Coronavirus has had a catastrophic affect on UK immigration over the last few weeks. The Home Office policies have subsequently changed to accommodate the everchanging circumstances that the UK are facing. In light of recent Home Office and government announcements, temporary measures have been put in place for both in country and out of country visa applications and appointments.
Home Office UKVI In Country Update:
The Home Office announced on the 24/03/2020 that Migrants who are currently in the UK on Visas will have there visas automatically extended to 31 May 2020 for those currently unable to return home due to COVID-19. The extension will apply to anyone whose leave expired after the 24 January and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation.
Many foreign nationals have found themselves unable to return home since the outbreak of COVID-19 due to flight cancellations and border restrictions. The extension has been put in place to give these individuals peace of mind that they will not be penalised for overstaying their visa when the situation is out of their control due to COVID-19.
Those who contact the Home Office for these visa extensions will be expected to return to their home countries once flight and border restrictions are lifted. No immigration enforcement action will be undertaken during this time for those who email the Home Office as outlined above.
Considering the current advice on self-isolation and social distancing, the Home Office is also waiving a number of requirements on Tier 2 visa sponsors/employers, such as allowing non-EU nationals here under work or study routes to undertake their work or study from home.
During these unique circumstances applicants will also be able to apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31 May. This includes applications where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country. Applicants looking to apply to switch or extend their visa in the UK should continue to do so in the standard manner, ensuring that applications are submitted online prior to visa expires.
A dedicated COVID-19 immigration team has been set up within UKVI to make the process as straightforward as possible. Anyone in the above situation just needs to contact this team, via this email address CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk, to let them know their visa has expired and they will be issued with an extension.
Temporary UKVCAS guidance has been provided during this pandemic which explains how and where applicants should attend their document and biometric appointment until further notice. When applicants attend their appointment, unless for medical or mobility reasons, the applicant should attend alone. If the applicant has been suffering from any Covid-19 symptoms, they should not attend the appointment but must contact UKVCAS by email on firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “COVID-19 + their UAN reference.” If the appointment is cancelled for this reason and fees for the appointment were paid, these will be refunded.
Furthermore, to these measure, the majority of Biometric centres have closed for at least 6 weeks. If an applicant has booked an appointment, the appointment will be automatically rebooked for 6 weeks’ time.
Out of Country Visa Status Update
Applicants who are submitting applications out of country and are attending UK Visa Application Centres should refer to either https://uk.tlscontact.com/ or https://www.vfsglobal.co.uk/en to ensure that the centre which they have selected, is still open. Each country and centre will have different policies, therefore each applicant should ensure they check this information before booking and attending an appointment. If the country being applied in is in lockdown, it is likely that the applicant will not be able to submit their application to the Visa Application Centre until further notice.
It should be noted that the UK, until future notice, has stopped accepting visa applications in Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Fiji, Guatemala, Guyana, India, Iran, Jamaica, Kuwait, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Sri Lanka, St Lucia, Suriname, USA and Venezuela.
Furthermore, priority and super priority appointments for entry clearance applications are no longer being accepted during the pandemic. The centre is likely to continue to have this option available on their website to purchase, however, should not be bought as it will not be honoured. All applications during this time will be decided within the standard decision time.
PERMITS2WORK during this uncertain time are still operating within their normal opening hours. Administrative staff are operating within the office; however, all caseworkers are working remotely but are still managing all cases effectively ensuring new clients can access the company, as well as guaranteeing existing clients and their visas are renewed with minimal issues. All caseworkers are available through emails and telephone calls, however, will not be taking any face-to-face consultations or onsite audits for the foreseeable future. PERMITS2WORK are ensuring that despite these uncertain times, measures are put in place to ensure that all applicants, sponsors and companies who are looking to, or are currently making visa applications, are able to do so as painlessly as possible.
Any applicant who requires more information from the Home Office regarding the Coronavirus should contact the Coronavirus Immigration helpline on 0800 678 1767 for further information. These calls are free of charge and are available to be made between 09:00am to 17:00pm Monday to Friday. The helpline will only speak to the applicant unless written permission is provided which specifically states that a third party can speak on their behalf.
Please ensure government advice is listened to and stay safe during this very difficult time.
If you require any assistance to extend your visa or any other Immigration please call us on 01793 836010 or email email@example.com.