COVID-19: Home Office guidance – a changing picture

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COVID-19: Home Office guidance – a changing picture

Published 13 August 2020

Now that travel restrictions are being eased globally, the Home Office guidance, which was introduced to help people manage practical difficulties presented by the pandemic, has been updated and we have set out below some of the key changes.

An end to automatic visa extensions

Visas will no longer be extended automatically which means that individuals are now expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so or apply to regularise their stay in the UK. The Home Office has offered assistance to those making arrangements to leave the UK by allowing individuals with visas or leave due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 to stay in the UK, on the same conditions, up until 31 August 2020.

Previously, reassurance was provided to individuals with visas that expired between 24 January and 31 August 2020 to ensure they did not face adverse immigration consequences if they were unable to leave the UK or regularise their status due to COVID-19. However, under the new guidance, individuals must now regularise their status by 31 August 2020 or make arrangements to leave the UK.

Exceptional Assurance

If the intention is to leave the UK, but it is not possible to do so by the deadline of 31 August 2020, individuals can contact the coronavirus immigration team (‘CIT’) to request an “exceptional assurance”. This assurance will act as a short-term protection against any adverse consequences once leave has expired, but it is important to be aware that it will not grant leave.

The CIT will explain to individuals what needs to be submitted to demonstrate their inability to leave the UK; for example, an individual may need to submit a copy of a confirmed flight ticket with a date after 31 August or a positive coronavirus test result.

Removing the requirement to apply from outside the UK

If individuals wish to stay in the UK, an application for the necessary leave to remain in the UK should be submitted. The Home Office has confirmed that an application can be submitted within the UK where an individual would ordinarily be required to apply in their home country.

Applicants will need to meet all the other criteria as usual and pay the relevant fees, and for those individuals whose leave expires after 1 September 2020, it must be shown that the application is urgent (for example, to commence a new job).

NHS frontline workers

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Home Office has announced that some health workers and their families will have their visas automatically extended from the date the visa is due to expire. Be aware that if an individual’s visa is due to expire after 1 October 2020, an application to extend the visa will be required in the usual way.

The changes will apply if an individual:

  • works for the NHS or an independent health or care provider;
  • the visa expires between 31 March and 1 October 2020; and
  • works as a biochemist, biological scientist, dental practitioner, health professional, medical practitioner, medical radiographer, midwife, nurse, occupational therapist, ophthalmologist, paramedic, pharmacist, physiotherapist, podiatrist, psychologist, social worker, speech and language therapist or therapy professional.

Sponsored migrants can work at any NHS hospital during the coronavirus outbreak if the sponsor is able to maintain their sponsorship duties. The Home Office has relaxed the requirement for sponsors to report a change to the location at which sponsored migrants are working; there is therefore no need for sponsors to notify UKVI of this if the reason for the change is related to coronavirus.

Applying outside of the UK

Where local restrictions have eased, many application centres have resumed services. Affected individuals will need to contact TLS contact or VFS global for updates to the status of local application centres, including opening times.

Although the picture is changing, and some restrictions are being lifted, some UKVI services remain closed at this time. Existing customers will be notified where services are resuming.

For details on how the English language testing centres have been affected, and whether services have been resumed, individuals will need to visit the IELTS website.

Where application centres have now reopened their services, the Home Office will prioritise returning customer passports (but only where the centre has reopened). Affected individuals should again check with TLS contact or VFS global to establish whether the application centre is open for passport return at this stage.

British nationals who are residing abroad may now apply online for passports. Individuals may be advised to book an appointment at the nearest application centre to submit the application and, in such circumstances, should check to see if it is open. In the event that the application centre remains closed, an application for a British passport will not be able to be made until the centre reopens. Individuals can, however, apply for emergency travel documentation if they urgently need to travel to the UK.

We will continue to review updates from the Home Office and issue further commentary in due course.

NB: This note should not be taken as legal advice and is provided for information purposes only. If you would like legal advice on your particular circumstances, please feel free to contact us.


Shahjahan Ali

Shahjahan Ali

Bristol, London - Walbrook

+44 (0)117 918 2677

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