The Home Office has updated its guidance in relation to visitors and temporary UK residents whose leave to remain in the UK has expired or will expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020, and who have been unable to leave the UK due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Previous guidance confirmed that migrants were able to request an extension of leave until 31 July 2020 if that migrant was not able to return home due to the pandemic. All qualifying migrants have been able to retain the conditions and rights attached to their visas until this date.
The Home Office has now confirmed that travel restrictions are lifting globally and migrants will no longer be able to extend their leave to remain in the UK automatically. All migrants who have been granted a temporary extension of leave until 31 July 2020 must therefore take all reasonable steps to now leave the UK or to make a valid application to remain in the UK and regularise their stay.
Leaving the UK
If a migrant (whose visa expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020) decides to make the necessary arrangements to leave the UK, they will be given an extra month’s grace period until 31 August 2020 to do so. The conditions associated with their expired leave will continue during the grace period. For example, if they were permitted to work, study or rent accommodation, they may continue to do so until 31 August 2020.
The guidance further confirms that migrants who plan to leave the UK before the end of the grace period on 31 August 2020 do not need to contact the Home Office to advise of their departure.
If a migrant intends to leave the UK but is unable to do so by 31 August 2020, an application for ‘exceptional indemnity’ can be made to the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) to request additional time in the UK. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you believe that you will require exceptional indemnity because you will be unable to leave the UK before the end of the grace period.
If the request is granted, the indemnity period will not constitute ‘valid leave’ to remain in the UK, but instead will provide short-term protection against any adverse consequences of remaining in the UK past 31 August 2020. This means that migrants will no longer retain the right to work, study or rent as per their previous visa conditions during any period that they remain in the UK on exceptional indemnity. Any period spent on exceptional indemnity may also break continuous residence in the UK.
The migrant will be required to provide evidence confirming why they are unable to leave the UK by 31 August 2020. It is important to note that this is not a long-term solution and is only available to those migrants who do intend to leave the UK as soon as is practicable. Exceptional indemnity will be granted on a discretionary basis.
Switching visa routes from within the UK
If a migrant wishes to remain in the UK after the end of the grace period, they must apply for leave to remain in the UK on a long-term basis via an appropriate immigration route.
The Home Office concession allows migrants to switch to long-term visa routes from within the UK, in instances where they would usually need to submit entry clearance applications from their home countries. The requirements of the visa route must be met and the application fee must be paid. Migrants wishing to take advantage of this policy must do so by 31 August 2020.
Please note that this concession is only available to those migrants whose leave expired or will expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020.
If you wish to remain in the UK but are unsure of which application you are required to submit, please contact us to discuss your circumstances in further detail.
Migrants whose leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 and who have not yet obtained the necessary permission from the Home Office to remain in the UK beyond that grant of leave will not suffer any future adverse immigration consequences if they now submit an application to regularise their stay. This permission must be obtained before the end of the grace period on 31 August 2020 or the migrant will be deemed an overstayer.
If you have overstayed your leave without permission from the Home Office please contact us for advice on how to regularise your stay until 31 August 2020.
Those migrants who have previously obtained permission to extend their leave until 31 July 2020 will automatically have their leave further extended during the grace period until 31 August 2020. If you have any concerns about your leave or your status in the UK, please contact us.
Migrants whose leave expires after 31 July 2020
At the current time, the Home Office policy does not apply any of the concessions outlined above to migrants whose leave expires after 31 July 2020. The current policy does not therefore extend the grace period or any form of automatic temporary leave to remain in the UK to those migrants whose leave will expire in August 2020.
Any migrant whose leave expires after 31 July 2020 must submit a valid application for leave to remain under an appropriate immigration route before the expiry of their current leave. The newly published policy does not specify whether migrants whose leave expires after 31 July 2020 will be able to exceptionally switch to visa routes from within the UK where they would otherwise have to make entry clearance applications. Therefore, in certain circumstances, migrants may need to leave the UK prior to the expiry of their current leave in order to make a valid entry clearance application to the UK.
If a migrant whose leave expires after the 31 July 2020 does not intend to remain in the UK on a long-term basis, or is not eligible to switch to an appropriate immigration route from within the UK, they must leave the UK before the expiry of their leave.
If your visa expires after 31 July 2020 and you are unsure of which application you are required to submit in order to continue to remain in the UK lawfully, please contact us to discuss your circumstances in further detail.
Please note that some health workers may be eligible for a free one-year extension of their visa. This concession is only available to those migrants whose visas expire between 31 March 2020 and 1 October 2020, and who work in specified professions within the healthcare industry. Family members of eligible health workers may also be able to get a one-year extension of their visas.
Please contact us for further information if you believe that you or your family members may fall within this category.
Please note that the Home Office has also released specific concessions for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrants, Tier 2 Migrants, and Tier 4 Migrants. If you fall within one of these categories and you require further advice regarding your visa conditions or immigration status, please contact us.
Please note that the information in this blog is current at the date and time of posting. The situation regarding policy and guidance based on the COVID-19 pandemic is subject to change at short notice. We shall be monitoring all aspects of UK immigration which may be impacted by the coronavirus closely, so please do keep updated with further blogs and articles which we will be posting on this site.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.
Trainee Solicitor in our corporate team
Consultant in our Private Client department