YThe Latest Coronavirus (COVID-19) UK Visa News and Guidance
Today the Home Office updated its ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents’ Guidance.
Leaving the UK
First of all, the Home Office asked everyone whose visa is about to expire, to take reasonable steps to leave the country.
However, if, for whatever reasons, you cannot do this and your visa expires from 1 November 2020 to 30 November 2020, you’ll need to get ‘exceptional assurance’. You can apply by completing a special online form. I can send you the link to this form if you ask for it HERE.
What is Exceptional Assurance?
Exceptional assurance is a special permission given by the Home Office. It is not a new visa. It is just short-term protection against any negative actions or consequences which you may face because of the expiry of your visa.
For example, if your visa expired, and you get stopped by the police, with this exceptional assurance, they cannot take any further actions against you.
Also, usually, if you remained in the UK without a valid visa, this is highly likely to affect all your future visa applications. However, with exceptional assurance, the Home Office completely disregards the overstaying period.
Do You Need to Submit any Documents when Completing the Form?
No, not when completing the form. The form is a relatively straightforward one and should not take more than 5 minutes to complete. You do not need to submit any documents when submitting it.
However, what the Home Office is likely to do after they receive your form, is they are likely to contact you by email and request further documents to confirm your exceptional circumstances. These may be medical reports, cancelled flight tickets or any other forms of documents confirming that you cannot leave the UK before your visa expires.
If You Already Completed the Online Form
Due to a number of applications submitted, it may take a while for the Home Office to respond. For this reason, if you already completed the online form before you just need to wait for their resonse. You don’t need to complete the form again or contact the Home Office.
When you’ve submitted the form and before the Home Office responds, you’ll get a 100% immunisation against any actions against you. In other words, during this time, you will not be an overstayer, even if your visa expired and also the expiry of your visa will not affect any of your future visa applications.
However, if you completed the Home Office form in the past and the Home Office did email you their response, you’ll need to complete the form again. Also, you should be prepared that the Home Office will ask you to provide them with fresh documents. It is to prove that you are unable to leave the UK before the expiry of your visa.
If Your Visa Expires after 31 October 2020
There are a number of UK Immigration routes, which do not allow the ‘in-country switching’.
Switching is a legal term, which describes the process of changing the UK immigration category. For example, if you entered the UK as an international student, on a student visa, but later decided to remain as the spouse of a British citizen – you switched. It is because you change the immigration category from a student visa to a spouse of a British citizen.
If you remain in the UK immigration category which does allow switching (for example you came to the UK as a visitor) and your visa expires after 31 October 2020, the Home Office will make an exception and allow you to switch.
However, they’ll do so on one condition – you’ll need to show that your visa application is an urgent one. For example, when you need to start a new job or a course. When submitting your visa application, you’ll need to very clearly explain the urgency of your application and provide the Home Office with the documents to support it.
If You are in the UK without a Valid Visa
The good news is that if your visa expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020, the Home Office would completely disregard it. However, they did say that if you did not make any visa applications and did not request ‘an exceptional assurance’, you’ll need to make arrangements to leave the UK as soon as possible.
Reusing Your Fingerprints
The UKVI also confirmed that if you are already in the UK and you are applying as a Student or Child Student (including Tier 4 visas), the Home Office will reuse your fingerprints.
However, they’ll need to confirm this in writing, by email. In their email, they’ll also tell you how to send them your photo and documents to support your application.
So, in other words, if you are applying in this immigration category, you don’t need to visit the biometric information centre.
Tier 1 Entrepreneurs
There is excellent news for those who are in the UK as Tier 1 (Entrepreneur). If Covid-19 disrupted your business, the Home Office said that you no longer need to employ at least two people for 12 consecutive months to meet your visa requirements. They said that the 12-month period you were supposed to employ someone for can be made up of multiple jobs across different months.
Also, if you could not meet the employment requirements altogether due to coronavirus, the UKVI will allow you to temporarily extend your stay to give you extra time to meet this requirement.
