Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents

This is advice 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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents

If you’re in the UK

You are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so or apply to regularise your stay in the UK. You are allowed to access Visa and Immigration services as these are considered an essential public service. You must follow current COVID-19 rules for where you live, in EnglandScotlandWales and Northern Ireland.

If you intend to leave the UK to return to a country or territory currently listed amber or red but have not been able to do so and you have a visa, leave or ‘exceptional assurance’ that expires before 30 September 2021 you may request additional time to stay, known as ‘exceptional assurance’.

There may also be exceptional cases where you may be unable to return to a country or territory listed as green where that nation has closed their borders or where quarantine facilities are temporarily over-subscribed in which cases you may also request ‘exceptional assurance’.

Please submit your request for an ‘exceptional assurance’ by emailing cihassuranceteam@homeoffice.gov.uk with the following details:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • nationality
  • Home Office, GWF or any other reference number
  • type of visa
  • expiry date of visa
  • reason for request
  • evidence of flight or evidence showing reason you can’t leave

The subject header of your email should read “Request for an assurance”.

In your email you should attach evidence to show why you cannot leave the UK. For example, if you can’t leave the UK because you cannot find a flight before your leave/visa expires, you will need to submit a copy of a confirmed flight ticket or evidence of flight unavailability.

During the time in which your request for ‘exceptional assurance’ is pending you will continue on the conditions as per your current or most recently expired visa.

If you are granted ‘exceptional assurance’ it will act as a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after your leave has expired. If conditions allowed you to work, study or rent accommodation you may continue to do so during the period of your ‘exceptional assurance’. ‘Exceptional assurance’ does not grant you leave. It is a means to protect those who are unable to leave the UK due to COVID-19 restrictions and not to facilitate travel, other than to return home.

If you’ve already been given assurance but your circumstances have changed or you’re unable to leave the UK by the assurance date previously given, you must reapply using the process above. You will need to clearly state that you’re making a subsequent application. You’ll be asked to provide new supporting evidence.

If you intend to stay in the UK

In order to remain in the UK, you will need to apply for the relevant permission to stay. Where eligible, you’ll be able to submit a permission to stay application form from within the UK.

You can make an application for permission to stay in the UK if you hold permission in a route that would normally allow you to do so, or if your current permission or visa expires before 1 July.

You’ll need to meet the requirements of the route you’re applying for and pay the UK application fee. You will not be able to apply for a route for which there is no provision in the Immigration Rules for making an in-country application, such as T5 Youth Mobility Scheme, or Adult Dependant Relative.

The terms of your current permission will remain the same until your application is decided. If you are switching into work or study routes you may be able to commence work or study whilst your application is under consideration, depending on the terms of your current permission.

You are also able to apply for permission to stay to remain in the UK if you have been issued with an ‘exceptional assurance’. You must submit your application before the expiry of your ‘exceptional assurance’.

If you are in the UK but your Entry Clearance was not activated due to COVID-19 restrictions

If you entered the United Kingdom outside the 30 and 90 day window allowed by your Entry Clearance vignette due to COVID-19 impacts, and your Entry Clearance was not activated as a result, then you can apply to remain in the United Kingdom without having to return overseas or reapply.

By following the process below, you are able to vary the leave and conditions granted on arrival to match the conditions of your Entry Clearance. This will not require any fee to be paid.

In order to accept this offer please e-mail ECActivation@homeoffice.gov.uk with the following details:

  • a photo of yourself
  • a photo of your Entry Clearance vignette and passport biodata page
  • a photo of the Entry stamp in your passport
  • details of how your travel was impacted by COVID-19 regulations
  • residential address where an updated Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) can be returned

An updated BRP will then be sent to you with the correct conditions.

If you have overstayed your leave

If your visa or leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 there will be no future adverse immigration consequences if you didn’t make an application to regularise your stay during this period. However, if you have not applied to regularise your stay or submitted a request for an exceptional assurance you must make arrangements to leave the UK.

Application and service centres in the UK

As immigration and visa services are an essential service you can still travel to attend your appointment and enrol your biometrics.

Most UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) have reopened for existing customers. You can check which UKVCAS centres are open and book an appointment if you have not already done so.

UKVCAS Service Points are essential services and will remain open throughout the UK so customers can continue to book and attend appointments to progress their visa applications.

