The UKVI has updated their guidance for individuals in the UK who are unable to return to their home countries and has issued guidance for visa applicants in the UK as of 1 July 2021.
Individuals in the UK
You will be expected to take all reasonable steps to return to your home country as soon as it is safe and possible to travel or alternatively, apply to regularise your stay in the UK.
If you intend to leave the UK to return to a country currently listed amber or red but have not been able to do so and you have a visa, leave or ‘exceptional assurance’ that expires before 30 September 2021, you may request additional time to stay.
Exceptionally, if you intend to leave the UK to return to a country currently listed as green, but the country has closed its borders or where there is no availability at quarantine facilities, you may also request ‘exceptional assurance’.
If you had previously been granted ‘exceptional assurance’ but your circumstances have changed or you’re unable to leave by your previous assurance date, you must reapply for additional time to stay. You will have to declare that you are making a subsequent application and provide new supporting evidence.
To request ‘exceptional assurance’ an email headed “Request for an assurance” must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The following must be included:
- Your full name;
- Date of birth;
- Home Office, GWF or any other reference number;
- Type of visa;
- Expiry date of visa;
- Reason for request; and
- Evidence of flight or evidence showing the reason you can’t leave.
You will continue on the conditions of your current or most recently expired visa whilst your request for ‘exceptional assurance’ is pending.
If your current conditions allow you to work, study or rent accommodation, you can continue to do so whilst your request is pending and during the period of your ‘exceptional assurance’.
‘Exceptional assurance’ acts as a short-term protection against any adverse consequence after your leave has expired, but does not grant you leave. If you intend to stay in the UK, you will need to apply for the relevant permission to stay.
If you intend to stay in the UK
If you have been issued with ‘exceptional assurance’, you can apply for permission to stay to remain in the UK. However, you must submit your application before the expiry of your ‘exceptional assurance’ period.
Most Service and Support Centres (SSCs) and UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) centres have reopened for applicants to enrol their biometrics. As more appointments are made available, the UKVI will invite you to arrange an appointment with SSCs by mail or by post. The list of UKVCAS centres that have reopened can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/ukvcas.
Your immigration status in the UK will not change as a result of you not being able to attend an appointment.
If you are in the UK but your Entry Clearance was not activated due to COVID-19 restrictions
If you entered the UK outside of the time frame allowed by your Entry Clearance Vignette due to COVID-19 restrictions, you can apply to remain in the UK without having to return overseas or reapply.
To do so, you must email ECActivation@homeoffice.gov.uk with the following:
- A photo of yourself;
- A photo of your Entry Clearance Vignette and passport biodata page;
- A photo of your Entry stamp in your passport
- Details of how your travel was impacted by COVID-19 regulations;
- Residential address where an updated Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) can be returned.
By doing so, you will be able to vary the leave and conditions granted on your arrival to match the conditions of your Entry Clearance. This process will not require the payment of any fee and will result in an updated BRP will be sent to you with the correct conditions.
If you have overstayed your leave
If your visa or leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 there will be no future adverse immigration consequences if you didn’t make an application to regularise your stay during this period.
However, if you have not applied to regularise your stay or submitted a request for an exceptional assurance you must make arrangements to leave the UK.
Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa holders whose business has been disrupted
You no longer need to employ at least 2 people for 12 consecutive months. The 12 month period you’re required to employ someone for can be made up of multiple jobs across different months but this must be equivalent to 2 full time jobs.
Time when your employees were furloughed will count towards the 12 month period if they have been paid at least 80% of their normal salary.
It has now been made clear that if you have been unable employ staff for 12 months by the time your visa expires, you’ll be allowed to extend your stay for a further 2 years, if you can show:
- You have created at least 2 jobs by the date you apply;
- You have been unable to employ staff for 12 months due to coronavirus.
Start-up visa holders whose business has been disrupted
You can apply for additional leave for 12 months but your endorsing body must provide you with an endorsement letter for this. The letter must state that it is an application for a temporary extension by completing the relevant sections and providing the required information.
The additional leave will allow your Start-up visa to go beyond the normal maximum 2-year period so you can continue developing your business against your agreed business plan.
However, you must continue to meet the requirements of the route as normal, including being endorsed by an endorsing body. Your endorsing body must assess your business and be satisfied that reasonable progress has been made, taking into consideration the impact of coronavirus and that the business remains viable.
If you’re working for the NHS
If you work in healthcare and your visa expires between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021, you may be eligible for a free extension to your visa.
If you’re eligible, your dependants (partner and children under the age of 18) could also get their visas extended for a year. You and your dependants will not have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.
If your visa is due to expire after 30 September 2021, or you are changing employer, you cannot extend your visa for free.
You can work at any NHS hospital during the coronavirus outbreak if your sponsor can maintain their sponsorship duties.
Sponsors will not need to notify UKVI of the change in your place of work.
You can also carry out supplementary work in any role at any skill level during the coronavirus outbreak. There is no restriction on the number of hours you can work.
There is no longer a limit on the number of hours you can work or volunteer each week if you’re a:
- Student (including Tier 4 student) working for the NHS in a list profession
- worker with a Skilled Work, Health and Care Work, Intra-company Transfer or T2 Worker visa and your NHS job is a second job
- visiting academic researcher
- holder of a short-term visa and are permitted to volunteer
Sincere Immigration will continue to provide you with COVID-19 related updates.