The Latest Coronavirus Immigration News
While the country takes extraordinary steps to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic there is acute concern regarding the stark lack of guidance issued by the UKVI to foreign nationals in the UK with pending visa deadlines, those unable to leave the UK before the expiry of their leave, or those looking to sit tests to obtain certificates to enable them to apply to further their leave.
These are anxious times on an unimaginable and unprecedented scale. The health of us all and our loved ones is of paramount importance and it is important that we do our best to follow official health advice in seeking to self-isolate and adhere to social distancing guidance. However, the effective shut down and restrictions on global travel means that many foreign nationals in the UK with visa deadlines will face the risk of placing themselves in danger of breaching UK immigration laws unless they take action.
“As things stand, there has been no amendment to the Immigration Rules to account for the impact of the Coronavirus on a person’s immigration status”
There is currently no official UKVI guidance for any foreign nationals in the UK, other than Chinese nationals, who are facing this problem.
Remaining in the UK without leave (becoming an ‘overstayer’) is both unlawful and has dire consequences for an individual’s prospects of qualifying for future entry to the UK (poor immigration history) and even in applying for citizenship (see the Good Character requirement). As things stand, there has been no amendment to the Immigration Rules to account for the impact of the Coronavirus on a person’s immigration status. The only available safeguard at present is found at Immigration Rule 39E:
- the application was made within 14 days of the applicant’s leave expiring and the Secretary of State considers that there was a good reason beyond the control of the applicant or their representative, provided in or with the application, why the application could not be made in-time.
To avoid facing such an outcome, those in such situations should be looking to make an application to the UKVI for an extension of their leave on the basis of exceptional circumstances.
“This is a time of great uncertainty and for those who find themselves affected in a whole host of complex ways it will be more important than ever to seek professional legal advice and assistance.”
This may also apply to those with leave to remain in the UK as a Partner who must either apply to extend their leave or apply for indefinite leave to remain in the coming weeks who are now unable to sit their English tests or Life in the UK Tests in time due to centre closures. Again, as things stand, such people won’t meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules unless they have these certificates. Faced with such a situation, an applicant advised to submit their application before the deadline, accompanied by written representations explaining their circumstances and requesting that the UKVI defers a decision until they have been able to sit the relevant tests.
There are countless other issues the government’s preventative measures raise. For example, what is the latest UK Spouse Visa Coronavirus advice? What happens if your Partner loses their job and they are no longer able to meet the Financial Requirement? What about Coronavirus financial support for Tier 2 Workers? If you are a Tier 2 Skilled Worker and you also lose your job or are forced to undertake unpaid leave? Likewise, what about Coronavirus guidance for international students? What will happen to those with Tier 4 Student Visas amidst the closure of education institutions?
Given the UKVI’s absence of official guidance and its track record on its often-contemptuous treatment of migrants, it would not seem prudent to rely on their understanding or goodwill. This is a time of great uncertainty and for those who find themselves affected in a whole host of complex ways it will be more important than ever to seek professional legal advice and assistance.
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