Service and Support Centres (SSCs) are essential services and will remain open. SSCs are offering a reduced number of appointments because of coronavirus. As more appointments are made available UKVI will invite you to arrange an appointment by email or post.

If you have been asked to enrol your biometrics at a participating Post Office branch you can travel to your nearest branch. Further details are contained in your biometric enrolment letter.

If you’re a Student or Child Student applicant in the UK and have given your fingerprints before

If you’re applying in the UK as a Student or Child Student (including Tier 4 student), UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may be able to reuse your fingerprints.

If UKVI can reuse the fingerprints you’ve already given, you’ll be emailed with instructions on how to send them an image of your face and your supporting documents.

This will mean you do not have to attend a UKVCAS or an SSC service point appointment to provide biometric information.

If you cannot send the information through the instructions given, you’ll be able to book an appointment.

English language testing centres in the UK

You can book a test at most of the approved English Testing Centres in the UK.

For more information on how you can book your English Language Test, contact either:

If you’ve already made an appointment

We have contacted you if you made an appointment to attend a UKVCAS that is still temporary closed to let you know it has been postponed. You’ll be contacted 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 have 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. The 12 month period you’re required to employ someone for can be made up of multiple jobs across different months but this must be equivalent to 2 full time jobs.

Time when your employees were furloughed will count towards the 12 month period if they have been paid at least 80% of their normal salary.

If you’ve not been able to employ staff for 12 months by the time your visa expires, you’ll be allowed to extend your stay for a further 2 years, if you can show:

  • you‘ve created at least 2 jobs by the date you apply
  • you’ve been unable to employ staff for 12 months due to coronavirus

If you have a Start-up visa and your business has been disrupted

You can apply for additional leave of 12 months. This will allow your Start-up visa to go beyond the normal maximum 2-year period so you can continue developing your business against your agreed business plan.

You must meet the requirements of the route as normal, including being endorsed by an endorsing body. Your endorsing body must assess your business and be satisfied that reasonable progress has been made, taking into consideration the impact of coronavirus and that the business remains viable.

Your endorsing body must provide you with an endorsement letter. This must state it is an application for a temporary extension by completing the relevant sections and providing the required information, within the endorsement letter.

If you’ve applied for a Student or Child Student visa (including Tier 4 visas) 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 Student 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 work visa and are waiting for a decision on your application

This includes:

  • Skilled Worker visa
  • Health and Care Worker visa
  • Intra-company Transfer visa
  • T2 Worker visas
  • T5 Temporary Worker visas

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

  • you’ve been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) and either:
    • you’re applying under the Health and Care visa
    • it was assigned before 1 January 2021
  • 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. You should either leave the UK or seek to regularise your immigration status if this happens.

If your CoS is assigned from 1 January 2021 and you are not applying under the Health and Care visa, you must wait until your visa application has been granted before starting work, unless your current visa allows you to work in that job.

If you need more information about the measures in place for students and their sponsors

You can read detailed guidance on the temporary measures in place for Student sponsors, their students and short-term students in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

If you’re working for the NHS

If you work in healthcare and your visa expires between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021

You may be eligible for a free extension to your visa. If you’re eligible, your dependants (partner and children under the age of 18) could also get their visas extended for a year.

You and your dependants will not have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.

If your visa is due to expire after 30 September 2021, or you are changing employer, you cannot extend your visa for free.

Find out more in the visa extensions for health workers during coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance.

If you’ll be working at a different NHS site than your usual place of work because of coronavirus

You can work at any NHS hospital during the coronavirus outbreak if your sponsor can maintain their sponsorship duties.

Sponsors will not need to notify UKVI of the change in your place of work.

If you do any different or extra work due to coronavirus

You can carry out supplementary work in any role at any skill level during the coronavirus outbreak. There is no restriction on the number of hours you can work.

Changes to the current restrictions on the number of hours you can work or volunteer

There is no longer a limit on the number of hours you can work or volunteer each week if you’re a:

  • Student (including Tier 4 student) working for the NHS in a list profession
  • worker with a Skilled Work, Health and Care Work, Intra-company Transfer or T2 Worker visa and your NHS job is a second job
  • visiting academic researcher
  • holder of a short-term visa and are permitted to volunteer

If you’re a pre-registration nurse or midwife on the Temporary Register in the UK

The deadline for you to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been extended to 30 September 2021. If you do not pass on the first attempt, you’ll have until 31 December 2021 to pass the exam.

