Implications of Coronavirus on Immigration rules

Implications of Coronavirus on Immigration rules

(Updated 01/03/2020. Please note that at the time of writing all content is up to date. New changes may have been introduced after this date.)

Overview:

  • Visa extensions for Healthcare workers
  • Covid-19 Visa Concession Scheme (CVS)
  • Extension on leave and visaCoronavirus impact on Immigration Rules
  • Visa application processing issues : spouse visa, financial requirements, visa centres
  • Fast track your application
  • Self-quarantine measures
  • Backlog and time delays
  • Student sponsors
  • Student and Child Student route
  • Cancelling your visa application
  • How can NA Law solicitors help?

The effects of COVID-19 on the immigration system

Most likely, nothing has had a greater impact on our lives like COVID-19. Consequently, there have been many temporary changes to the UK immigration rules. With all the changes, it is important to keep track of them so that you or your family member(s) can act accordingly. You will find most of the relevant updates below – however, should you have any further questions call us on 0203 5245439.

Visa Extensions for Healthcare workers

This applies to health workers whose visas expire between the 1st October 2020 to the 31st March 2021. If you are a health worker for the NHS or another independent medical organisation , you may apply for a free, one year visa extension due to the coronavirus. Contact us for more detailed help on this application.

For the purposes of this extension, the government defines a health worker as some of the following –

  • Biochemist
  • Dentist
  • Midwife
  • Paramedic
  • Pharmacist
  • Therapy professional

For an exhaustive list, visit the government website.

What do you need to apply?

To apply for this Visa Extension all you need is a photograph of yourself and your biometric residence permit. You can apply online here.

 Visa Concession Scheme ( CVS)

This applies to people whose permission to remain in the UK expired whilst they were out of the country and now cannot return to the UK due to coronavirus travel limitations. The government is calling this the Covid Visa Concession Scheme (CVS).It is available until the 31st March 2021

One can apply if –

  • You left the UK before 17 March 2020 with ILR or LR
  • Your relevant permission to stay in the UK expired , and they could not return to the UK to renew it due to travel restrictions
  • You intend to return to the UK once they are allowed.

Given you are eligible to apply, this scheme will allow you to stay in the UK for 3 months to renew your visa.

Exceptional circumstances

If you do not meet the criteria to apply, for instance, you left the UK after the 17th March , there are some circumstances in which you may still be accepted. The government includes  if you left the UK after the 17th March 2020 due to severe illness or death of a close relative , or to get medical attention overseas.

Visa application processing issues

Exceptional Assurance

If you are currently within the UK and your visa expires between 1 March 2021 and 31 March 2021, it is advised to take all reasonable steps to regularise your stay or leave the UK. Where travel restrictions have been in place due to Coronavirus, individuals may wish to request additional time to stay, known as ‘exceptional assurance’. Requests for an assurance must be submitted through e-mail to cihassuranceteam@homeoffice.gov.uk. ‘Exceptional assurance’ is a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences of an expired leave. For further information on how to apply and more, please visit gov.uk.

While making an Indefinite leave to remain application, it is necessary to use UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) to provide your biometric information and other supporting application documents. When this is instructed, the UKVCAS appointment may take place either via online service or by attending an appointment. Check to see whether there is a change to your service point: https://www.ukvcas.co.uk/flash-message-detail?flashmessageId=56249. For more information please visit: https://www.gov.uk/ukvcas.

Returning Resident Visa

As a rule, with Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and Indefinite Leave to Enter the UK (ILE), staying outside of the UK for more than two years will result in your status lapsing. If your Indefinite Leave status has ended on or after 24th of January 2020, and because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, you have not been able to get back to the UK, you can apply through the Returning Resident Visa path in order to return and obtain Indefinite leave.

Spouse visa and Financial Requirement

Due to the Coronavirus economic crises, meeting the financial requirements when applying for a Spouse visa may prove to be difficult. Prior to 31 May 2021, If you have experienced a loss of income due to Coronavirus, your employment income may be considered prior to that  loss of income. The minimum income requirement must be met for at least 6 months immediately before the date the income was lost. Salary decrease due to furlough may also be considered. Additionally, for self-employed individuals, a loss of annual income due to Coronavirus between 1st of March 2020 and 31st of May 2021 will usually be disregarded.

Fast track your application decision

Due to the current coronavirus climate, applicants inside the UK can only pay for a quicker decision on some Visas. Fast tracking your decision means getting a response as soon as the end of the next working day or at the latest within 5 working days. If you are applying from within the UK you can find a list of the visa applications you can fast track on gov.uk. If you are applying from outside of the UK; not every country allows their nationals to fast track their application. Because of COVID-19, one can only pay for a speedier decision through specific visa application centres. Check with your application centre to find out if they can accommodate this request.

Business disruptions due to coronavirus may also be considered if you have a Start-up or Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa. To find out more, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents

 Self-Quarantine measures

New restrictions and measures have been introduced to help stop the spread of potentially harmful variants into the UK. When travelling to England, you must quarantine for 10 days in either your place of stay or in a managed quarantine hotel. Travel restrictions vary according to your destination prior to entering England. Two tests must be booked in advance and conducted after arrival. A fine of £500 could be given if, when you arrive at the border and you cannot provide proof that you have had a negative coronavirus test. 48 hours before you arrive in the UK, you must fill in your passenger locator form, this will need to be shown as prove. https://www.gov.uk/provide-journey-contact-details-before-travel-uk  // https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control/before-you-leave-for-the-uk

If your travel destination has been within the ‘Red list’ travel ban countries, you will be refused to enter the UK. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/transport-measures-to-protect-the-uk-from-variant-strains-of-covid-19

Please note, when you have entered the UK, you must follow the national guidelines and rules https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. Breach of quarantine rules may result in a penalty of up to £10,000.

