FAQ on Covid-19 and UK Immigration

FAQ_Covid-19

Expiry of 30-day Visa Vignettes

I have a 30-day visa vignette that has now expired as I cannot travel to the UK due to the current travel restrictions. What can I do?

Breytenbachs have now received official confirmation from the Home Office on the expiry of the 30-day visa vignettes.

If your 30-day visa to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired or is about to expire, you can request a replacement visa with revised validity dates until the end of 2020.

Please get in touch with your Breytenbachs consultant for assistance to request this replacement visa.  You can contact your consultant directly. If you are not currently a client of Breytenbachs, please send an email to us at info@bic-immigration.com

The Home Office confirmed that applicants will not be penalised for not being able to collect their Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) while Covid-19 measures are in place.

The above process will be in place until the end of 2020.

UK Ancestry Visa – Not able to find work during Covid-19

I arrived in the UK on an Ancestral visa a couple of weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic had a severe impact on the UK economy. I now sit with the predicament that I am not able to secure a job. Will this affect my immigration status in the UK as an Ancestral visa holder?

Fortunately, this should not have consequences on your UK immigration status. The UK Ancestry Visa rules state that you must “intend to take or seek work in the UK” – so if a UK Ancestry visa holder has been seeking work, but unable to find work for a period of time, due to the Covid-19 crisis, then they would still be meeting the basic requirement of this route.

However, we recommend that you retain evidence of the job-seeking undertaken during this period so that you can evidence that your intention to work was there, albeit that no work was forthcoming.

UK Ancestry Visa and Furlough

I am an Ancestry Visa holder, and my company has put me on the 80% payment furlough scheme, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. How will this affect my Indefinite Leave to Remain application, two years from now?

The good news is that the Home Office has not classified Furlough as a ‘public fund’ for immigration purposes. Therefore, being on furlough will not have an impact on your future ILR application under the UK Ancestry category.

If someone is on furlough, he/she remains a worker.

Tier 2 Visa holder on Furlough

I am a Tier 2 Visa holder. My company has put me on furlough. I am very concerned whether this will have any impact on my UK immigration status?

The Home Office has not classified Furlough as a ‘public fund’ for immigration purposes. Therefore, being on furlough will not have an impact on your Tier 2 immigration status. If someone is on furlough, he/she remains a worker.

With specific regard to Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa holders, sponsors can temporarily reduce the pay of their employees to 80% of their salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is the lower.

Any reductions must be part of a company-wide policy to avoid redundancies and in which all workers are treated the same. These reductions must be temporary, and the employee’s pay must return to at least previous levels once these arrangements have ended.

Visa Submission from outside the United Kingdom

We are based in South Africa have been planning our move to the UK for many months now. When will we be able to submit our application? Are there any timelines available?

All the UK Visa application centres in South Africa will be closed during the SA lockdown, from 26 March 2020 to 16 April 2020. However, the Breytenbachs offices in South Africa and the UK are open, as we work remotely. We will be able to prepare your application up to the point of submission.

It might thus now be the ideal time for you, while you have some extra time on hands to contact our team. They will be able to fully prepare the application. As soon as we get the news that the visa application centres are open, we will submit your application.

Submitting UK Visa Applications

Is it possible to submit a UK visa application at the moment?

Most UK Visa application centres worldwide are now closed. In some cases, it is possible to submit the application to the Home Office, however, it is not possible to book a biometric appointment, which means that the application process will be placed on hold.

However, we strongly recommend that clients now take pro-active steps and plan ahead.

If you are considering making a UK visa application, contact us without delay. Keep in mind that it can take between 4 – 8 weeks to prepare a UK visa application.

Now is thus the ideal time when you have more time on hands, to contact us. We will be able to assist and prepare the full application. As soon as the visa centres open, we can submit your application. We do not require any of your original documents but will work with scanned/electronic copies of your documentation.

We foresee that the UK visa application centres will be inundated with new applications when they open, so make sure that you are first in line! You can find the contact numbers for our offices here.

Tier 2 Sponsorships and Covid-19

I have been issued with a Tier 2 visa shortly before my country went into lockdown. I, therefore, cannot travel to the UK before within the time frame stipulated on my Certificate of Sponsorship. What can I do?

The Business Helpdesk of the UK Home Office has telephonically confirmed to us that migrants still have to obtain a new 30-day vignette if they cannot travel during the validity of the one they have received.

The Home Office may make further provisions to extend automatically or to issue new vignettes for anyone impacted automatically, but at the moment, this is the rule. Your Tier 2 sponsor will in the meantime have to inform the Home Office that your start date has been delayed.

Tier 4 Student Visas and Covid-19

My Tier 4 Student visa was recently approved. However, as I am based in South Africa, and facing a lockdown, I will not be able to travel to the UK.  What will happen now?

Fortunately, we have some good news for you. New overseas students with a Tier 4 Student visa who are not able to travel to the UK due to travel restrictions can undertake distance learning. Your educational institution need not withdraw the Tier 4 sponsorship. As soon as travel restrictions are lifted, you will once again be able to travel to the UK and undertake your studies in the UK.

EU Settlement Scheme

I have an EU passport and travelled to the UK from South Africa to settle in the UK, before the end of free movement. I settled in the UK in early January 2020, before all the disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Will I still be able to register under the EU Settlement Scheme?