If you’re working on coronavirus research

If you’re a scientist researching coronavirus (COVID-19), you may be able to apply for a Global Talent visa using the UKRI endorsed funder option. Find out about the requirements for coronavirus researchers.

If you’re outside the UK

If you’re planning to travel to the UK, you’ll need to make sure you comply with all travel restrictions including pre-departure testing. Please check the travel advice issued by your carrier and check what you need to do before entering the UK.

From 17 May, all countries will be rated as red, amber or green for Coronavirus (COVID-19). You’ll need to follow the red, amber and green list rules for entering England.

Separate guidance is available if you’re entering WalesScotland and Northern Ireland

New coronavirus testing and quarantine rules

From 17 May, the rules for people arriving in England from abroad are changing.

What you need to do depends on where you have been in the 10 days before you arrive. If you have been in a country or territory on the:

You must follow these rules even if you have been vaccinated.

Find out what list the country you’ve been in is on and what you need to do.

Until 17 May, you must follow the current testing and quarantine rules.

Applying for a UK visa

There are changes at the UK border because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

You should consider guidance on entering the UK and the red, amber and green list rules for entering England before you apply for a visa. You should also check the travel advice issued by your carrier and check what you need to do before you leave for the UK.

Applications for transit visas and visas for work, study or residence in the UK continue to be processed from all red, amber and green list locations.

If you’re applying for a visitor visa

UKVI will continue to accept applications for visit visas from red, amber and green countries. Issuing applications from red list countries will be paused until travel restrictions are lifted.

If you need to travel urgently to the UK for compassionate reasons, you’ll still need to apply for a visa in the usual way, including submitting biometrics at your chosen Visa Application Centre (VAC). You should clearly explain the compelling or compassionate reasons for your visit in your application form and alert the VAC staff during biometric submission. You’ll be contacted by UKVI once your application has been received.

If you do not hear from UKVI or your request is exceptionally urgent, you can also contact UK Visas and Immigration for help. Please note that this is a chargeable service for overseas customers.

Exemptions to managed quarantine requirements

The Department of Health and Social Care has laid out a limited number of scenarios where an individual may apply for an exemption from the requirement to enter managed quarantine on arrival in the UK on medical and compassionate grounds.

Visa Application Centres (VACs)

Most UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) have resumed services where local restrictions allow.

Priority and Super Priority services are only available in some locations. If available, you’ll be able to purchase these services when booking your appointment.

For more information, and for updates to the status of VACs, including opening times in your country, check with:

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

Ongoing global restrictions mean some UKVI services will remain closed. Where services are resuming, existing customers will be contacted.

English language tests are available in most countries but may be temporarily suspended in some countries due to coronavirus restrictions. You can find a list of all approved test centres outside the UK. Check the SELT provider’s website to find out when tests are available and to make sure the test centre is open. Do not contact the test centre directly.

For more information on how you can book your English Language Test, contact either:

Applying for a visa if your visa application centre (VAC) is closed

You can apply for a visit visa from any UK VAC. You should apply for all other UK visas from the country you’re living in.

If your VAC is closed due to coronavirus restrictions, you can apply online and select a VAC in another country worldwide to submit your application and biometrics. You’ll need to make sure you’re permitted to travel to that country beforehand.

You’ll be able to make any type of UK visa application. You must select the country where you would like to submit your biometrics at the start of your application.

This concession has been extended to 31 December 2021.

If you’ve already submitted your application through Access UK and now intend to submit your new application at a different VAC from the one selected in that application, you’ll need to make a new application and select the VAC where you’ll submit your application.

You’ll need to pay the fee associated with your new application and request a refund for your earlier application.

Getting your documents

As VACs reopen their services, we will prioritise returning customer passports.

If the VAC where you applied is still closed we will not be able to return your passport.

If your passport is in a VAC, and a decision on your application has been made, the VAC will contact you to arrange collection.

If your application has not been decided, we will not contact you to return your passport until it has. If you would like your passport returned, even if your application has not been decided, please contact the VAC to arrange collection.

To see if the VAC is open for passport return in your country, check with:

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

We are continuing to 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’re 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 reopens.

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’re applying for a Global Talent visa

If your endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because you’ve not been able to make an application for a visa, you may still be eligible.

Your endorsement will be accepted if both:

  • it was granted on or after 24 January 2020
  • you apply for your visa before 1 January 2021

Applications that do not meet these requirements will be considered on a case by case basis.

