Coronavirus #COVID-19 Update – Immigration
UPDATED, 25th March 2020
Currently, there is a lot of uncertainty and concern in respect of the situation created due to the pandemic generated by COVID-19 virus. Our immigration lawyers have been braving a wave of phone calls from existing and new clients alike, seeking advice and information in respect of their immigration status. Given the volume of such queries, our immigration lawyers have complied a list of Frequently Asked Questions in hopes of alleviating some of your concerns and bringing some clarity to you in these uncertain times.
We also would like to remind you that our offices remain operational and we will continue to provide all our services to the public. We have put in place the following measures to ensure that we continue our operations and remain compliant with Government advice on avoiding all non-essential social contact:
- all appointments and consultations are conducted via modern means of communication (emails, phones, videolinks);
- all document exchange is done through our secure client portal or through email. We are following the highest cyber security standards available, so that you can rest assured that your documents are safe.
- all the work, whether working on your application or submitting it, is done online, ensuring there are no delays to your matter.
COVID19 Update – Immigration FAQ
Update: My leave is due to expire and I cannot leave due to travel restrictions
As of 24th March, the government has announced that they will extend the leave for all those whose leave has expired or is due to expire during the period of 24th January and 31 May and who are unable to leave the UK due to travel restrictions.
ATTENTION: You will need to apply for this leave by contacting Corovavirus Immigration team at:
Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or
You will need to provide the following:
- your full name
- date of birth
- your previous visa reference number
- reasons why you cannot go back to your home country
You will be told when your visa has been extended. Your visa will be extended until 31 May 2020, this date however is under constant review and you should keep checking the updates.
If you were leaving the country so you can make an entry clearance application because your visa type did not allow you to make an in-country application, you are now allowed to make that application from the UK. You still need to meet all the relevant requirements and pay relevant fees.
I am a Chinese national and my leave is due to expire, what should I do?
If you are a Chinese national whose leave is due to expire or has, in past the date of expiry, and you do not intend to or are unable to apply for extension of your leave, you can rest assured that you will not become an overstayer.
On 17 February, the Home Office issued an update in respect of Chinese nationals whose leave has expired or is due to expire. The Home Office will automatically extend the leave of such migrants up to 31st March 2020. To benefit from this extension, you need to meet the following requirements:
- Be a Chinese national;
- Have or have had a leave to remain in the UK, or have a long-term standard visitor visa that lasts 2,5 or 10 years;
- Have an expiry date of their leave to remain between 24th January and 30th March 2020 or if n long-term visitor visa, reach 180 days of stay during the above period;
- Having been compliant with your immigration status conditions.
Attention, the extension does not apply to the short-term visit visas.
If you meet all the above, your leave will be automatically extended and the new expiry date will be 31st March 2020. You do not need to do anything to obtain this extension. The Home Office will update their system accordingly to reflect the new expiry date.
Be advised that you will not be receiving a new biometric residence permit or any other evidence of this extension. If you are in a situation where you require a letter confirming the extension, you will need to contact the Coronavirus Immigration helpline on:
Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or
Given the Home Office’s track record of losing data in respect of the immigrants, our best immigration lawyers advise that if you intend to make UK immigration applications in the future, you obtain and retain evidence of your last leave or long term visit visa, as well as evidence that your leave was extended automatically by the Home Office due to the #COVID-19 outbreak.
I am a non-EEA national ordinarily resident in China and my leave is due to expire. What should I do?
If you are not a Chinese national, but you are ordinarily resident in China and your leave is set to expire or has expired already, you need to contact the Coronavirus Immigration helpline and request an extension. If you are able to demonstrate that you are an ordinary resident of China, the Home Office team will be able to extend your leave.
Important: This extension IS NOT automatic and you need to contact the helpline, otherwise you will become an overstayer and any future application might be compromised.
You can avail yourself from this extension if your leave has expired or is set to expire between 24th January and 30th March 2020.
