Coronavirus (Covid 19): Updates for Visa Extensions and Other concessions
Please keep a tab on the latest changes to UK immigration News. A Y & J Solicitors is uninterruptedly trying to cover up the latest news that may become rapidly out of date.
- General Policy
The Home Office has been continually updating its guidance in relation to visitors who have been in the UK during the pandemic hit and were unable to leave the country before the expiry of the visa. The first version of the Coronavirus concession was initiated on 17 February 2020, which had granted leave to remain until 31 March to Chinese citizens whose visas expired between 24 January and 30 March. It also allowed non-Chinese and non-EEA nationals in the UK who were resident in China to get an extension of leave to remain by email. The coronavirus concession covered all nationalities on 24 March 2020. Migrants who were in the UK with an expiring visa could get it extended to 31 May.
Later between 24 March and 6 April, the Home Office wanted an application for a UK Visa extension under this policy to be submitted to the CIT i.e. Coronavirus Immigration Help Center, which was later replaced by online form.
On 22 May 2020, the Home Office confirmed the extension of the coronavirus concession till 31 July 2020.
The Home Office later announced an extra month grace period for migrants whose leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020. Later, it was updated for those migrants whose leave or leave expires before 31 August 2020.
- NHS Workers
On 31 March 2020, the Home Office confirmed that 2800 doctors, nurses, and paramedics will be eligible for a free one-year extension whose leave to remain will expire by 1 October. Family members are also eligible without any involvement of fees. The department on 29 April 2019 further extended the scheme to cover other frontline workers, which include radiographers, midwives, social workers, and pharmacists with visas expiring before 1 October. Later, on the same date, the Home Affairs Committee confirmed the extension of the professionals who were subjected to immigration control, not just migrants under General Work Visa (Tier 2) or Tier 5-visa. Further details were added on June 8 where it clarified that family members of health workers with indefinite leave to remain will not be eligible to extend their visas for free of cost. Applicants who have applied for an extension can email the UKVI NHS team in order to withdraw the visa application and apply for a refund. Family members of non-EEA NHS workers who have died as a result of COVID-19 will be immediately entitled to indefinite leave to remain free of charge.
- Spouses and Minimum income
COVID-19 has caused certain changes in the financial requirements for UK Spouse and partner visas. There was no published concession for spouse visas until 8 June. Later on, a section of the guidance added under the heading of “changes to the minimum income and adequate maintenance requirement.” It is clearly stated that the employment income for the period before the loss of income will be considered, providing the requirements being met for at least 6 months up to March 2020. If the applicant is self-employed, loss of income will remain disregarded between 1 March 2020 and 31 July 2020 along with the impact on employment income with the objective of safeguarding future applications.
On 20 April, the Home Office released separate guidance that covers several immigration concessions for those Tier 4 and short-term student visas, which will be withdrawn as soon as the situation gets normal. It covers
- Distance Learning: This is for the existing and new students, provided they intend to transition from distance learning to face-to-face learning as soon as the circumstances get normal.
- Extending an Existing Tier 4 Visa: Students can extend the Tier 4-visa, provided they do so before the expiry of the current leave to remain or if their leave to remain expired between 24 January and 31 August and they are granted an extension till 31 August. If they are issued with exceptional indemnity, an extension can be granted until 1 October 2020.
- Graduate Route: Graduate Immigration Route is still scheduled to be launched in Summer 2021. Students can begin their course through distance learning, can switch into it, and can enter the UK before 6 April 2021 and complete the final semester of the studies in the UK itself.
- Police Registration: Students are normally required to do this in case the police force is facilitating it. If not, students can register it once social distancing measures are being lifted.
- Time Limits: If a student applies for an extension that would direct them over the normal maximum period granted on Tier 4 (General) visa, however, discretion may be applied.
Short-term students are allowed to switch into Tier 4 on an exceptional basis until 1 October, provided the student arrived in the UK before 31 July. However, students who are arriving on the visit or short-term study route after 31 July will not be permitted to switch into Tier 4.
- Sponsor Duties
- The Home Office published a Coronavirus guidance page where it is clearly stated that they will not take enforcement action against sponsors who continue to sponsor students or employees despite absences due to pandemic.
- Sponsors are not required to report any absences of employees or students sponsored under Tier 2, Tier 4, or Tier 5 since these absences are the results of the consequences of COVID-19.
- Sponsors need not withdraw sponsorship for the affected students who have been unable to appear for more than 60 days or for employees who have exceeded four weeks of absence without any pay.
- Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsors need not update the Home Office if workers are working from home, provided they switch to home working due to Coronavirus.
- The Home Office had rolled out an update on 3 April where it is clearly stated that employers can go for a salary cut of sponsored employees for up to 80% of salary or £2,500 a month (whichever is lower). The salary drop will encourage sponsorship not to be withdrawn.
- There has also been an addition on what happens if a sponsor has issued a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) or Certificate of Sponsorship and the person has not applied for the visa yet.
- Another important addition came on 14 April where students can start their studies or employees can start working even if they are awaiting a Tier 2, 4, or 5 applications to be decided.
- On April 20, the aforementioned concessions are reiterated in another Home Office guidance document: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Tier 4 sponsors, migrants and short-term students that covered
- Educational Oversight can be undertaken remotely “flexible approach to unavoidable delays in the inspection.”
- Student absences are not required to be reported if due to Coronavirus. Records of such absences are, however, maintained.
- Distance learning is now permitted for new students.
- As far as attendance monitoring is concerned, sponsors should use online contact points if the students have undergone distance learning, but there will be no such repercussions if not technically possible.
- The guidance also covers basic compliance where students who drop out would not be counted.
- Sponsors can self-assess students by having the B1 Level of English if the test center is not available. However, the latest version of the guidance emphasizes that many test centers have now opened and students must take a test like earlier.
The Home Office is no longer insisting applicants to provide a fresh set of fingerprints that they used to provide every time to extend leave to remain. According to the main guidance page, previous fingerprints can be reused which applicants can send along with photos and other supporting documents. It implies that applicants do not have to attend a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service (UKVCAS) or an SSC Service point to provide biometric information.
- Coronavirus Immigration Help Center
The Home Office has set up a Coronavirus helpline. Email at [email protected] Or call 08006781767 (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm)
So, are you concerned about the latest changes in UK immigration opportunities due to Coronavirus? Look no further than A Y & J Solicitors that is a multi-award winning, 10+ years of experience, recommended by Legal 500, a boutique immigration Law firm based in Central London. Our qualified immigration solicitors are specialists in UK employment & immigration law. Get in touch with one of the qualified lawyers to begin preparation well-in-advance. For further information about our immigration service, please email us at [email protected] or Whatsapp us on +44 7448 5656 70.