We have been receiving unprecedented queries from clients who are in the UK and nearing their visa expiry dates, but unable to return to their home country due to COVID-19 travel restrictions or medical reasons. Previously, the Home Office granted automatic Visa extensions until 31 March 2020 to all Chinese nationals in the UK whose visa has expired and unable to return due to Coronavirus-related travel restrictions. Now, the Home Office has widened the concessions to all other foreign nationals, including the opportunities to request for Visa Extensions and to Switch Visas in the UK.
Visa Extensions until 31 May 2020
You may submit a formal request for Visa Extension, if you are in the UK and your Visa expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020. Your request may be accepted if you are facing Coronavirus-related:
- Travel restrictions from the UK and/or to your country of residence
- Medical circumstances preventing travel such as self-isolation
Do note that your request does not lead to an automatic extension, as a decision would be made based on the details you have provided. If your request is denied, you may become an overstayer if your visa has expired and this could have a serious implication on your immigration history.
Switching in the UK from one Visa category to another long-term Visa category
Normally, the Immigration Rules do not allow switching in the UK for certain Visa categories which means you may need to return to your home country in order to obtain a different UK Visa. However under the current exceptional circumstances, the Home Office now permits switching in the UK for Visa Applications where it is unjustifiable to leave the UK and submit the Visa application abroad due to reasons related to COVID-19.
This temporary provision is open until 31 May 2020, with the usual online application procedure and relevant fees applicable.
- We have seen recent successful cases of switching from Visitor Visa to Spouse Visa, where the indefinite disruption to Article 8 Family Life is unreasonable
- Switching from Tier 4 or Tier 5 Visa to Tier 2 Visa, where an urgent start to employment would be disrupted by being stranded abroad due to travel restrictions.
Under the new Extension policy above, am I allowed to overstay my visa without any negative implications?
The Home Office has stated that individuals who have submitted their request will not be subject to enforcement action and the overstaying period will not be held against them in future applications. However, there has been no confirmation that this request attracts the same continued right to reside or work as with other applications for leave under section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971. The result of the request is also of significant bearing, as a denied request would lead to you to being an overstayer.
We have received particular concerns from clients who are planning to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain under the 10-years’ Long Residence route in future – our advice is to exercise caution and ensure that we submit a credible request, to ensure approval. Plan your ILR route further using our guide here https://qc-immigration.com/indefinite-leave-to-remain-10-years-long-residence/
Under the new Switching policy above, would I be considered an overstayer while waiting for the decision of my new Visa application?
As long as you take prompt action and submit your new Visa Application prior to the expiry of your existing Visa, the conditions of your existing Visa are likely to continue until you receive a decision on your new Visa Application. This includes any right to reside, right or prohibition to work, recourse to public funds etc.
To understand how your rights may continue beyond the Visa Expiry date in some circumstances, read here about your section 3c rights https://qc-immigration.com/tier-2-work-visa/work-waiting-visa-application/
Individual circumstances may vary hence ensure you obtain up-to-date legal advice tailored to you. QC Immigration has been supporting clients and families affected by Coronavirus issues, book a Consultation with us to plan your next steps carefully.