Covid-19 and the lockdown imposed on us in a desperate attempt to curb the spread of the deadly virus has made our lives unrecognisable. In a very short period of time, the inconceivable has become the new normal and our entire way of life has been turned upside down. The new reality brings new challenges and uncertainties for all, but for those who are in the UK on different types of temporary leaves to remain requiring extension applications, there is an added dimension to their worry.
Whether we are talking about leave to remain or obtaining and Indefinite Leave to remain, there are number of requirements that an immigrant must meet in order for them to be able to maintain their immigration status in the UK. Some of those requirements are proving to be very difficult to meet due to our new way of life. There also seems to be a lot of confusion in respect of the measures announced by the government relating to immigration applications. Mistakes in immigration matters can prove to be extremely costly, leading to not only loss of right to reside in the UK, but often can mean loss of career, separation from family and friends and overall a painful upheaval of your life. This is why, it is paramount to have a clear understanding of how to proceed with your extension applications in these tumultuous times.
In this blog, we will try to address the most common issues around extending your leave to remain or applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain during the period of pandemic lockdown.
Extension Applications for Leave to Remain
The biggest reason for confusion in respect of extension applications seems to stem from the guidance issued by the government on 24th March informing that certain category of people will have their leave extended without need to make an application.
IMPORTANT: Only those whose leave is due to expire or has already expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020 and who are unable to leave the UK due to travel restrictions related to COVID-19 will be able to rely on the extension announced by the government. Read more about this scheme here.
Those who fall under the above provision, will have their details updated on the Home Office database to ensure that they are not considered overstayers and no adverse inferences are drawn in the future due to the time spent in the UK after their visa expired.
Therefore, if you are someone whose leave has expired or is due to expire between 24 January and 31 May this year and you were meant to leave the UK, but currently are unable to do so because of Coronovirus related travel restrictions, then and only then, you can benefit from this relaxation of the rules.
It is imperative to remember that you are still required to contact the Home Office and request this extension. You can do so by submitting the relevant online form. Among personal details you are expected to provide to them is also the reasons in respect of your inability to travel. It cannot be stressed highly enough that this is not an automatic extension and is not a blanket protection for all. Therefore, you should carefully check whether travel restrictions apply to your personal circumstances and if those restrictions are Covid-19 related or not. If you have any doubt, get legal advice from qualified immigration lawyers to ensure that this will not adversely affect your immigration history.
Further to the above, if you are a nurse, doctor or a paramedic and your leave is due to expire by 1st October 2020, your leave will be automatically extended by 1 year. You will not be required to make an extension application or pay relevant fees. The same will apply to the family members. The government has made this move in order to ensure that the health sector workers are not burdened further by their immigration status related issues.
There are some further dispensations for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrants as well as Tier 2 migrants who will be making visa extension applications. You can read more about those in our general Covid-19 Immigration update page.
If your leave is due to expire and you intended to leave the UK and apply for entry clearance due to restrictions in respect of in-country switching, you are now allowed to make that application from within the UK. You still will need to meet all other relevant requirements and pay the fees.
If you are in the UK with any other type of Leave to Remain and it is due to expire, irrespective if it expires before or after 31 May 2020 and you intend to continue remaining in the UK, you have to make an extension application as you normally would. The online application system functions as normal and you are able to submit your application as usual. Once the online application is submitted, provided it’s done before your existing leave expires, you will be covered by 3c leave, meaning your leave will continue under the same conditions as before. However, due to the suspension of the appointment centres, you will not be able to book an appointment to give your biometrics. Under normal circumstances, failure to provide biometrics leads to invalidating the application, but considering these unprecedented circumstances, the Home Office has announced that if the failure to provide biometrics is caused by the suspension of the appointment centres or the requirement to self-isolate, then the application will not be invalidated.
Therefore, if your leave is set to expire, you are not a nurse, a doctor, a paramedic or a family member of one, and you intend to remain in the UK, you absolutely must proceed with your extension application for leave to remain.
We understand that many are also worried that due to the economic impact the lockdown is having on them, they might not be meeting their visa requirements. If you are someone worried about these aspects, you should immediately contact an immigration lawyer to discuss your case. While the Government has relaxed certain requirements, others are still in application. There are, however, legal solutions for most situations and a good immigration advice is indispensable in such cases.
Indefinite Leave to Remain applications
Those who have reached the required residence period in the UK and wish to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain also face number of challenges. It has to be specified that Indefinite Leave to Remain applications still can be made, just like applications for further leave to remain can.
The main issue that those applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain face is related to the Life in the UK and Language tests. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic measures, the Life in the UK and English Language test centres have also closed down until end of April and their opening is contingent on the lockdown being lifted. These centres have not announced any plans for any remote ways of taking the tests and due to security related reasons it is unlikely such measures will be announced. Therefore, those wishing to make Indefinite Leave to Remain applications are hindered by their inability to sit the required tests and provide the specified evidence. It has to be said that if your leave is expiring soon and you are unable to sit the tests, you have two possible options.
First option is to apply for further extension if you meet the requirements for extension and if your potential of getting further leave is not hampered by a cap on how many years you can spend in the UK on a certain type of visa. In this scenario, once the test centres re-open, you can take the test and then apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. It is worth noting that if you are able to get the test results before your leave to remain application has been decided, you can also apply to vary your application, which will allow you to get back the fees for the extension application. You will, however, have to pay the settlement fees beforehand.
Second option has significantly higher risk and should only really be considered if for whatever reason you do not have a good prospect of making a successful extension application. You can book your test (the centres are taking bookings from 1st May onwards) and then make the online application irrespective of not securing the test results. As the appointment centres are also closed, you will need to wait for them to open as well. Once bookings for appointment resume, you should then aim to book your appointment in such a manner that gives you time to secure the test results before you attend the appointment for biometrics, if possible. This will mean that you can then upload the evidence and also explain why the details were not on your application form. If it is not possible to provide the test by the date of your appointment, a letter explaining your circumstances and requesting time to submit the required documents should be submitted to the Home Office. Do remember that there is risk of being refused, as there is no official guidance from the Home Office in respect of situations such as this. As such, only attempt this if you do not have a safer option to proceed with your leave.
For all those who have taken the tests, there is no reason why they should not proceed with their Indefinite Leave to remain applications. Do bear in mind that there may be delays in deciding immigration applications, due to the closure of appointment centres, as well as overall higher burden on all government bodies.
If you require legal advice tailored to your particular circumstances or have any uncertainty on how to proceed, please fill in our online form or call 020 3372 5125 to get in touch with our team of immigration lawyers. Do not risk your status, your career and your family life. Our lawyers are constantly monitoring the situation to ensure they are in position to offer the best immigration advice possible.