Yes, absolutely! Fortunately, you do not need to be physically present or submit any biometric information when you register under the EU Settlement Scheme. Breytenbachs will be able to fully assist you with your application via SKYPE and email. You can contact us today for assistance at info@bic-immigration.com

I have submitted an application for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, but I cannot contact the EU resolution centre. What will happen to my application?

Even if the EU Resolution centre has closed, the Home Office confirmed that they are still processing all applications submitted under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Overstayers using the NHS for Treatment

I am sorry to say, but I am an overstayer in the UK and became one before the Covid-19 pandemic. I am so scared that I might become sick with the Covid-19 virus and not able to access NHS treatment. What can I do?

The UK Government has passed regulations to add the Covid-19 to the list of diseases for which no charge is to be made for NHS treatment, regardless of a person’s immigration status. If you are thus in the UK as a short-term visitor or in the UK without lawful status, you will be able to use the NHS for treatment, and will not be charged for it. Even if you have to go for a Coivd-19 test, and it is negative, the NHS will not charge you.

However, we strongly advise that you contact us for help regarding your immigration status at info@bic-immigration.com You can be assured that we have full client confidentiality.

Visa Expiries and Covid-19

I am currently in the UK on holiday, but I cannot return to my home country due to the Covid-19 crisis. My visa is about to expire.  Would I be removed from the UK?

The Home Office will extend all visit visas expiring between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020 if holders cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to Covid-19. However, If this is your case, you must contact the Home Office, or speak to your Breytenbachs consultant.

My UK visa will be expiring soon. What can I do?

The Home Office guidance state that all persons whose visa expires or expired between 24 January and 30 May 2020 and who cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus and whose visa will expire or have expired will NOT be regarded as overstayers or suffer any disadvantage in the future.

The visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if a person cannot leave due to travel restrictions, or self-isolation related to Covid-19. However, you must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team to advise of the situation at CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk 

The Coronavirus Immigration Team will update the person’s details on the UKVI database. The requirement to contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team applies to persons of all nationalities whose leave to stay in the UK expires between 24 January 2020 and 30 May 2020.

Switching to Another UK Immigration Status

I have a visitor visa that is about to expire. I was planning to return to South Africa and apply for a spousal visa to relocate to the UK permanently. Can I submit the application from the UK instead?

If your visa has expired or will expire between 24 January and 31 May 2020, the Home Office will allow you to submit your spousal application within the UK.

However, you need to make sure that you meet all relevant requirements under the Visa route.

Immigration Status and Cancellation of Visa Appointment

I have submitted my immigration application online, but my appointment has been cancelled. Would this impact my immigration status in the UK?

No, the Home Office have confirmed that your immigration status in the UK will not change as a result of you not being able to attend an appointment. If you have already booked an appointment, it is likely that the appointment will be rescheduled at a later stage. 

I have submitted my UK visa application at an application centre in the UK. However, that Visa application centre is now closed? Will they still process my application?

From communication from the UK Visa Application Centres, we believe that all applications have been placed on hold. We have been assured that clients should not be concerned that there is something wrong with their application. As soon as the VACs re-open they will start processing applications again.

British Passports and Covid-19

I am a British national, and I live outside the UK. I need to urgently apply for a British passport. What can I do?

 British nationals who are living outside the UK will not be able to apply for a British passport if the Visa Application Centres are closed in their country of residence. They should apply for an emergency travel document if they need to travel during this period.

Indefinite Leave to Remain and absences from the UK due to Covid-19

I am working in the UK on a long-term visa leading to Indefinite Leave to Remain. I was visiting in my home country when travel restrictions to the UK was announced. I am not able to return to the UK but working remotely for my UK company. Will this situation influence my ILR application?

UK Visa rules state that to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain you cannot spend more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12-month period. The Home Office is very strict in enforcing this rule. However, they are lenient in their consideration if the applicant can provide evidence of serious or compelling reasons.  There are currently no guidelines from the Home Office that the Covid-19 pandemic will qualify as a serious or compelling reason. Still, we believe that they will eventually specifically include this.

We do recommend that you keep evidence of your inability to fly to the UK. This evidence can, for example, be in the form of communication from your employer agreeing that you work remotely till the travel restrictions are lifted etc. 

NHS frontline workers visas extended

I am a doctor working for an NHS hospital in the UK. My visa will soon expire, but I am currently extremely busy due to the Covid-10 outbreak.

The Home Office has just announced that doctors, nurses, and paramedics, employed by the NHS whose leave is due to expire before 1 October 2020, will have their visa automatically extended, free of charge, for one year.

The concession will also apply to their dependants. 

British Citizenship Ceremony

I have received my invitation to attend my British citizenship ceremony just before the lockdown. Obviously I cannot attend now. What do you suggest I do?

We have some good news for clients who have received their invitation to attend their British citizenship ceremony. Normally, clients have three months to attend their British citizenship ceremony. The UK Government has now extended this to six months, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

You thus now have six months to attend your British citizenship ceremony after receiving your invitation to do so from the Home Office.

You are welcome to contact your Breytenbachs immigration consultant for more information.

How Breytenbachs can help you

If you have any immigration questions related to the Covid-19 pandemic, that you would like Breytenbachs to address, please let us know! Breytenbachs do all we can to disseminate information from the Government and our professional bodies as to how the Covid-19 pandemic will affect immigration application processes and timelines. We will deal with each case as it comes. Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss your matters and make your plans for when this pandemic has run its course.