Breytenbachs are getting several queries from clients who are worried about the effect of Covid-19 on UK immigration-related matters. Breytenbachs have sourced information on some of the most pressing issues. We recommend, however, that you speak to your Breytenbachs consultant for advice in your specific circumstances.
New Covid-19 testing requirement
From 04h00 on Monday, 18 January 2021, the UK Government will require a pre-departure Covid-19 test. All inbound passengers to England have to have this test. This includes UK citizens.
Travellers by ship, plane or train have to provide a negative Covid-19 test before they travel. The test may not be older than three days.
This Covid-19 test requirement is in addition to any other current self-isolation requirements.
Transport operators will be required to check whether passengers have the negative Covid-19 test result before they board. They may deny boarding where passengers do not have such a test. The Border Force will also conduct their checks on arrival in England.
Should a passenger arrive in England without the negative Covid-19 test, they will get a fine. The fines will start at £500. Transport operators can also get a fine for non-compliance.
Passengers who are travelling to England from the Common Travel Area will be exempt from this requirement. The Common Travel Area are Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey, Ascension, Falkland Islands and St Helena.
Children under the age of 11 years will not be required to fulfil the Covid-19 testing requirement.
For the latest updates on the Covid-19 test requirement, we recommend that you check the Home Office guidance.
Visa Applications and Biometrics from within the UK
Visa applications from within the UK are continuing as per usual.
The UK Government has confirmed that immigration and visa services are an essential service. Clients can thus still travel to attend their appointments and enrol their biometrics.
UKVCAS is the service provider that process UK visa applications on behalf of the Home Office. They have also confirmed that they have an “Essential Service” status. Their staff also have the status of “key workers”.
The UKVCAS service points will remain open throughout the pandemic. It is possible for persons with an appointment to travel during the pandemic to attend their appointment at the selected UKVCAS service point.
Visa applications from outside the UK
Most UK Visa application centres outside the UK are operating as normal. Unfortunately, we had news that the EEA applications are currently on hold. We trust that they will start processing these again very soon.
Please check with your Breytenbachs consultant for the status of UK visa centres in your specific country.
Life in the UK Test Centres
The UK Government has confirmed that all Life in the UK test centres will remain open and continue conducting tests. Social distancing measures are in place.
Exceptional Assurance Leave for persons not able to leave the UK
The Home Office has confirmed that migrants who intend to leave the UK but have not been able to do so, and whose visa or leave expires between 1 January 2021 and 28 February 2021 may request additional time to stay. This extra time is known as ‘exceptional assurance.’
The exceptional assurance permission does not grant a person leave to stay in the UK. However, it will serve as short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after your leave has expired.
If conditions allowed you to work, study or rent accommodation, you may continue to do so. This concession is subject to you having exceptional assurance leave.
If you already have exceptional assurance, but your circumstances have now changed, you have to apply again. If you cannot leave by the assurance date given, you also have to re-apply. The application will be a subsequent application, and you will have to provide new supporting evidence.
Please contact your Breytenbachs consultant for assistance to apply for exceptional assurance.
Switching from within the UK
The Home Office made a further concession to migrants, who intend to stay or regularise their stay in the UK.
Where a person would normally have to apply to submit certain visa applications from their home country, they can now apply from within the UK. The terms of the current leave to remain will stay the same until you receive the outcome of your application.
Persons who are switching to work or study routes may even commence work or study while the application is under consideration at the Home Office.
It is also possible to regularise your stay by applying for leave to remain if you have ‘exceptional assurance’ leave. You will have to submit your application before your exceptional assurance leave expire.
Please contact your Breytenbachs consultant for more advice in your specific circumstances.
Expiring 90-day Visa Vignette
If you have a 90-day vignette to work, study or join your family in the UK, and it has expired, you can apply for a new one. There are however costs, and you have to resubmit your biometric details.
The Home Office advises that you only apply for a new visa or replacement of your visa vignette, as soon as you are confident that you will be able to travel to the UK. The new vignette will also only be valid for 90 days.
Collecting your Biometric Residence Permit
Persons who arrive in the UK and who cannot collect their biometric residence permit (BRP) due to Covid-19 measures will not be penalised.
Loss of Income – Minimum Income and Maintenance Requirement
The Home Office has confirmed that if a person has experienced a loss of income due to Covid-19 up to 1 January 2021, they will consider the employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income. You have to meet the income requirement for at least six months before the date of the income lost.
If your salary was lower than normal due to furlough, you do not need to worry. The Home Office will consider the income as if the person was earning 100% of their salary.
Persons who are self-employed, and had a loss in their annual income due to Covid-19 between 1 March 2020 and 1 January 2021 also receive a concession. This loss of income will be disregarded along with the impact on employment income for the same period for any future applications.
How Breytenbachs can help you
Breytenbachs have an expert team of consultants who will be able to assist with your immigration matter. Please feel free to contact us for more information or to arrange a consultation at [email protected]
However, please note that we cannot advise clients on travelling during the current pandemic. We recommend that clients liaise directly with their travel agents or airline for the most up to date information.