The Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on UK Immigration
The rapid spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has had a significant impact on travelling into and out of China. This has also affected UK immigration services. Chinese nationals living in the UK are unable to return to China, with several Visa Application Centres closed. Chinese nationals seeking to come to the UK have been unable to obtain visas.
The article will examine the UK government’s response to the coronavirus epidemic.
Visa extensions for UK-based Chinese nationals
On 17th February 2020, leave to remain was given to Chinese nationals by the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). This was for those nationals whose Visas were due to expire between 24th January 2020 and 30th March 2020.
This policy can also apply to Chinese nationals whose visas have already expired, on or after 24th January 2020. This will allow any Chinese nationals who have missed their deadline for extension, for a reason which is unrelated to coronavirus. Nationals given automatic leave to remain in the UK until 31st March 2020 must monitor developments to see if their leave will be extended, as we approach this date. If this applies to you, then you must consider whether to make plans to leave the UK, or to make a visa application at short notice. Should you plan on applying within the next six months, we advise on doing this as soon as possible. This is because of the current uncertainty over banks, embassies and law firms being able to process the documents relevant to your visa application.
Visa extensions for non-Chinese, non-EEA nationals in the UK, who normally live in China
If you are a non-Chinese, non-EEA national based in the UK, but who normally lives in China, and your visa is due to expire between 24th January 2020 and 30th March 2020, then you can telephone the coronavirus hotline. They can give details of their situation and ask for their leave to be extended to 31st March 2020. However, you can only do this if they can prove that you normally live in China. Please note that “non-EEA” refers to a country which is not part of the European Economic Area, which comprises all European Union member states as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
If you have to prove that you normally live in China, then the Home Office may accept the following evidence:
- Utility bills
- Residence documents, such as a visa.
In normal circumstances, you must make a new application from outside of the UK to change between these visa categories. However, if you are a Chinese national living residing in the UK under a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa, then the Home Office has allowed you to switch to a Tier 2 (General) visa, from within the UK.
Duties of sponsors of individuals under Tier 2, 4 or 5 Visas
Sponsors will not have to disclose any absences from employees or students who are sponsored under these visa categories, where these absences are due to the coronavirus epidemic. Sponsors do not have to remove their sponsorship for those affected by the epidemic. This could apply to you, if you have been unable to attend your university or institution for 6 days or more, or for employees who have been absent from work for 4 weeks or more, without pay. Please note that the Home Office has made sponsors responsible for ending employment, or removing students from their academic course.
Chinese UK Visa Application Centre: The impact of closures
As mentioned above, UK Visa Application Centres in China have now closed. This has caused severe delays in the return of documents of UK visa applicants’, such as passports. You should contact Chinese authorities if you urgently need to travel. Alternatively, you can contact your relevant Chinese embassy to obtain the necessary travel documentation.
Hotline for Coronavirus
The Home Office has established a “Coronavirus Immigraton Helpline”:
- Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
- Calls are free of charge
- Email: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk
Free NHS Coronavirus Testing
This decision will impact primarily on illegal immigrants and short-term visitor migrants. These migrants would normally be required to pay for NHS services. Migrants who are legally living in the UK can already access the NHS. A negative coronavirus test is free of charge.
UK Visa appointments
The UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UK VCAS), which is run by Sopra Steria, has announced that those suffering with coronavirus symptoms should self-isolate. Sopra Steria have also announced that those with coronavirus must not attend their appointment. Instead, sufferers should email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘COVID 19’ and their UAN in the subject box, stating that they will be unable to attend. Sopra Steria will refund the appointment fee, and will inform the Home Office.
Next steps: What we can offer you
At Immigration.UK, we are here to assist you with the above issues, and any other visa related issues. Please do not hesitate to get in touch to speak to one of our experts who can guide you through the process. Please note that this is a fast-moving situation, and we will keep you updated on developments as they unfold.
Astons is a leading global immigration advisory firm with offices in London, Beijing, Moscow, Dubai and Limassol (Republic of Cyprus) and offers residency & citizenship investment solutions worldwide including UK, Turkey, Vanuatu, EU & the Caribbean.
For further information or to discuss your personal circumstances in a private consultation, please contact Astons at email@example.com or call +44 207 292 2977