The Home Office have today (29/07/2020) released their latest update to UK immigration policy in the wake of coronavirus. Under a recent policy introduced due to the pandemic, those in the UK whose leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 were able to request an extension if they were not able to return home because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus. These grants were automatic on application and those with expiring leave didn’t have to worry about overstaying if they couldn’t return to their country of origin during the pandemic. The latest update from the Home Office indicates the end to this policy.

The new policy guidance states that, “now travel restrictions are lifting globally you will no longer be able to extend your visa automatically… and you are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so or apply to regularise your stay in the UK”. The publication indicates that there will be no further extensions of the coronavirus immigration policy and all those whose visas expired between the relevant dates will now need to make arrangements to either apply for a long term UK visa or leave the UK.

Those intending to extend/switch visa categories

Those that wish to stay in the UK will need to apply for the necessary visa to remain in the UK. As previously discussed in our last blog, applicants may submit an application from within the UK where one would usually need to apply from outside the UK. Applicants may only apply to extend or switch within the UK where they would usually be unable to do so if their visas expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020. Applicants will need to meet the requirements of the route they’re applying for and pay the relevant fees.

Applicants who apply in time will continue to hold leave under the same conditions as their current visa until their application is decided. Those making applications for work or study visas may be able to commence their work or studies whilst their application is still under consideration to prevent delays to their start date.

Those intending to leave the UK

Those who are intending to leave the UK and whose visas expire between the 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 are being given an extra month’s grace period to remain in the UK up to 31 August 2020 during which the conditions of their stay in the UK will remain the same. Further, there is no need to contact the Home Office to take advantage of the grace period.

Those who cannot leave by 31 August 2020 may apply for ‘exceptional indemnity’, meaning additional time within the UK until an exit flight can be arranged. It should be noted though that ‘exceptional indemnity’ is not a further grant of leave but simply means those that remain after 31st August will not be susceptible to having  future immigration applications negatively affected by the fact that they have remained in the UK beyond their visa period.

Those that wish to apply for ‘exceptional indemnity’ must provide details of the reason why they cannot to leave the UK, along with supporting evidence including a flight booking. If earlier flights are available before 31st August, applicants are likely to be told to book those earlier flights and therefore an application for ‘exceptional indemnity’ could be rejected.

It is not clear as to whether those whose visas expire between 1st August and 31st August but who have not booked return flights will be able to book flights up to 31st August if their visas expire earlier (e.g. 15th August). The indication from the Coronavirus Immigration Team appears to be that those with visas who expire within this period will be expected to leave before the expiry of their visa where they are able to do so.

UPDATED: The Home Office have now clarified that those within the UK whose leave expires between 1st and 31st August will also be able to stay within the UK up to 31st August. Following this, visa holders must apply for ‘exceptional immunity’ to remain beyond 31st August.

Should you have any concerns as to how the end of the coronavirus immigration policy may affect your leave in the UK or your ability to apply for a visa within the UK, please contact us.

For an update on all the legal implications relating to Coronavirus please see here.

Please note that this blog is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content of this blog.

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