Sponsor Licence holders: Our employees/students are unable to return to work due to the outbreak. What to do?
The Immigration guidance issued by the Home Office on 17th February has acknowledged that during the period of outbreak some sponsored migrants would not be able to return to their workplace or their studies from their travels or will need to observe self-isolation regime upon their return. If you are a Sponsor Licence holder and one or more of your employees/students are either:
- Unable to attend work due to illness;
- Unable to attend work due to period of quarantine;
- Unable to attend work due to travel restrictions that are becoming a lot more prevalent now; and
- You have authorised these absences.
You DO NOT need to report these absences to the Home Office.
In circumstances where your employee or student is unable to attend work for more than 60 days due to exceptional circumstances, you, as their sponsor are free to make a decision to maintain the sponsorship. The Home Office will not take any compliance action against your organisation for not terminating the sponsorship, as they acknowledge the current circumstances are exceptional.
I have limited leave to remain in the UK, but unable to return to the UK due to travel restrictions. How will this affect my chances of obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain?
Most immigrants in the UK who intend to settle in the UK will need to keep an eye on their absences from the UK to ensure that they do not have more than the permitted number of days absent from the UK, throughout the qualifying period.
In most cases, if your absence from the UK is under 180 days in a period of 12 month, then your Indefinite Leave to Remain application is safe.
Issues become more concerning for those who will go above these 180 days due to travel restrictions. In such circumstances, the answer is different for those who are on a 10 year long residence route and those who are on different PBS routes, such as Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 5.
The 10 years long residence route allows for discretion for compelling and compassionate circumstances. Therefore, you are likely to still succeed in your future application, if you follow the below advice of our top immigration lawyers:
- keep evidence of the restrictions in place and your attempts to return;
- keep evidence of the reasons you left the country in the first place, as this might play an important role;
- return as soon as possible after the restrictions are lifted, as this is one of the criteria the Home Office will look at when applying their discretion.
If you are in one of PBS routes, be advised that these routes have stricter rules in respect of absences. The Rules and the Guidance state that even absences for compelling and compassionate reasons are to be counted towards the overall limit of absence. Of course given how unprecedented the circumstances are, the best immigration lawyers are of the opinion that the Home Office is likely to issue a guidance to address these cases, as otherwise they are looking at numerous challenges to their decisions to refuse Indefinite Leave to Remain. If you are part of the cohort of PBS migrants that might face issues with exceed their absence limits, our immigration lawyers advise that seek legal assistance before making your immigration application.
I am due to make or have already made an extension application, will COVID-19 outbreak affect me?
If you have already made an application or require to make one, you should proceed as usual. The Home Office services work normally and they are processing the applications in the same manner as before.
If you need to make an extension and you do not make it, you will become an overstayer and there will be no defence that this occurred during the outbreak. Speak to our lawyers if you require assistance in making an application.
I have made an application and I am due to attend my biometric appointment, are the appointment centres open?
If you are based in UK, at the time of writing the appointment centres are open, but you also have the option to call the coronavirus immigration helpline to check as matters progress.
If you are based outside of the UK, in particular in countries heavily hit by COVID-19 outbreak, the appointment centres might be closed. The advice of our immigration solicitors is that you contact your appointment centre to check.
I am over 70 and need to attend biometric appointment, what does Government’s advice to isolate at home means for me?
The Home Office has the power to dispense of or delay the biometric collection for your application. If you are elderly or otherwise in the category of vulnerable people, contact the coronavirus immigration helpline and seek alternative arrangements for your biometrics. Do not, simply skip going to your appointment. Ensure you have made arrangements with the Home Office.
I have received my UK leave to enter, but cannot travel due to travel restrictions. What should I do?
There is no specific advice from the Home Office for such circumstances. You should contact the coronavirus Immigration helpline and request alternative arrangements for your travel and BRP collection.
If you require further information in respect of the COVID-19 outbreak or how to keep yourself safe, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response.