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Coronavirus: Immigration guidance for individuals in the UK who are unable to return to China

Coronavirus medical cordon, Coronavirus immigration law

Due to travel restrictions owing to coronavirus, certain individuals in the United Kingdom may be facing uncertainties regarding the expiry dates of their current visas or leave to remain in the UK. Therefore, the Home Office has published a guidance on Monday, which states that most people in the UK whose immigration statuses are affected by the coronavirus outbreak will get an automatic extension of their visas until 31 March 2020.

Chinese nationals in the UK whose visa has recently expired or is about to expire
If you are a Chinese national in the UK and your visa has an expiry date between 24 January and 30 March 2020, your leave will be automatically extended to 31 March 2020. This is subject to meeting all the conditions of your visa prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

You do not need to do anything to get this extension and you will not receive a new visa or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card.

However, if you would like to request a status letter confirming this extension or a new BRP with a revised expiry date, you could contact the coronavirus immigration helpline. The contact details can be found via the link below:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-immigration-guidance-if-youre-unable-to-return-to-china-from-the-uk#helpline

Non-Chinese, non-EEA nationals in the UK
If you are a non-Chinese or non-EEA national in the UK but are normally a resident in China and your visa in the UK has an expiry date between 24 January and 30 March 2020, you should contact the coronavirus immigration helpline as above.

The Home Office will be able to extend your visa to 31 March 2020 given that you can demonstrate you are normally a resident in China.

Switching between the Tier 2 categories in the UK
Usually, for a Chinese national wishing to switch from a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa to a Tier 2 General visa, you must do so in China.

However, due to the coronavirus outbreak, you can do so from within the UK if your visa has an expiry date between 24 January and 30 March 2020.

Individuals whose passport is at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) in China
UK VACs in China are currently closed.

For British nationals, you can apply for an emergency travel document if you need to travel urgently.

For Chinese or third-country nationals, you should contact the Chinese authorities or your consular representative in China to get an alternative travel document if you need to travel urgently. An urgent visa request can only be considered if you have a valid travel document.

Kindly note that the Home Office is monitoring the situation and once they can re-open the VACs, they will prioritise the return of all documents to their customers.

Licensed Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 sponsors: absences due to coronavirus
For individuals under Tiers 2, 4 and 5 visas, where they are required to fulfill the requisite period of quarantine or prevented from travel, sponsors will not be required to report their absences on the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). This is provided that the absences have been authorised by the sponsor.

In addition, sponsors do not have to withdraw sponsorship if they consider there are exceptional circumstances when:

  • a student will be unable to attend studies for more than 60 days; or
  • an employee is absent from work without pay for 4 weeks or more.

However, kindly note that the Home Office will keep this under review, especially where a Tier 4 student will need to repeat their studies due to their absences.

You can access the Home Office guidance via the link below:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-immigration-guidance-if-youre-unable-to-return-to-china-from-the-uk#helpline

Should you wish to discuss your immigration matter please do not hesitate to contact our professional team of immigration lawyers at barar.london@bararassociates.co.uk or call us at 020 7487 8370. You can access more information about us via https://bararassociates.com/.