Some travel restrictions may not apply to those working within certain jobs. Please see the gov.uk guidance. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-travellers-exempt-from-uk-border-rules/coronavirus-covid-19-travellers-exempt-from-uk-border-rules

Overview of time delays

The UK immigration system continues to experience some delays as a result of previous closures, lockdown measures and restrictions. Most UKVCAS centres have reopened but capacity is limited. To ease some backlog, Home Office have invited student applicants who have previously provided biometrics in the past to use the Identity verification (IDV) app rather than attending the centre (https://www.ukvcas.co.uk/flash-message-detail?flashmessageId=74833 ). Some English testing centres have also re-opened. Priority and Super Priority services are only available in some locations. Courts and tribunals have also had some delays in case hearings, you can check the status of each hearing centre. Due to coronavirus, nationality applications may take longer than usual however, this will not affect the decision.

Student Sponsors

Some flexibility has been provided for student sponsors during these times of uncertainty. Below you will find some of the temporary changes made to the rules regarding student sponsors because of coronavirus. Note that this information is not exhaustive and it is advised to look at the Governments Coronavirus Student Sponsors Guidance to understand the full extent of the temporary policy concessions made. The distance learning concessions are relevant for the period of 2020-2021 academic year and will be updated as time goes by.

Inspection

As is known, student sponsors must undergo regular inspections in order to upkeep Educational Oversight. Such inspections have either been delayed or prevented as a result of COVID-19. Consequently, a sponsor’s Certificate of Acceptance for studies will not be reduced to zero because of said delays, but it is expected that whenever possible, inspections should be made.

Student absences

No action will be taken against sponsors who maintain sponsorship of students who, due to the virus, do not attend their studies. Absences due to the virus do not need to be reported, however, a record must be kept of these absences.

Distance learning

Students, child students, as well as Tier 4 visa owners who are carrying out their studies through distance learning can still be sponsored even if they are outside the UK.

Students who intend to start their studies in the 2020-2021 school year through distance learning may also be sponsored so long as they move to traditional face-to-face learning once the conditions return to normal.

A students sponsorship must be withdrawn if they stop attending their distance studying for a greater period than 30 days.

Students who wish to start a course that is to be taught entirely overseas or by distance learning do not need sponsorship under the Student or Child student routes as they are not required to go to the UK.

Original documents

Where a student is unable to submit the relevant documents in order to attain sponsorship because of the coronavirus measures that have been introduced, digital copies will be permissible.

English language requirements for pre-sessional English courses

Most English testing centres have not resumed services.

Students who are required to start a pre-sessional English course must first carry out a test known as a SELT to prove their English language abilities. To find a qualified test centre to take a SELT, a list is provided of such centres on the GOV.UK website.

If a student is unable to take a SELT outside of the UK as there are no test centres available, sponsors who have a record of compliance may judge the students English capabilities.

Sponsors who do not have a record of compliance as they are awaiting registration with the Office for Students may also judge for themselves the students English capabilities. A sponsor may still be able to assess the students English language even if they are not qualified to register with the Office for students and do not have a record of compliance.

This concession will remain only until SELT test centres have opened up again in the country where the student is applying from.

Students & child students

There have been some temporary changes in the rules regarding the Student and Child Student route. Below you can find some of the many changes. The information provided on this page is not exhaustive and it is advised to look at the Governments Coronavirus Student and Child Student Guidance to understand the full extent of the temporary policy concessions made. This concession will be allowed for the whole of the 2020/2021 academic year and applies to mixed learning.

Distance learning has been the main route through which students are being educated about their chosen subject at this point in time. Therefore, sponsors will not be breaching their duty by offering distance learning to existing students and sponsorship will not be withdrawn for new students who are undertaking distance learning as they are unable to go to the UK.

Working hours

Students that are working alongside their studies and are employed by an NHS trust will not be limited to any working hours provided their job fits one of the professions as laid out on the GOV.UK guidance for Student and Child Student route. Some of these professions include: biochemist, biological scientist, dental practitioner, health professional, midwife and nurse. Students must continue their studies whilst carrying out their employment as they are staying in the UK on a student visa. Should a student wish to permanently work full time under any one of the listed professions, they must do so under the necessary work route.

If a student’s studying has temporarily been stopped because of the outbreak, they will be allowed to work without restriction during this time. Those who are still carrying out studies through distance learning will be restricted to the working hours as indicated on their visa.

Cancelling your visa application

You may request to cancel an application for a visa, visa extension or citizenship and you will be refunded the immigration health surcharge, but only if you withdraw your application before a decision is made.

If you are cancelling your application due to COVID-19, you must send an email to the coronavirus immigration help centre. They will advise you on whether you will be refunded for the application fee – for further information go to the GOV.UK website where you can also find steps on how to cancel.

Additional resource help and guidance:

For any general immigration inquiries relative to coronavirus, individuals can email the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre at CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk.

To find out more or to book a managed quarantine package, please visit:

How we can help

At NA Law Solicitors, we pride ourselves in giving tailored and dignified advice to our clients. Understandably, these times have been hard. You are not alone. Our job is to make things simpler and work with you to find the best option available for you. If you have any queries or would like further advice, please contact us for a consultation.

 

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