Immigration and the Coronavirus: Advice for non-British nationals
With the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring that the centre of the Coronavirus pandemic has now shifted to Europe and with news of travel bans from Europe (including from the UK & Ireland) to the US, as well as several other flight restrictions to and from other countries, many are concerned about how this will affect travel and migration. What impact will the pandemic have on foreign nationals in the UK unable to leave before their visas expire? And how might the virus outbreak restrict travelling in the future? This Coronavirus advice has been compiled and written by one of our expert immigration lawyers, and will be regularly monitored and updated. We highly recommend that those concerned about how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect their immigration status should seek legal advice
Coronavirus advice for Chinese nationals living in UK
The UKVI has issued a number of guidance notes concerning Chinese nationals in the UK and has confirmed that such nationals with leave expiring between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020 will automatically have their leave extended to 31 March 2020:
If you are a Chinese national in the UK and have been compliant with the conditions of your visa prior to the coronavirus outbreak, your leave will be automatically extended to 31 March 2020 if your visa has an expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020.
You don’t need to do anything to get this extension.
You will be subject to the same immigration conditions as your last visa during the extension period.
You will not automatically receive a new visa or Biometric Residence Permit card.
Your new expiry date (31 March 2020) will be added to UK Visas and Immigration’s systems.
There is also a similar system in place for non-EEA nationals currently in the UK with leave due to expire who are normally resident in China.
Coronavirus advice for Chinese nationals seeking a UK Visa
In addition to there being stringent restrictions in place on entering China that are causing problems for Chinese nationals abroad seeking to return home, there are also difficulties for those in China making applications for visas to enter the UK.
“Entry clearance applications can still be prepared and submitted whilst waiting for visa centres to re-open and those seeking to make such applications are still encouraged to seek expert legal advice and assistance”
VFS-operated visa sections have closed with no indication as to when they might re-open:
In light of the current Coronavirus alert, UK Visa Applications Centres (VACs) in China remain closed.
The Home Office continues to monitor the situation and updates on when the VACs will re-open will be available on this page.
Entry clearance applications can still be prepared and submitted whilst waiting for visa centres to re-open and those seeking to make such applications are still encouraged to seek expert legal advice and assistance
In what is a fast-moving and evolving situation, VFS and TLS (commercial partners of the UKVI who operate visa centres across the globe) have announced wide-ranging closures and reduced services.
This situation, however, is likely to be temporary in nature. Entry clearance applications can still be prepared and submitted whilst waiting for visa centres to re-open and those seeking to make such applications are still encouraged to seek expert legal advice and assistance.
Similarly, there may be many people who have been issued with entry clearance but who are unable to travel to the UK within their allotted time (i.e. within 30 days). It is possible to remedy such situations by applying for vignettes to be reissued.
There is currently no specific guidance from the UKVI relating to other foreign nationals in the UK with impending visa expiry dates from other significantly affected countries (such as Iran). Similarly, those Chinese nationals in the UK whose leave has been unilaterally extended to 31 March 2020 will need to monitor the situation closely. Those worried about their circumstances can follow the COVID-19 UK government response page for updates and are encouraged to seek professional legal advice and assistance to avoid over-staying and falling foul of immigration requirements.
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