The UK Government has published guidance for those affected by changes to UK immigration and borders due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)“Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advice for UK Visa Applicants and Temporary UK Residents” and throughout the Pandemic it has been frequently updated on visa applications / suspensions, appointment centre closures, concessions and other aspects of the UK’s immigration and nationality system.
We closely monitor these changes and bring you most recent updates.
This guidance is for visa customers and applicants in the UK, visa customers outside of the UK and British nationals overseas who need to apply for a passport affected by travel restrictions associated with coronavirus. It was first published on 24 March 2020 and last updated on 21 April 2021.
Updated current changes include new information for those outside the UK whose leave has expired before they are able to return to the UK and the eligibility criteria for the new Covid Visa Concession Scheme (CVCV).
Updates also include information referring to the free replacement of expired vignettes, updated exceptional assurance visa expiry dates and extension of concessions to the family and private life section as summarised below.
Individuals whose visas expire by 30 April 2021 are expected to take reasonable steps to leave the UK or regularise their stay. Where this is not possible, they can request additional time to stay known as ‘exceptional assurance’. Individuals will need to submit evidence to show why they can’t leave the UK (for example a positive coronavirus test result or confirmation of flight cancellations).
Exceptional assurance acts as short-term protection against any consequences after the visa has expired. During this time, applicants will not be treated as an over stayer or suffer any detriment in any future immigration applications for this consideration period.
Individuals who have already been given assurance but their circumstances have changed or they are unable to leave the UK by the assurance date previously given, they must reapply by clearly stating that they’re making a subsequent application. Individuals will need to provide new supporting evidence.
Individuals who intend to stay in the UK should apply for the necessary permission to stay to regularise their stay. They will be able to submit an application form from within the UK where they would usually need to apply for a visa from their home country.
They will need to meet all requirements of their visa as normal, except the need to submit the application in their home country.
The terms of any current permission will remain the same until the application has been decided. Migrants already in the UK who are switching into work or study routes they may be able to commence work or study whilst their application is under consideration, depending on the terms of their current permission.
Individuals will be able to apply for leave to remain to regularise their stay if they have been issued with ‘exceptional assurance’. They must submit their application before the expiry of their ‘exceptional assurance.
Applicants who left the UK with valid leave before 17 March 2020 and intended to return to the UK and make an application for Indefinite or Further Permission to Stay, but were unable to do so before their leave expired because of travel restrictions related to coronavirus (COVID-19), can be granted permission to travel without a visa by Border Force under the Covid Visa Concession Scheme (CVCS). The migrants who meet the eligibility criteria will need to apply for CVCS online.
Migrants, subsequent to the Border Force Officer being satisfied on arrival following the completion of identity and security checks, will be granted leave outside of the Immigration Rules (LOTR) on arrival for 3 months with the same conditions as their previous grant of leave. A migrant will not be able to leave the UK and return under the same concession.
This concession will be available until 31 March 2021.
If a 90 day visa to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired, or is about to expire, applicants will need to apply for a replacement by completing the online form. The cost of replacing an expired 90 day vignette is £154 and applicants will need to make an appointment to resubmit their bio-metric information.
The new vignette will be valid for a period of 90 days. if applicants cannot travel during this time, they may need to apply again to update their vignette.
If the visa or leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 there will be no future adverse immigration consequences if individuals did not make an application to regularise their stay during this period.
Most UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) have reopened for existing customers and will remain open throughout the UK so customers can continue to book and attend appointments to progress their visa applications. Tests can be booked at most of the approved English Testing Centres in the UK.
There is no longer a need to employ at least 2 people for 12 consecutive months. The 12 month period required to employ someone for can be made up of multiple jobs across different months. Time when employees were furloughed will not count towards the 12 month period if they have been paid at least 80% of their normal salary.
If applicants have not been able to employ staff for 12 months by the time the visa expires, they are allowed to temporarily extend their stay for a further 2 years to give time to meet the requirement. These arrangements will continue for applications made after 31 May 2020, where the jobs relying on were disrupted due to coronavirus.
