In line with the UK Government’s strategy to limit the spread of Covid-19, the Home Office and their commercial partners have closed all visa applications centres in the UK and overseas.
Life in the UK and many English languages testing centres are also closed.
So, what does this mean for visa applicants and those needing to extend their visas before they expire?
Applicants outside the UK
People who have already applied for a visa from outside the UK should prepare themselves for delays to visa processing times.
Delays might be caused by one or more of the following reasons:
- Closure of visa application centres overseas resulting in applicants not being able to attend the necessary appointments
- Delays in being able to collect documents already submitted to a visa application centre
- Delays to courier services used by visa application centres to return documents to visa applicants
- Closure of many English language testing and TB testing centres. Applicants who need to take a test should check with their local provider to find out how any closures might affect them
- The number of Home Office caseworkers available to process visa applications has been reduced. As a result, it is likely to take longer then usual for visa applicants to receive an outcome to their applications.
Global Talent, Start-up and Innovator visa applicants
Applicants under this route holding endorsements from an endorsing body which has expired because the individual could not travel to the UK may still be eligible for a visa. The Home Office advises these applicants to apply as usual and the application will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
People who have already been granted a visa and are waiting to enter the UK
Visa holders with a 6-month visa vignette printed inside their passport are likely to delay entry to the UK until such a time that travel restrictions are lifted and there is a relaxation of social distancing rules. Visa vignettes must however still be valid at time of entry into the UK.
Visa holders with a 30-day visa vignette printed inside their passport will also need to delay entry to the UK but this delay is likely to mean their visa vignette will expire before they are able to travel.
The Home Office’s position for these individuals is not clear. UK immigration lawyers have been pressing the Home Office for guidance about what visa holders should do if their vignette expires and they have been unable to travel to the UK because of Covid-19.
Newfields will post further information about this as soon as we have it.
Visa holders already in the UK
Visas expiring between 24th January and 31st May 2020
No individual who is in the UK legally and whose visa expired or is due to expire between 24th January and 31st May 2020 will be regarded as an overstayer. They will similarly suffer no future detriment to their immigration history if they have been unable to leave the UK due to the restrictions related to Covid-19.
Such visas will be extended to 31st May 2020. Individuals must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) using an on-line e-form in order to update their records. Once the individual has done this, they won’t need to do anything else.
Please note this applies to individuals who would ordinarily would have left the UK before the end of their visa. Those intending to stay on in the UK should extend their visas as normal (see below).
For advice about submitting a request to the CIT, please contact Newfields here.
Extending your stay in the UK or switching visas
Anyone who had planned to extend their stay in the UK should still make an application to extend their visa before their current visa expires. This can be done online by completing the relevant application form and paying the Home Office visa application fees.
Certain visa holders can switch into a long-term UK visa category from the UK even in situations where an application would normally have to be made from overseas, e.g. switching from Tier 5 (Sporting & Creative) to Tier 2 (Sportsperson). However, there will be some parts of the visa application process that applicants won’t be able to complete at this time.
Closure of UK Visa & Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS)
Most visa applications require applicants to attend an appointment to present their passport and supporting documents and provide biometrics (fingerprints, digital photograph and signature).
The centres where appointments take place are all currently closed across the whole of the UK, and they are not accepting new appointment bookings.
Applicants who had already booked an appointment and are prevented from attending because of centre closures do not need to re-book. The UKVCAS will automatically reschedule the appointment once centres re-open. Applicants must keep checking their on-line booking account to check when their new appointment date will be.
Applicants who have not already booked an appointment can still submit their online application, pay the Home Office fees and upload the necessary supporting documents but will not be able to book an appointment until centres re-open.
Closure of Life in the UK and English language test centres
Life in the UK test centres are closed until at least 30th April 2020. Test takers can still book to sit a test taking place on or after 1st May 2020. People who had already booked to attend a test will be automatically re-booked for a new test date on or after 1st May.
While the current guidance issued by the Home Office is that test centres will re-open on 1st May, this may change if the Covid-19 restrictions continue beyond that date.
English language centres are closed until further notice with no indication as to when they might re-open.
For more information on this or any of the issues raised in their news article, please contact Newfields here.
For advice about making a visa extension from the UK, Newfields offers a comprehensive package of services, competitively priced to help visa applicants navigate the visa application process. Please contact us for more information.