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Adjustments to UK Immigration Criteria and Processes

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The UK Home Office has issued further guidance in respect of immigration provisions for UK migrants both inside and outside of the UK, in light of COVID-19.

Migrants currently in the UK

Visas expiring between 24 January 2020 – 31 May 2020

Individuals who are in the UK legally and whose UK visa is due to expire or has expired between 24 January 2020 – 31 May 2020, and are unable to leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation, will be granted an extension  of stay to 31 May 2020.

The purpose of this unprecedented measure is to ensure that migrants do not become overstayers or suffer any future detriment as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Affected individuals must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) in English by email or telephone to:

The following information must be provided:

  1. full name (include any middle names)
  2. date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
  3. nationality
  4. previous visa reference number and/or current visa details
  5. reason why an extension of stay in the UK is required, for example if a border has closed, all flights are suspended to home country or the visa holder is in self-isolation

The CIT will acknowledge receipt of requests to extend visas to 31 May 2020 and confirm when the visa has been extended.

The extension will take the form of an update on UKVI immigration databases. New Biometrics Residence Permits (“BRPs”) will not be issued.

We recommend that copies of all correspondence with the Home Office in relation to individual requests is retained for personal visa records.

Any period of extension granted through this measure will not be held against individuals in future applications.

Switching rules suspended

Applications can be submitted from within the UK until 31 May 2020

Individuals who would normally need to leave the UK in order to submit an application for a UK visa will be exceptionally permitted to submit that application from within the UK, until 31 May 2020.

All of the criteria associated with the immigration category being applied for will still need to be satisfied.

Examples of individuals who may benefit from this new measure will include those who are in the UK as Visitors or Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) migrants and who wish to remain in the UK in another immigration category such as Tier 2 or Spouse.

When the application is submitted from within the UK, the Home Office has confirmed that Section 3C Leave will apply. This means that the terms of the visa which the applicant is currently on will be extended whilst the new application is being decided.

Applicants awaiting a decision

Individuals will not be regarded as overstayers if they have not been able to attend a biometrics appointment due to COVID-19 closures or if there are delays in processing their application.

Migrants currently outside the UK

There are many countries where Visa Application Centres (“VACs”) are either closed or have limited services. Information can be found via either the TLS Contact or VFS Global websites (depending on country of application):

Applicants will need to select their country of application in order to obtain relevant advice for VACs in that country.

If an applicant has a scheduled biometrics appointment and the VAC is now closed, this will be have to be rearranged when the VAC reopens. This is expected to vary from country to country.

Applicants who have attended their biometrics appointment and submitted their paperwork for processing should note that although the Home Office appears to be continuing casework, in some areas visa vignettes cannot be endorsed in passports due to some border/route restrictions in particular countries.

Where visa vignettes can be endorsed and the applicant has paid for a courier to return their documents, this will continue if permitted in the applicant’s country. For those who have not paid for a courier to return their documents they can contact the VAC to request this service.

The Home Office will prioritise the return of all applicant documents when VACs reopen.

Tier 2 Sponsor Licence Employers

The Home Office has confirmed that Tier 2 Sponsors do not have to submit reports that their Tier 2 sponsored migrants are working from home as a result of COVID-19 measures.

In addition, Tier 2 Sponsors are not required to report absences of sponsored employees or withdraw their sponsorship where that absence is as a result of COVID-19.

Sponsors should be mindful that all other monitoring and reporting obligations of their sponsored workers remain in force. This includes changes in job duties, salary etc.

We are expecting further advice for Tier 2 sponsors from the Home Office shortly.

Students / Tier 4 Sponsors

Until 31 May 2020, Tier 4 Sponsors will be able to offer distance learning courses to existing Tier 4 Students as well as those who have chosen to return home but who wish to continue their studies. Sponsorship does not have to be withdrawn in these circumstances, unless the student has permanently withdrawn from or deferred their studies.

In addition, sponsorship does not need to be withdrawn from Students who have been issued a Tier 4 status but have been unable to travel to the UK to begin their studies. Distance learning is permitted in this situation also.

New international students who are not in the UK and who wish to start a distance learning course in the UK do not require sponsorship or a visa to do so.

British Nationals applying for passports

If the country’s VACs are closed, British nationals will be unable to apply for a British passport from overseas. If urgent travel is required to the UK, these individuals will need to apply for an emergency travel document:

For British nationals within the UK, the HM Passport Office is no longer offering fast-track or premium processing services in London.

Please contact your Magrath contact for further guidance in respect of any of these matters or contact us at [email protected]

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