If you’re applying for a Start-up or Innovator visa

If your endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because you’ve not been able to travel to the UK, you may still be eligible for a visa. We will consider all applications on a case by case basis.

If your 90 day visa vignette to work, study or join family has expired

If your 90 day vignette has expired, you will need to apply for a replacement by completing the online form. The cost of replacing an expired 90 day vignette is £154 and you will need to make an appointment to resubmit your biometric information.

We strongly advise that you only apply for a new visa, or apply to replace an expired vignette, when you are confident you can travel to the UK. The new vignette will be valid for a period of 90 days. If you cannot travel during this time, you may need to apply again to update your vignette.

If you have submitted an application for a replacement vignette, and are still awaiting a decision, but now no longer intend to travel, you should submit a withdrawal request at the Visa Application Centre that you applied from in order for your passport to be released back to you.

When you arrive in the UK you will not be penalised for being unable to collect your biometric residence permit (BRP) while coronavirus measures are in place.

If you’re outside the UK and your leave has expired before you are able to return

If you left the UK with valid leave before 17 March 2020 and you intended to return to the UK and make an application for Indefinite or Further Permission to Stay, but you were unable to do so before your leave expired because of travel restrictions related to coronavirus (COVID-19), please complete the online form.

Please ensure that you complete all sections of the online form accurately and include full details in each box. Submitting an incomplete and/or inaccurate form will lead to delays in assessing your request.

The information you provide will be sent to a caseworking team who will contact you to explain whether you may be eligible under the Covid Visa Concession Scheme and, if so, the next steps.

You’ll receive a confirmation email soon after submitting the form so please provide a valid email address.

You need to reply to the confirmation email within 48 hours of receiving it. If you do not reply to the confirmation email within 48 hours you must complete the form again for us to consider your request. You do not need to contact the Coronavirus Immigration Helpline or mailbox again once you have replied to the confirmation email.

Once you’ve replied you’ll receive a response. We will aim to respond to you within 10 working days.

This concession will be available until 21 June 2021.

If you’ve remained outside the UK for over 2 years and due to coronavirus travel restrictions your indefinite leave has lapsed

Your Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (ILR) or Indefinite Leave to Enter the UK (ILE) will lapse if you are absent from the UK for over 2 years.

If your ILR/ILE lapsed on or after 24 January 2020, and you’ve been unable to return to the UK due to travel restrictions in place relating to coronavirus, you may apply under the Returning Resident visa route to return to the UK and get indefinite leave.

You need to complete the online Returning Resident application form and pay the fee. As part of your application you’ll need to explain how coronavirus restrictions prevented your return to the UK.

You’ll receive a refund of the application fee and, where applicable, a refund of £55 if you submitted your application at a Mandatory User Pay Visa Application Centre. Confirmation of your refund will be sent to you by email once we’ve made a decision on your application.

If you’ve already been issued a Returning Resident visa

If you’ve already obtained a Returning Resident visa because your ILR/ILE lapsed on or after 24 January 2020 and you were unable to return to the UK due to travel restrictions in place relating to coronavirus, you may be eligible for a refund of your visa fee.

You will need to email the Covid Immigration Helpline (CIH) at CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk.

Use the subject heading ‘Returning Resident Refund Request’ followed by the GWF number you received when you submitted your application.

Your email must be in English and you must also provide:

  • your name
  • date of birth
  • any unique Home Office reference numbers, including your payment reference for the visa fee

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

If you’re unable to travel back to the UK due to coronavirus travel restrictions and your leave has expired, a short break of up to 6 months in continuous residence will be overlooked. You are expected to make your 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 your leave expires between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2021. However, if you returned to the UK and did not make a valid application to stay upon your re-entry, you must now make arrangements to leave.

If you’re here with 6 months’ leave as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner the current family Immigration Rules allow you apply for an extension of leave if there is good reason for your wedding or civil partnership not taking place during the initial 6 month period of leave to enter. Cancellation of a wedding or civil partnership ceremony due to COVID-19 will be considered a good reason under this policy.

Changes to the minimum income and adequate maintenance requirement

If you’ve experienced a loss of income due to coronavirus up to 31 October 2021, we will consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income, provided the minimum income requirement was met for at least 6 months immediately before the date the income was lost.

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 October 2021 will usually 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.

 

Source: .gov.uk