Applicants can start a course or studies and work before their visa application has been decided if:
- they have been given a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) or Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
- they submitted an application before their current visa expired and can show their sponsor evidence of this
- the course started is the same as the one listed on the CAS
- have a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if required
- the job started is the same as the one listed on the CoS.
NHS workers with leaves expiring between 01 October 2020 and 31 March 2021 will need to apply to extend their leave for free of charge. Their dependants (partner and children under 18) could also get their visas extended for a year. Both main applicant and dependants will not have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).
NHS workers whose leave is due to expire after 31 March 2021, or changing employer, cannot extend their leave for free.
Individuals who are planning to travel to the UK, will need to make sure that they comply with all travel restrictions including pre-departure testing. They need to check the travel advice issued by their carrier and check what you need to do before you travel.
Applications may be delayed if individuals are applying for a visitor visa, visit in transit or direct airside transit (DAT) visa from a country where travel to the UK is suspended. If a visa application is successful, individuals will receive their visa when suspension of travel is lifted. Individuals, who need to travel urgently for compassionate reasons, can contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre (CIH) for guidance: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk.
Applications for visas for work, study or residence in the UK continue to be accepted from all locations but applicants must comply with UK border measures.
Most UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) have resumed services where local restrictions allow. Priority and Super Priority services are only available in some locations.
A visit visa can be applied from any UK VAC. All other UK visas must be applied from the country the applicant is living in.
A concession has been made to allow applicants to apply from any other VAC worldwide if their VAC is closed. This concession has been extended to 31 March 2021.
If the endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because an applicant has not been able to make an application for a visa, they may still be eligible.
The endorsement will be accepted if both:
- it was granted on or after 24 January 2020
- they applied for a visa before 1 January 2021
Applications that do not meet these requirements will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
If the endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because an individual has not been able to travel to the UK, they may still be eligible for a visa. All applications will be considered on a case by case basis.
A short break in continuous residence will be overlooked where applicants are unable to travel back to the UK due to coronavirus travel restrictions and their leave has expired. Applicants are expected to make their next application as soon as possible.
There will be no future adverse immigration consequences if there has been a short break of continuous residence if applicants’ leave expires between 1 March 2020 and 31 May 2021. However, if they returned to the UK and did not make a valid application to stay upon their re-entry, they must now make arrangements to leave.
Applicants with 6 months’ leave as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner and the wedding or civil ceremony has been delayed due to coronavirus may request additional time to stay, also known as ‘exceptional assurance’. Evidence of when the wedding will take place must be submitted.
Applicants can also apply to extend their stay for a further 6 months to allow the ceremony to take place.
UKVI will consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income up to 31 May 2021 provided the minimum income requirement was met for at least 6 months immediately before the date the income was lost.
If the salary has reduced because of furlough, income will be taken into account as though applicants were earning 100% salary.
For the self-employed, a loss of annual income due to coronavirus between 1 March 2020 and 31 May 2021 will usually be disregarded, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications.
In some cases, applications will be decided without seeing certain specified documents that cannot be provided due to coronavirus. These documents may be requested after the date of application.
The following temporary changes were made on 30 March 2020 and remain in place until 16 May 2021.
- checks can currently be carried out over video calls
- job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
- employers should use the Employer Checking Service if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents
From 17 May 2021 the temporary changes will end - employers must either check the documents manually or electrically in accordance with the usual Right to Work guidance.
Employers do not need to carry out retrospective checks on those who had a COVID-19 adjusted check between 30 March 2020 and 16 May 2021 (inclusive). Employers will maintain a defence against a civil penalty if the check undertaken during this period was done in the prescribed manner or as set out in the COVID-19 adjusted checks guidance.
If you would like any further information on any of the above, or would like to discuss your particular circumstances and how Knights could help, please contact a member of Knights' Immigration team.