This concession will cover applications made after 31 May 2020. It is provided the jobs you were relying on were disrupted by Covid-19.
Student or Child Student Visas
If you already applied to remain in the UK either as a student (this includes Tier 4 visas) or as a Child Student, the Home Office allowed you to start your course. You don’t need to wait for them to prove your visa application if you meet the following five criteria:
- your Sponsor is a Student sponsor
- you sponsor has given you a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS)
- you submitted your application before your current visa expired and you show your sponsor evidence of this
- the course you start is the same as the one listed on your CAS
- you have a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if required
You can find out more about the Student route HERE.
Tier 2 or 5 Visa
Precisely the same rules apply to Tier 2 and Tier 5 applicants. The UKVI confirmed that you could start working without waiting for them to approve your visa application.
It is provided you meet the following conditions:
- Your Sponsor assigned you with a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
- You submitted your application before your current visa expired and you show your sponsor evidence of this
- the job you start is the same as the one listed on your CoS
You can get more information about Tier 2 visa route HERE.
and about Tier 5 HERE.
All NHS workers can work at any NHS hospital during the coronavirus outbreak. The Home Office no longer requires your employer to inform them of the change in your place of work.
You can also carry out any extra work in any role at any skill level. Also you can work as many hours as you want to. This concession applies to those who are on a Student visa (including Tier 4 students). To qualify, your job needs to be on the eligible profession list. You can see the list by requesting this information HERE.
If you are in the UK as a Tier 2 worker, you can get your second job at NHS. You can do this without asking for the Home Office’s permission.
There is more good news for pre-registration nurses. The deadline for you to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE) has been extended to 31 December 2020. And if you do not pass your exam on the first attempt, you’ll have until 31 May 2021 to resit the exam.
If you are working as a Covid-19 scientist, you can apply to remain here under the Global Talent UK visa route. You can get more information HERE.
Global Talent Visas
Global Talent visa applications consist of two stages:
- the endorsement stage
- the visa application stage
Generally, all Global Talent folks have a 3-month time limit to make their stage 2 visa applications after their endorsement application has been granted.
The Home Office now waves this rule and tells us to disregard the 3-months rule if the Endorsing body granted their endorsement after 24 January 2020. However, you still have to make your stage two Global talent visa application before 1 January 2021.
You can find out more about global talent visas HERE.
The same endorsement concession may apply to Start-up and Innovator visas. However, the Home Office did say that with these types of visas they’ll be looking at the applications on a case by case basis.
Free of Charge Visa Replacements
If you are outside the UK and your short-term visa has expired or about to expire because you were unable to travel during COVID-19 time, you can apply for a free replacement visa. It is provided you do so before the end of 2020.
For you to request a visa replacement, you’ll need to contact the UKVI Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre (you can get their contact details HERE). And you can arrange to return your passport to your local Visa Application Centre, provided it re-opened.
When contacting the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre, you’ll need to include:
- your name;
- date of birth;
- your GWF reference number
In the subject line you’ll need to insert: ‘REPLACEMENT 30 DAY VISA’.
Your new visa will be valid for 90 days.
If you remain in the UK as a spouse of British citizen, the Home Office will typically expect you to meet the Minimum Income Requirement. It is £18,600 gross for the first applicant and £3,800 for child No1 and £2,400 for each additional child. Alternatively, you are relying on an exemption, you still need to meet the adequate maintenance test.
The UKVI will waive this requirement until 1 January 2021. There are several conditions to meet:
- you experienced a loss of income due to coronavirus;
- your employment income immediately before the loss of income was at a sufficient level for at least six months before the income loss date.
If you stopped working altogether because of coronavirus, the Home Office would consider your application differently. They will consider it as though you were earning 100% before Covid-19 time.
The same rules apply to self-employed people. It is provided you suffered a loss of income between 1 March 2020 to 1 January 2021.