On 30th November 2022, the Home Office brought to an end “exceptional assurance”.
What was “exceptional assurance”?
“Exceptional assurance” was introduced by the Home Office on 24th March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It offered those who intended to leave the UK due to the expiry of their visa but were unable to do so due to reasons outside their control (i.e. travel restrictions related to COVID-19) a way of avoiding adverse action being taken against them. The provision was only intended to be temporary while travel restrictions were ongoing around the world. Those with exceptional assurance were, however, able to continue to work, study, or rent until the restrictions keeping them in the UK were lifted.
Example: At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, John from New Zealand was studying at a British university. He intended to return home following the completion of his degree in July 2020 but was unable to do so due to the closure of the international border in his home country. He applied for and was granted exceptional assurance, allowing him to stay in the UK without being an overstayer until the New Zealand border reopened in February 2022.
To qualify for exceptional assurance, applicants had to show that they were unable to return to their home country because it was “red-listed”, the border was closed, or their COVID-19 quarantine facilities were oversubscribed, hence travel was not possible. The provision could not be used for other reasons, e.g. if unable to book a flight due to a lack of availability.
The exceptional assurance application process involved sending an email to UKVI entitled “Request for an assurance” with the type and expiry date of the visa held, the reason for the request and any evidence proving why it was not possible to leave.
Exceptional assurance did not provide an extension of leave for those who wanted to stay longer in the UK. As the Home Office explained, “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”. As such, anyone who intended to stay still needed to apply for a new visa before the expiry of their current leave. This is an important consideration for anyone who plans to make a future application for settlement based on residence in the UK that includes a period of exceptional assurance.
Why has the Home Office decided to end exceptional assurance now?
Exceptional assurance has been extended several times since its initial introduction due to the ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lifting of COVID-19-related travel restrictions around the world means that exceptional assurance is no longer required.
What are the implications for anyone whose visa is due to expire?
The ending of exceptional assurance now means that anyone with a visa that is due to expire must make plans to make an in-time application to extend their visa, switch to a new visa, or leave the UK.
A Y & J Solicitors is a specialist immigration law firm with extensive experience with all types of visa applications. We have an in-depth understanding of immigration law and are professional and results-focused. For assistance with your application or any other UK immigration law concerns, please contact us on +44 20 7404 7933 or at contact us today. We’re here to help!