The Home Office has, at the eleventh hour, issued fresh policy guidance for individuals in the UK or applying to come to the UK who are affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
For those in the UK whose leave expired between 24th January 2020 and 31st July 2020
Individuals with a visa that expired between 24th January 2020 and 31st July 2020 were able to request an extension if they were not able to return home because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus.
As international travel restrictions are increasingly relaxed, individuals whose leave has expired will be expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so. If it is not possible to leave the UK for coronavirus-related reasons, they must now apply to regularise their stay in the UK.
Grace period to leave the UK
If your immigration permission was due to expire between the 24th January 2020 and 31st July 2020, you will be given an extra month’s grace period within the UK to 31st August 2020 to allow time to make the necessary arrangements to leave.
During this grace period your existing conditions of stay will be extended. In other words, if you are permitted to work, study or rent by your current immigration permission, this will continue until your departure or 31st August 2020, whichever is the sooner.
It is not necessary to contact the Home Office to notify them of your departure during the grace period up to 31st August.
If you intend to leave the UK but are not able to do so by 31st August 2020, you may request an ‘exceptional indemnity’, i.e. extra time to stay in the UK, by contacting the Coronavirus Immigration Team.
The indemnity will not constitute a grant of leave (immigration permission) but will act as a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after an individual’s leave has expired.
You will need to provide a reason for why you are unable to leave the UK and produce supporting evidence, such as a future flight ticket or positive coronavirus test result.
If you intend to stay in the UK
If you do not leave the UK, you will need to apply for leave to remain (immigration permission to stay in the UK). The Home Office will continue to allow you to switch visa categories within the UK where you would normally need to apply for a visa from your home country.
As is presently the case, you will need to meet the requirements of the route you’re applying for and pay the UK application fee. This includes those whose leave has already been extended to 31st July 2020 and the grace period until 31st August 2020.
Whilst your application is under consideration, the conditions of your existing leave to remain will continue 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 you have overstayed your leave
The Home Office has reiterated that if your immigration permission expired between 24th January 2020 and 31st July 2020 there will be no future adverse immigration consequences if you didn’t make an application to regularise your stay during this period. However, going forward, from 1 August you must now apply for permission to stay in the UK.
Application Service Centres in the UK
Some UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) have reopened for individuals who applied comparatively early during lockdown, but they remain closed to new applicants.
As more appointments are made available UKVI will invite you to arrange an appointment by email or post.
If you’ve provided the Home Office with your fingerprints before, instead of being invited to arrange an appointment, you will be emailed with instructions on how to send them an image of your face and your supporting documents.
If you are unable to comply with the, as yet undisclosed process for lodging a photograph and evidence, the option to book an appointment will be made available.
English language testing centres
Some Secure English Language Testing Centres are resuming services. For those who were/are unable to sit a test prior to submitting their application, the Home Office will allow time sit a test.
At the time of writing, the headlines are that a second wave of infection could be expected as early as mid-August. As with the first 7 months of this year, the situation is likely to remain highly fluid so we strongly recommend seeking legal advice.
If you require legal assistance on this or other UK immigration issues, please contact us by completing our online form, sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephoning us on +44 (0)20 7038 3980.