Due to COVID19, there are many people with questions about their visa. This is advice for clients applying for visas who are affected by the COVID19 pandemic.
For those who needs make/submit application:
Q: During COVID19 outbreak, can I still apply for a UK visa?
A: Currently, applicants can still make/submit applications online. Many UK Visa Application Centres (VACs), either in the UK or overseas have suspended their service (closed) and are not accepting any appointments. According to the UK Visas and Immigration website, the earliest available appointment at the Hongkong VAC is 1st June. All submissions, including initial applications, renewals, and Indefinite Leave to Remain applications will be delayed. There is no indication when the VACs will be re-opened.
For applications submitted in the UK:-
- If you have already made your appointment before the VAC closed, your appointment will be postponed for 6 weeks.
- If you have not made an appointment, you will not be able to make appointments until the VAC re-opens.
For application submitted outside the UK:-
- If you have already made your appointment, the VAC will contact you once they have re-opened.
- If you have not already made an appointment, for some countries, you will not be able to make an appointment, or you can book for months later. Different countries will have different options.
For those who are in the UK:
Q: During the COVID19 pandemic, I been requested to do my biometric enrolment, (enrol my fingerprint) are there any changes?
A: Applicants from China, HK, USA, Australia, India, Taiwan, and many other countries will not know when they will be able to enrol. The general advice is – so long as applications were submitted on time, you SHOULD be able to enrol your fingerprints when the visa centre re-opens. You will be able to walk in without having to pay for the additional walk in fee.
Q: My visa is expiring, and I can’t leave the UK because of COVID19. Will I be consider an overstayer? What can I do?
A: According to the UKVI, if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to COVID19, your visa can be extended to 31 May 2020 but you must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) to update your records and to explain why you can’t go back to your home country. The CIT will contact you when they have received your email and reply you when your visa has been extended.
CIT E-mail: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk
CIT Tel: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm) – The line is very busy (or understaffed – we have tried calling on a number of occasions and have been on hold for more than an hour without getting through). It is recommended that you to email them.
If you’re a doctor, nurse or paramedic working for the NHS, your visa will be automatically extended by one year if it is due to expire before 1 October 2020. The extension is free and you will not have to pay the immigration health surcharge. Family members with a visa due to expire before 1 October 2020 will also have their visa extended.
Q: I am in the UK but my visa application has to be done from my home country. During the COVID19 pandemic, what can I do?
A: According to the UKVI, you’ll be able to apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31 May. This includes applications where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country. You’ll need to meet the same visa requirements and pay the UK application fee. This includes those whose leave has already been automatically extended to 31 March 2020.
Q: I’m on the T1 Entrepreneur Visa and I’m unable to employ 2 people for the ongoing 12 consecutive months because of disruption caused by COVID19 outbreak. I won’t meet the visa requirement then. What can I do?
A: According to the UK government guidelines, if you are on a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa and your business has been disrupted by COVID 19, the 12-month period you are required to employ someone for can be made up of multiple employees across different months, instead of employing at least 2 people for 12 consecutive months each. If you have not been able to employ staff for 12 months in total by the time your visa expires, you will be allowed to temporarily extend your stay to give you time to meet the requirement.
For those who are outside the UK:
Q: During the COVID19 pandemic, can I still travel to the UK?
A: The border has not been closed for the moment. All holders of a British passport, permanent residence, and any valid visa can enter the UK freely.
Q: I am currently outside the UK, and my visa has been granted. However, I would miss my UK visa entry date because of the disruption (flight cancelation) caused by COVID19 outbreak. What should I do?
A: According to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), for those who wish to change the date on their visa vignette so they can still enter into the UK on future dates, it will cost them £169/person to apply for new vignette (30 days vignette).
Q: Because of the COVID19 outbreak, I can’t travel back to the UK as planned. Consequently, I will spend more than 180 days outside the UK in the last 12 months. I can’t meet the permanent residence application requirement. Will UKVI assess it discretionarily?
A: According to the UK Immigration rules, before the application for permanent residence/indefinite leave to remain, applicants should stay no more than 180 days outside the UK for every 12 calendar months, unless it is an international humanitarian crisis (e.g. Ebola in 2014).
There is no confirmation as of today whether COVID-19 would be defined as an international humanitarian crisis nor how to deal with applicants who have failed to return to the UK temporarily and failed to meet the residence requirements.
Q: I’m applying for the Start-up visa. My endorsement letter is expiring. I can’t travel to the UK because of disruption (flight cancelation) caused by COVID19 outbreak. What should I do?
A: According to the UK government guidelines, if you are applying for a Global Talent, Start-up or Innovator visa and your endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because you have not been able to travel to the UK, you should make the application as planned and UKVI will consider all applications on a case by case basis. You may still be eligible for a visa. If your endorsement was still valid on your date of application (the date that you submit your application online), you will not require to get a new endorsement letter from endorsing body.
Q: I am under Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, my business has been disrupted, what should I do if I cannot meet the extension requirement?
A: If you have not been able to employ staff for 12 months in total by the time your visa expires, you will be allowed to temporarily extend your stay to give you time to meet the requirement.
You no longer need to employ at least 2 people for 12 consecutive months each. The 12 month period you are required to employ someone for can be made up of multiple jobs across different months.
Q: My business has been disrupted, my staff are on furlough, will that be count towards the 12 month period?
A: No, employees were furloughed will not count towards the 12 month period.
Hope all is well. Stay safe, and keep happy!
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