The much anticipated Home Office guidance pertaining to visa holders in the UK whose visas expire after 31 May 2020 has been published today.
Concession on visa extensions
Individuals are eligible to request a temporary extension of their leave to remain (to 31 July 2020) in the UK if all of the following apply:
1. They are a short-term visa holder (i.e. a visa that is not meant to be extended, such as a visit visa);
2. Their visa is due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 (including visa holders who under the previous concession had their visa extended to 31 May 2020); and
3. They are prevented from leaving the UK due to travel restrictions (flight cancellations, border closures, etc.) or required self-isolation caused specifically by the coronavirus.
It is important to note that this policy applies only to those visa holders who are not planning to stay in the UK on a long-term basis, as this temporary concession policy is only meant to give short-term visa holders “peace of mind that they are able to stay in the UK until the end of July if they are unable to leave the country safely,” as outlined by Home Secretary Priti Patel today.
How to extend your visa under the concession
Eligible visa holders should submit the COVID-19 UKVI visa extension form prior to their visa expiring. Please note that this form should still be used even though the Home Office has not updated the visa extension date from 31 May 2020 to 31 July 2020.
This form should not be used by visa holders who would normally extend their leave to remain through an established application process (i.e. on an extendable longer-term visa route).
Visa holders should not assume that their leave will automatically be extended upon submission of the form. An individual’s leave has only been extended once the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre has sent an email response specifically stating that an extension to 31 July 2020 has been granted.
Visitor visas exception
Priti Patel emphasised in her statement today that those individuals on temporary visas should be vigilant in their efforts to return to their home countries and should leave the UK as soon as is possible, making particular reference to those on visitor visas, “This is one of a number of unprecedented measures the Government has made to support people during this time, however, as we begin a cautious return to normality those currently in the UK on expired visitor visas should return home as soon as possible.”
It is not clear what exactly the definition of “as soon as possible” means, but it is safest to assume that if it is physically possible to leave the UK (i.e. there are no travel restrictions preventing a flight to an individual’s home country, and an individual has not been ordered to self-isolate), then an individual on a visitor or other short-term visa should make arrangements to leave the UK.
Concession on in-country switching
UK visa holders are allowed to submit an in-country application to switch to a long-term visa category (e.g. spousal visa) if their visa expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020. This includes visa holders who under the previous concession had their visa extended to 31 May 2020.
These applications can be submitted from within the UK even when the type of switch would normally require the applicant to leave the UK and apply for entry clearance.
All of the other requirements of the long-term immigration route being applied for still need to be met, and all application fees need to be paid when submitting the application online. The online submission date will count as the application submission date, and the terms of the individual’s current leave to remain will stay the same until a decision has been made (provided the application was submitted prior to the current visa expiry date).
The Home Office has confirmed that any delays in their processing of applications or an applicant’s failure to attend biometric enrolment appointments will not impact an individual’s immigration status.
It is important to note that this concession only applies to individuals whose leave is due to expire on or before 31 July 2020, and cannot currently be used by migrants whose visas are due to expire after this date.
Still a bit confused or unsure about how this update affects your immigration status?
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a myriad of different individual circumstances, and the above information can only provide a general overview. If you require further information specific to your circumstances, please contact our UK Immigration team who will work with you to attain your goals.