The recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has forced a lockdown in the UK that has rendered the closure of many businesses. Employees have been encouraged to work from home where possible and practice social distancing. This epidemic has particularly caused concern amongst those that have their visas due to expire.
On 17th February 2020 the Home Office published the ‘Coronavirus (Covid-19): immigration guidance’ on the government website. This has not been incorporated into legislation or immigration rules but it merely a policy the Home Office have adopted to provide for Chinese nationals. It states that Chinese nationals with visas expiring between 24th January 2020 and 30th March 2020 who have been compliant with visa conditions, their visas will automatically be extended to 31st March 2020. Further to this, those Chinese nationals presently in the UK on a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa that is expiring between 24th January 2020 and 30th March 2020 and are looking to make an application to switch to Tier 2 General will be allowed to make the application to switch visa routes whilst being in the UK.
Due to the extension date approaching as well as the cancellation of flights to many more countries, we can expect an updated guidance from the Home Office to include many more nationalities that are currently affected, if not all.
If you need a status letter or an updated Biometrics Residence Permit confirming the automatic extension, you can contact the immigration helpline on: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm). The Coronavirus Immigration Helpline can assist with all immigration enquiries affected by the coronavirus outbreak for all nationalities.
All other in-country applications for visa extensions, indefinite leave to remain, naturalisation, etc. can all still be made online with minimal restrictions. The Home Office works alongside Sopra Steria which runs all UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres. As of present, Sopra Steria has closed around half of their centres but are still conducting appointments for applicants. However, Sopra Steria has advised applicants must not attend their appointments if they have symptoms or have the Coronavirus. If an appointment has been cancelled, Sopra Steria automatically rebook appointments at the same location after six weeks. They will also inform the Home Office if an appointment has been cancelled. This is to ensure “no customers will be adversely impacted as a result of Covid-19”.
Also, due to the need of social distancing, naturalisation ceremonies have been cancelled. Most authorities are rescheduling their ceremonies for weeks later. However, it is uncertain whether they will need to be rescheduled again depending on when the UK are released from being locked down. As per s.42 (2) of the British Nationality Act 1981, ‘A certificate of naturalisation as a British citizen shall not be granted under this Act to a person of full age unless he has made the relevant citizenship oath and pledge specified in Schedule 5 at a citizenship ceremony.’
If you believe your immigration status is being affected by the coronavirus outbreak and you need assistance, please fill out the enquiry form on the ‘Contact Us’ tab.