Coronavirus News: Government Announces Temporary Changes to Visa Extensions & Switching
The Coronavirus is impacting everyday life for all across the globe, yet it is undeniable that migrants who are residing or travelling within places outside of their home countries face unique hurdles. With travel and immigration advice scarce and vague to say the least, those with immigration permission in the UK are likely questioning what they ought to do next.
This concern has been exacerbated by the uncertainties surrounding visa renewals and extensions – both of which are crucial to monitor to ensure that you are abiding by UK immigration law.
However, thankfully, with the latest UK government guidelines, those with immigration status in the UK are able to breathe a sigh of relief. On the 27th March, UKVI announced that visas which are due to expire between the dates of 24th January 2020-31st May 2020 will automatically be extended by the Home Office until the 31st May for those who are unable to return home due to travel restrictions and/or self-isolation.
UKVI will automatically grant a free extension to all foreign nationals in the UK who are unable to return home as a result of COVID-19 – including international students
This news is welcomed by many; from those who hold a Tier 2 Work Visa to those who are studying in the UK on a Tier 4 Student Visa. Upon the closure of UK universities as a result of the government’s social distancing guidelines, international students have faced particular difficulties. Unsure of whether or not they ought to return home – or if this is even an option – students in the UK have largely been left in a state of limbo, as have all migrants across the board.
Next steps for International Students who Hold a Tier 4 Student Visa
With the government releasing daily updates regarding the current situation, guidance is subject to change. However, at this time, international students can be rest assured that their inability to attend university due to closures and/or self-isolation will not leave them in breach of their immigration permission. It is typically a requirement that all international students complete a specific number of learning hours depending on their course, in the form of seminars, lectures, tutorials and examinations.
However, due to the unprecedented circumstances, this is no longer a possibility. Instead, international students in the UK are able to study from home. Most universities are now operating solely online, meaning it is still possible for students with a Tier 4 Student Visa to continue with their studies while staying at home.
Student Accommodation and Halls of Residence
The Department of Education recently released guidelines for all students who currently live in either university halls of residence or shared accommodation with fellow students. This of course applies to international students as well as British and EU nationals studying in the UK.
Any student who develops symptoms of COVID-19 must self-isolate in their current accommodation for 7 days and should reach out to their university/college for support throughout this.
The DoE also advised that students in this situation should only return home if they are able to do so without using public transport.
Crucially, it is also important to note that institutions operate a ‘non-eviction’ policy if students have no alternative residence. This means that students are not required to leave their halls of residence even if their contract is up, or if their rental agreement does not cover holiday periods.
This is applicable to all students, whether self-isolating or not, and should offer some reassurance particularly to international students who may be due to leave their current accommodation but are unable to do so as a result of COVID-19.
Automatic Student Visa Extension
UKVI will automatically grant a free extension to all foreign nationals in the UK who are unable to return home as a result of COVID-19 – including international students – allowing them to stay in the UK until 31st May 2020.
International students and all other foreign nationals who were due to leave the UK after 24th January must still leave the country after 31st May. This is of course subject to change depending on how the UK’s lockdown period progresses.
In order to get this free visa extension, you must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre preferably via email as this allows you to retain a record of your correspondence.
You will be asked to provide:
- Your name
- Your date of birth
- Your nationality
- Your visa’s reference number
- The reason you can’t go back to your home country
If your visa is due to expire on 31st May, you are, for the time being, still required to apply for a visa extension or may apply to switch your visa if you would like to remain in the UK after 31st May.
This is especially important for international students who may be in the UK with a Short-term Study visa, as you may be able to switch to the Tier 4 Student Visa from within the UK.
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