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UK Immigration Response to COVID-19

Here you can find current information about the UK’s response to COVID-19 and the impacts to immigration.

Expiring UK visa Holders

Visa holders whose visa expires in between January 24th and May 31st of 2020 are being offered temporary extensions. If the visa holder plans on extending their visa through other means then they should continue that process by regular channels. However, if the visa holder was planning on leaving in a timely manner and has been precluded from doing so by the virus then they should fill out this online application form. As of May 22nd, the UK government announced that any visa holder who already requested an extension will automatically received any other necessary extensions with no action needed. Specifically regarding the NHS, employees holding work visas and their families have been provided a full year visa extension. NHS workers under different types of visa who are allowed the right to work by extension should contact the NHS regarding their next steps. As of April 29th, the UK government has extended this consideration to a wider group of essential workers. That list can be found here.

As of April 28th, visa holders who received entry clearance which they cannot use for work, study, or visit family due to coronavirus can request a replacement visa with revised dates free of charge. To procure a replacement visa, holders should email the coronavirus hotline below with their name, nationality, date of birth, and GWF reference number and input “REPLACEMENT 30 DAY VISA” as the subject line. This offer will continue until the end of 2020 and does not apply to travel visas.

Below, each common visa section is outlined in further detail. If your questions aren’t answered below, then the government has set up a coronavirus immigration hotline which is available by email at the address CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk and by phone at +448006781767.

Sponsored workers under Tier 2 and 5 and sponsored students under Tier 4

Home Office guidance has been updated to state that those who have applied under Tier 2, 4 or 5 may begin working or studying before their application is decided, provided certain conditions are met. The main requirements are that they must have been issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) for Tiers 2 and 5 or a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) for Tier 4; they must have submitted their application before their current visa expired; and the job or course of study must be the same as that listed on the CoS or CAS. If the application is ultimately refused or rejected the sponsor must stop sponsoring the individual and the individual must stop working or studying.

For sponsors, reporting responsibilities start from the date the CoS or CAS was assigned. Although Tier 2 and 5 sponsors will not be able to report information using the sponsor management system (SMS), they must ensure that all relevant information required by the sponsor guidance is recorded and maintained on their own systems. Changes that may impact the eventual consideration of the individual’s visa should be updated on the CoS as normal.

The relevant guidance for sponsors is available here and for individuals is available here.

Entrepreneurial Visa Holders under Tier 1

Home office requirements for Tier 1 visa holder’s businesses have been altered in light of coronavirus. While business owners were formerly required to employee two or more people for twelve consecutive months, during this year, these businesses are only required to employee multiple people for periods of time which equal twelve months in total.

Importantly, employees being supported predominately by the government through the furlough scheme do not count as being employed by Tier 1 holders’ businesses. If businesses cannot achieve this more reasonable employment goal, then cases will be evaluated at a later date and industries more significantly impacted by the coronavirus will be granted extended periods to meet the employment requirements and thus keep their visa.

Relevant guidance can be found here and more specific questions should be addressed to the coronavirus hotline.

Asylum Applications to the UK

Current asylum applicants who are being supported by the UK government will continue receiving accommodation and financial assistance from the government. Asylum claims will still be evaluated as normal, but support will be provided until the end of June for both accepted and rejected applicants. Any further information required for pending applications must be submitted electronically. Those who have been accepted should apply through traditional channels for government support while they remain in asylum accommodation. These applicants will continue receiving financial support until their first Universal Credit payment arrives.

Regarding new applications, all in person interview stages have been canceled for the time being. New application materials can still be submitted at Lunar House in Croydon and other support offices in Glasgow, Belfast, Liverpool, Leeds, Solihull, and Cardiff. Appointments for registering an Asylum claim can be made by calling +443001234193. Cancelled interviews will either be rescheduled or a new format will be introduced. For the time being, only documentary progress can be made on asylum applications and can be uploaded through an online portal. Specific weekly updates on the status of First-Tier and Upper Tribunal processes are being posted.

More specific information on asylum can be found on this government fact sheet.

Other Information

If you have completed all required parts of the citizenship process, then the period allowed for scheduling a citizenship ceremony has been extended from three to six months. The government has not indicated that they intend to switch these ceremonies to an electronic format. All pending testing conducted by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner has been postponed until the end of November 2020.

As of the 28th of April, all Immigration and Asylum hearings which were scheduled to take place after March 25th are voided and will be rescheduled for a remote hearing. Those expected for remote hearings will be notified in turn as cases are processed. A weekly update from the UK government on their changing process can be found here.

Immigration detention and removal have been upheld in their normal operations by the UK High Court. These removals and detentions are being conducted as normal in all cases in which travel is still possible.

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