In response to the increasing severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Home Office have altered their immigration policy to allow those with visa’s soon to expire or without status to apply for extension or switch into other type of visas without having to leave the UK, in order to alleviate mass anxiety surrounding this issue.


New rules allow those with illegal status, visitor visas and others to apply directly to other long-term visas from within the UK.


According to the current immigration laws, people with illegal residence status are not allowed to apply for status in the UK unless they are under special circumstances (such as a person with minor children who are either British citizens or have continuously been living in the UK for 7 consecutive years or longer).


In order to live legally in the UK, these people generally need to leave the UK and then apply for relevant visas from their home countries.


What’s more, even people with valid visas in the UK cannot, in many cases, apply to switch into other types of visas in the UK. For example, people on visitor visas cannot simply and seamlessly switch to other types of visas, like spouse visa or Tier 2 work permit visas. They normally need to apply for such visas in their countries of origin.


What changes with the new policy?


According to the newly issued policy by the Home Office, in the above scenario, people may now apply for the relevant visa directly from within the UK, or apply to switch to another visa or renew their current visa.


However, it is important to remember that although applicants do not need to leave the UK to apply, they still need to meet the other requirements for the relevant type of visas.


For example, a person applying for a spouse visa needs to provide A1 English certificate, evidence showing an annual income of no less than £18,600 for one applicant, adequate accommodation and genuine relationship. Tier 2 work permit applicants need to meet at least the minimum wage specified by the Home Office in the relevant category and B1 English certificate.



It is likely that the following persons will benefit from the new policy on this issue:


  • Those who illegally reside in the UK, who meet the requirements for applying for a spouse, but do not want to return home to apply.
  • Visitor visa holders in the UK, who meet the requirements for applying for other visas, such as Tier 2 work visa, sole representative for overseas companies, innovator visa, etc.
  • Holders of other types of visas who want to switch visas.


All visas are automatically extended until May 31


For visa extensions the official guidance says:


If you’re in the UK and your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020, your visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19).


The Home Office’s guidance continues:


You must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) to update your records if your visa is expiring.


You should provide:


  • your full name (include any middle names)
  • date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
  • nationality
  • your previous visa reference number
  • why you can’t go back to your home country, for example if the border has closed


The Home Office will let you know when your request is received and when your visa has been extended.


This new policy includes those whose visas have expired or are about to expire before May 31.


They do not need to make any application at present. They just need to make a simple registration according to the information provided by the Home Office.


By the policy, during this period, their stay in the UK will be lawful, despite that their visas have expired. It will not have any impact on future status applications.


Of course, if these people are eligible for other visas, they should apply as soon as possible and before their visas expire.


It should be noted that the policy does not provide any protection for those Chinese nationals whose visas had expired before January 28, 2020. They will be treated as overstaying in the UK.


Visitor visas:


If a person’s visitor visa has not expired, but he/she has spent more than the permitted 180 days in the UK, the new policy provides that he/she can continue to stay in the UK lawfully up to 31 May.


Reducing worries and anxieties:


It must be said that the new policy will reduce the anxiety of many, and provide a reasonable application channel, so that those who meet the conditions no longer need to risk their lives, leave the UK and then apply to come back again. They can directly apply from within the UK.


Limited time only:


The policy only offers some respite for a short amount of time, until the end of May. The coronavirus is likely to have a global impact for longer than this time-frame. Ideally, the automatic extension should be for at least six months, not two months. It will not take long before people start worrying their status again.


However, the good thing is, the Home Office have said they will revise these rules and possibly offer further extensions if need be.



As usual, let’s keep our fingers crossed.



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