on the number of hours you can work or volunteer each week if you’re a:

• Student (including Tier 4 student) working for the NHS in a list profession
• tier 2 worker and your NHS job is a second job
• visiting academic researcher
• holder of a short-term visa and are permitted to volunteer

If you’re a pre-registration nurse in the UK, the deadline for you to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been extended to 31 December 2020. If you do not pass on the first attempt, you’ll have until 31 May 2021 to pass the exam.

If you’re working on coronavirus research

If you’re a scientist researching coronavirus (COVID-19), you may be able to apply for a Global Talent visa using the UKRI endorsed funder option.

If you’re outside the UK

There are changes at the border because of coronavirus.

Most UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) have resumed services where local restrictions allow.

Priority and Super Priority services are only available in some locations. If available, you’ll be able to purchase these services when booking your appointment.

For more information, and for updates to the status of VACs, including opening times in your country, check with:

• TLS contact if you’re in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East
• VFS global for all other countries

Ongoing global restrictions mean some UKVI services will remain closed. Where services are resuming, existing customers will be contacted.

Some English Testing Centres are also resuming services.

Applying for a visa if your visa application centre (VAC) is closed

You can apply for a visit visa from any UK VAC. You should apply for all other UK visas from the country you’re living in.

If your VAC is closed due to coronavirus restrictions, you can apply online and select a VAC in another country worldwide to submit your application and biometrics. You’ll need to make sure you’re permitted to travel to that country beforehand.

You’ll be able to make any type of UK visa application. You must select the country where you would like to submit your biometrics at the start of your application.

If you’ve already submitted your application through Access UK and now intend to submit your new application at a different VAC from the one selected in that application, you’ll need to make a new application and select the VAC where you’ll submit your application.

You’ll need to pay the fee associated with your new application and request a refund for your earlier application.

This temporary concession will be reviewed by 30 November 2020.

Getting your documents

As VACs reopen their services, they will prioritise returning customer passports.

If the VAC where you applied is still closed they will not be able to return your passport.

If your passport is in a VAC, and a decision on your application has been made, the VAC will contact you to arrange collection.

If your application has not been decided, they will not contact you to return your passport until it has. If you would like your passport returned, even if your application has not been decided, please contact the VAC to arrange collection.

To see if the VAC is open for passport return in your country, check with:

• TLS contact if you’re in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East
• VFS global for all other countries

VACs are being reopened where local restrictions allow and social distancing can be maintained.

British nationals abroad who need to apply for a passport

Her Majesty’s Passport Office is accepting online passport applications.

If you’re advised that you must book an appointment at your nearest VAC to submit your passport application, you should check if it’s open.

If your country’s VAC is still closed, you won’t be able to apply for a British passport until it reopens.

If you urgently need to travel to the UK, you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to discuss your options. You can also check the latest travel advice from the FCO.

If you’re applying for a Global Talent visa

If your endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because you’ve not been able to make an application for a visa, you may still be eligible.

Your endorsement will be accepted if both:

• it was granted on or after 24 January 2020
• you apply for your visa before 1 January 2021

Applications that do not meet these requirements will be considered on a case by case basis.

If you’re applying for a Start-up or Innovator visa

If your endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because you’ve not been able to travel to the UK, you may still be eligible for a visa. They will consider all applications on a case by case basis.

If your 30 day visa to work, study or join family has expired

If your 30 day visa to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired, or is about to expire, you can request a replacement visa with revised validity dates free of charge until the end of this year. This does not apply to other types of visas.

This process will be in place until the end of 2020.

To request a replacement visa you can either:

• contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre
• arrange to return your passport to your VAC if it has re-opened

You’ll be contacted when the VACs reopen to arrange for a replacement visa to be endorsed in your passport. Your replacement visa will be valid for 90 days.

Alternatively, you can arrange to return your passport to your VAC if it has re-opened.

Please do not travel to the VAC with your passport until you have checked the commercial partner websites for the process in place for re-submitting your passport for your replacement visa, as this may vary depending on your geographical location:

• TLS contact if you’re in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East
• VFS global for all other countries

The guidance is different if you applied through an enrolment location operated by Immigration New Zealand.

When you arrive in the UK you will not be penalised for being unable to collect your biometric residence permit (BRP) while coronavirus measures are in place.

If you’re applying to enter the UK or remain on the basis of family or private life

If you’re unable to travel back to the UK due to coronavirus travel restrictions and your leave has expired, a short break in continuous residence will be overlooked. You are expected to make your next application as soon as possible.

There will be no future adverse immigration consequences if there has been a short break of continuous residence if your leave expired between 1 March 2020 and 31 August 2020. However, if you did not make a valid application to stay by 31 August 2020, you must now make arrangements to leave the UK.

If you intend to leave the UK but were unable to do so by 31 August, you may request additional time to stay under ‘exceptional assurance’.

If your leave expires after 31 August 2020, you can make your application from inside the UK where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country if:

• your application is urgent, for example if you need to start employment and cannot apply from outside the UK
• you cannot apply from outside the UK due to coronavirus

If you’re here with 6 months’ leave as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner and your wedding or civil ceremony has been delayed due to coronavirus you may request additional time to stay under ‘exceptional assurance’.

Otherwise, you can apply to extend your stay for a further 6 months to allow the ceremony to take place.

Changes to the minimum income and adequate maintenance requirement

If you’ve experienced a loss of income due to coronavirus up to 1 January 2021, the UKVI will consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income, provided the minimum income requirement was met for at least 6 months immediately before the date the income was lost.

If your salary has reduced because you’re furloughed, they will take account of your income as though you’re earning 100% of your salary.

If you’re self-employed, a loss of annual income due to coronavirus between 1 March 2020 and 1 January 2021 will usually be disregarded, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications.

If you’re unable to provide specified documents

In some cases, the UKVI will be able to decide your application without seeing certain specified documents if you cannot get them due to coronavirus. Otherwise, you may be asked to submit the specified documents after the date of application.

Changes to the English language requirement

If you’re asked to take an English language test as part of your application, you can apply for an exemption if the test centre was closed or you couldn’t travel to it due to coronavirus when you applied.

If you want to cancel your visa

You can cancel your visa, immigration or citizenship application because of coronavirus.

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