Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the UK immigration system – Where do you stand?

In these testing times of uncertainty, clarity is of the utmost importance. Irrespective of one’s social, political or economic status, we are all impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in some capacity. To shed some light, here is some advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.

(Updated as of 09 June 2020)

If you’re in the UK and your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020:

“your visa will be extended to 31 July 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19). You must request an extension by updating your records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) if your visa is expiring and you cannot leave the UK at present but are not planning to stay in the UK in the long term.”

Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

Email: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk. Your email must be in English.

Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre.

You should provide:

  • your full name (include any middle names)
  • date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
  • nationality
  • your previous visa reference number
  • why you can’t go back to your home country, for example if the border has closed

You will be notified when your request has been received and when your visa has been extended.

If you’re applying to stay in the UK long term:

“during these unique circumstances you’ll be able to apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31 July. This includes applications where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country. You’ll need to meet the same visa requirements and pay the UK application fee. This includes those whose leave has already been automatically extended to 31 July 2020. You can apply online. The terms of your leave will remain the same until your application is decided.”

Application and Service Centres in the UK

UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) and Service and Support Centres (SSCs) are temporarily closed because of coronavirus (COVID-19). You cannot book an appointment.

If you’ve already made an appointment to attend a UKVCAS or an SSC, you will be contacted to be informed that it has been cancelled. You’ll be advised when you can book a new appointment.

Your immigration status in the UK will not change as a result of you not being able to attend an appointment.”

If you’re on a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa and your business has been disrupted

 “You no longer need to employ at least 2 people for 12 consecutive months each. The 12-month period you are required to employ someone for can be made up of multiple employees across different months.

Time when your employees were furloughed will not count towards the 12-month period.

If have not been able to employ staff for 12 months in total by the time your visa expires, you will be allowed to temporarily extend your stay to give you time to meet the requirement.

These arrangements will continue for applications made after 31 May 2020, where the jobs you are relying on were disrupted due to COVID-19.

If you’ve applied for a Tier 4 visa and are waiting for a decision on your application

You can start your course or studies before your visa application has been decided if:

  • your sponsor is a Tier 4 sponsor
  • you have been given a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS)
  • you submitted your application before your current visa expired and you show your sponsor evidence of this
  • the course you start is the same as the one listed on your CAS
  • you have a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme(ATAS) certificate if required

If your application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused you must stop your course or studies.

If you’ve applied for a Tier 2 or 5 visa and are waiting for a decision on your application

You can start work before your visa application has been decided if:

  • you have been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
  • you submitted your application before your current visa expired and you show your sponsor evidence of this
  • the job you start is the same as the one listed on your CoS

“If your application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused your sponsor will stop sponsoring you and you must stop working for them.”

If you need more information about the measures in place for students and their sponsors, check out the information here.

If you’re outside the UK:

“many UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) are closed or offering limited services. For advice on visa services in your country, contact”:

  • TLS contact if you’re in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East
  • VFS global for all other countries

“In some areas the UK cannot send visa vignettes across some borders and routes due to border restrictions. If you have an appointment and the VAC is now closed, you’ll be contacted and told your appointment will not take place. English Testing Centres are also affected. Visit the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)’s website here or contact your test centre for more information.”

Getting your documents:

“As VACs reopen we will prioritise returning customer passports. If the VAC where you applied is still closed we will not be able to return your passport. We will reopen more VACs where local restrictions allow and social distancing can be maintained.”

British nationals abroad who need to apply for a passport:

“Her Majesty’s Passport Office is accepting online passport applications.

If you are advised that you must book an appointment at your nearest VAC to submit your passport application, you should check if it’s open.

If your country’s VAC is still closed, you won’t be able to apply for a British passport until it re-opens.

If you urgently need to travel to the UK, you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to discuss your options. You can also check the latest travel advice from the FCO.”

If you are applying for a Global Talent, Start-up or Innovator visa

“If your endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because you have not been able to travel to the UK you may still be eligible for a visa. You should make your application as planned and we will consider all applications on a case by case basis.”

If your 30-day visa to work, study or join family has expired

“If your 30-day visa to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired, or is about to expire, you can request a replacement visa with revised validity dates free of charge until the end of this year.

To make a request, contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre. You’ll need to include your name, nationality, date of birth and your GWF reference number with ‘REPLACEMENT 30 DAY VISA’ in the subject line. If you’ve already contacted us about this, please let us know in your email.

You’ll be contacted when our VACs reopen to arrange for a replacement visa to be endorsed in your passport.

You will not be penalised for being unable collect your BRP while coronavirus measures are in place.

This process will be in place until the end of 2020.”

If you’re applying to enter the UK or remain on the basis of family or private life

“There are temporary concessions in place if you’re unable to meet the requirements of the family Immigration Rules to enter or remain in the UK due to coronavirus.

If you’re unable to travel back to the UK due to coronavirus travel restrictions and your leave has expired, a short break in continuous residence will be overlooked. You are expected to make your next application as soon as possible.”

Fiancés, fiancées or proposed civil partners

“If you’re here with 6 months’ leave as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner and your wedding or civil ceremony has been delayed due to coronavirus you can either request an extension until 31 July 2020 by updating your records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team, or apply to extend your stay for a further 6 months to allow the ceremony to take place.”

Changes to the minimum income and adequate maintenance requirement

“If you have experienced a loss of income due to coronavirus, we will consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income due to coronavirus, provided the requirement was met for at least 6 months up to March 2020.

If your salary has reduced because you’re furloughed, we will take account of your income as though you’re earning 100% of your salary.

If you’re self-employed, a loss of annual income due to coronavirus between 1 March 2020 and 31 July 2020 will generally be disregarded, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications.”

If you’re unable to provide specified documents

“In some cases, we will be able to decide your application without seeing certain specified documents if you cannot get them due to coronavirus. Otherwise, you may be asked to submit the specified documents after the date of application.”

Changes to the English language requirement

“If you’re asked to take an English language test as part of your application, you can apply for an exemption if the test centre was closed or you couldn’t travel to it due to coronavirus when you applied.”

For more information on how visa applicants/applications/extensions will be impacted during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, send an email to info@compasslaw.org.uk to book a telephone/Skype consultation. The fee is £30.

To limit the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), until further notice, our drop-in service will be held remotely on Mondays between 10am – 1:30pm (Bolton). Please be advised that our Preston drop-in service held on Fridays have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.

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