In light of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice against “all but essential” travel to mainland China, the Home Office has issued immigration guidance for individuals currently in the UK whose visas have expired or are due to expire imminently and who, as a consequence, are unable to return to China.
The Home Office has also opened a Coronavirus Immigration Helpline – the details of which can be seen here.
Individuals from China in the UK with UK Visas due to expire
If you are a Chinese citizen in the UK and you obtained a visa before the coronavirus outbreak and this visa has an expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020, your leave to remain will be automatically extended to 31 March 2020. No action is required to obtain this extension of stay and the same immigration conditions will apply as contained on your original visa.
You will not automatically receive any correspondence or a new Biometric Residence Card confirming this extension, however if you do require a document confirming the new dates, this can be discussed with the Home Office via the Coronavirus Immigration Helpline or email address.
If you are intending to stay in the UK after 31 March 2020 and need to extend your visa this should be applied for in the usual way.
You should contact the coronavirus immigration helpline if you are a non-Chinese or non-EEA national in the UK and your UK visa has an expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020. You will need to demonstrate you are usually resident in China and the Home Office will then extend your visa to 31 March 2020.
If you are a Chinese national in the UK with a visa that was granted by the Irish authorities OR a Crown Dependency that has an expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020 you should contact the coronavirus immigration helpline to discuss your options.
Switching a Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa to a Tier 2 (General)
The Home Office usually require applicants to return to their home country to make an application to switch from a Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa to a Tier 2 (General) visa. However if you are a Chinese national in the UK the Home Office have confirmed they will exceptionally allow applicants to apply to switch their visa category in country if your Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa is due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020. All other requirements of the Tier 2 (General) application will still need to be met and the usual Tier 2 (General) application fees will apply. The 12 month cooling off period may also apply if you have been in the UK on a Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa so this will need to be taken into consideration before making an application in the UK.
We also expect this policy to apply to PBS dependants currently in the UK who wish to switch their visa category to Tier 2 (General) but who would ordinarily need to leave the UK to make the application. Again, this would apply only to individuals whose visa is due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020.
UK Visa Application Centres in China
All UK Visa Application Centres in China are currently closed until further notice.
If you are a British, Chinese or third country national with documents currently being held at a visa application centre in China there are currently no circumstances under which you can collect your documents or have your documents sent to you. If you urgently need to travel you will need to get in contact with either the Chinese authorities or your consular representative in China to discuss your circumstances and arrange an alternative travel document. British nationals can find further information and apply for an emergency travel document here.
The Home Office have confirmed they are continuously monitoring the situation and will re-open the visa application centres as soon as they are able to and will then prioritise the return of all documents to customers.
Absences due to Coronavirus
There may be circumstances where either Tier 4 students or Tier 2/5 employees cannot attend their studies or employment due to the inability to travel due to travel restrictions, illness or quarantine due to the coronavirus.
If a sponsor has authorised the absences, they do not need to report the student or employee’s absences on the Sponsor Management System.
Sponsors also do not need to withdraw sponsorship if there are exception circumstances due to the coronavirus in the following situations:
- a student will be unable to attend their studies for more than 60 days
• an employee is absent from work without pay for four weeks or more
The decisions made on withdrawing a student from their studies or terminating employment are down to the discretion of the sponsor due to the exceptional circumstances around the coronavirus outbreak. Sponsors should not be concerned about receiving compliance action from the Home Office in this respect. However the Home Office have confirmed they will keep this under review in relation to whether a high level of absences will mean certain periods of study will need to be repeated.
For any other queries relating to this subject please telephone or email the Home Office’s coronavirus immigration helpline.
This information is correct at 21 February 2020 and will be updated if any further Home Office guidance is issued.