Immigration affected by COVID-19
Changes to the Immigration rules due to COVID-19 and restrictions on movement
COVID-19 – Visa Extension
If you’re a Chinese national in the UK whose immigration status is affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, you will get an automatic extension of your visa until 31 March 2020, if your visa has an expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020. Automatic extensions will also apply to long term visas for Chinese nationals who have reached the maximum stay of 180 days between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020.
If you are a non-Chinese or non-EEA national in the UK but are normally resident in China and your visa in the UK has an expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020 you should contact the COVID-19 immigration helpline.
You also need to contact the helpline if your visa was granted by Irish authorities or Crown Dependencies.
COVID-19 Immigration Helpline:
Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
Calls are free of charge.
Switching to a Tier 2 category in the UK
If you are a Chinese national in the UK on a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa and want to switch to a Tier 2 General visa you can exceptionally apply to switch from within the UK if your visa has an expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020. The relevant fee and ensuring you meet all the requirements of a Tier 2 General visa still apply.
Licensed Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 sponsors
If you’re a Tier 4 students or Tier 2/5 employee prevented from attending your studies or employment due to illness, the need to serve a period of quarantine or the inability to travel due to travel restrictions caused by COVID-19, your sponsor will not need to report your absence due to COVID-19.
Sponsorship does not need to be withdrawn in exceptional circumstances such as where a student will be unable to attend university for more than 60 days or an employee is absent from work without pay for four weeks or more. However, when other circumstances apply the sponsor has the discretion on whether to withdraw a student from their studies or terminate employment. The Home Office will not take any action towards students, employees or employers due to absences caused by the COVID-19.
UK visa application centres
Sopra Steria a company which runs all UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres, has the following message on their website:
“CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) UPDATE 1 If you have COVID-19 symptoms and should be self-isolating, or if you have COVID-19, you must not attend your appointment. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘COVID-19’ and your UAN in the subject to say that you cannot attend. We will refund your fee and will tell the Home Office.”
Any appointments which are cancelled will automatically be rebooked at the same location in six weeks’ time, Sopra Steria states “No customers will be adversely impacted as a result of COVID-19”.
UK Visa Application Centres in China are also closed, the Home Office monitors and updates the situation on the VFS’s website.
Secure English Language Testing Booking
Access to facilities across China is also currently restricted in line with national requirements, and tests scheduled for March 2020 have been cancelled.
Passport currently at a Visa Application Centre (VAC)
Where possible passports currently held in VACs will be returned to customers via courier, where courier return has been requested. However, this may not be possible in all locations.
British nationals in China who need to apply for a passport
It is not currently possible to apply for a British passport from China. British nationals who need to travel back to the UK can apply for an emergency travel document. Any passports that were due to be collected from VAC have been delivered to the British Embassy in Beijing, or the Consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou. Individuals will be contacted to make arrangements to collect their documents.
Restrictions on movement
British people who are traveling have been advised by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to return to the UK now on any available commercial flights, as international travel is becoming very limited due to air routes and land borders closing and new restrictions being put into place to prevent flights from leaving.
The government website contains advice for each countries’ travel information and any restrictions currently in place. Many countries and territories have screening measures and entry restrictions at borders crossing and transport hubs. Individuals traveling through as country affected by COVID-19 may need to be quarantined.
The government advises to regularly check their website for any travel updates.