The Home Office has come under pressure to update its immigration guidance over the COVID-19 pandemic – as highlighted by an “absurd” case reported on recently by The Independent.
A lawyer had disclosed that his client, an elderly woman with lung cancer, had been told she must return to Ukraine, despite a ban on all air traffic to the country due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Ukrainian national, aged 80, was in the UK visiting family and had planned to return home before her visa expired on 19 March, but was unable to do so due to travel restrictions.
Her solicitor contacted the Home Office’s newly established “Coronavirus Immigration Helpline” to ask for advice and was apparently told that her client could travel back to Ukraine by car. The solicitor stated that when she questioned how a woman of her age could do this, the Home Office staff member replied: “We would expect foreign nationals to make every effort to return home”.
This came at a time when the Home Office was under mounting pressure to ensure its immigration guidance was up-to-date so that foreign nationals who cannot return to their home countries as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak are not treated as immigration offenders. The Home Office were also being urged to confirm to third parties such as employers, landlords and the NHS that the residence of such migrants in the UK remains lawful, in order to prevent them falling foul of the hostile environment. In response, The Home Office advised that it was “actively putting plans in place to support people whose immigration status has been affected”.
This has now been confirmed in the latest update from last night, in which the government confirmed that if you are currently in the UK and unable to return home due to the COVID-19 crisis and your current leave expires between 24 January 2020 – 31 May 2020, then your leave will be extended until 31 May 2020.
Please note, however, that this is not an automatic extension of leave, and that you must contact the Home Office dedicated helpline on Email: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk and provide them with the following information:
- your full name (include any middle names)
- date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
- your previous visa reference number
- why you can’t go back to your home country (for example if the border has closed)
They will then provide written confirmation as to your leave being extended.
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.