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Published 14 January 2021
The Covid Visa Concession Scheme launched on 11 January 2021 to enable UK visa holders who have been unable to return to the UK due to COVID-19 to resume residence in the UK through a special concession.
The Scheme works by allowing eligible persons to travel to the UK without a valid visa. Upon arrival at the border, they will be granted a visa for 3 months on the same conditions as their expired visa to enable them to pursue an application to extend their visa, switch immigration category or apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
To qualify under the Covid Visa Concession Scheme, a person must meet the following criteria:
• They must have had a valid visa before leaving the UK. The eligible visas are those which would have enabled the individual to apply to extend their visa, switch immigration category or apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Visitor visas are specifically excluded from this route. • They must have left the UK before 17 March 2020.
• Whilst they were outside the UK, their visa expired or is about to expire and they have not been able to return to the UK due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
• They intend to return to the UK once UKVI confirms their eligibility. This must be within 21 days unless they cannot travel due to remaining travel restrictions or because they choose not to travel due to a COVID-19 risk to themselves or their family.
UKVI already has records of those who have contacted the Coronavirus Immigration Helpline regarding their leave expiring and will be contacting them to explain the Covid Visa Concession Scheme. Those who have not contacted UKVI will still be eligible to apply under the Scheme in the same way.
To apply, individuals will be directed to an online form which they will need to complete. Once the form has been completed and provided the person is eligible, UKVI will grant permission for the person to travel to the UK with an expired visa.
Once they arrive in the UK, an Immigration Officer will grant 3 months Leave Outside the Rules with the same conditions as their previous grant of leave. This is a single entry grant and a person will not be able to leave the UK and return under the same concession.
Individuals will still need to check that the country they are currently residing in will enable them to travel without a UK visa. Where the relevant country does not allow travel outside the country without a valid visa, individuals can request a visa for 3 months or make an application for entry clearance under their existing visa category (where this is permitted under the Immigration Rules).
Individuals who left the UK after 17 March 2020
Individuals who left the UK after 17 March 2020 may be eligible under the Scheme if they had a good reason for leaving the UK. This will be assessed on a case by case basis taking into account compelling and compassionate reasons such as:
• Serious illness or death of a close relative overseas.
• Travel for the purpose of receiving medical treatment.
This is not an exhaustive list and there may be other reasons which the Home Office will take into account.
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Shahjahan Ali, Alice Ratcliffe