Coronavirus and Home Office guidance for Visa holders
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). The Home Office has recently released a series of measures to protect and safeguard the health of those living in the UK.
The recent visa concessions implemented by the Home Office are mainly targeted at those who are in the UK on an expiring permit, or are unable to leave the country because of travel restrictions. This include especially successful British Citizenship applicants, who are now granted more time to book their citizenship ceremony.
If you are currently in the UK and you need help with any immigration issues, you can receive professional and immediate help from one of our immigration lawyers. Call us on 0333 305 9375 to discuss your case or to arrange a phone or Skype meeting with one of our immigration specialists.
What is British Naturalisation
Naturalisation is the legal process by which a person becomes a national of another country, such as the United Kingdom. Once you become a British national, you will gain the same rights as anyone born in the UK. This includes living and working freely in this country and applying for a British passport.
British naturalization requirements
To be eligible for British naturalization, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have spent at least 5 years of continuous residence in the UK
- Be a settled person (meaning that you must hold Indefinite Leave to Remain)
- Meet the B1 CEFR level English language requirements
- Pass the Life in the UK Test, to demonstrate your knowledge of British customs, traditions and culture
- Not have been in breach of any UK immigration rules.
The criteria may vary based on your personal background.
Can I still naturalise in the UK despite the Covid-19 pandemic?
At present, the process of applying for British citizenship remains open to all eligible individuals.
This means that applicants can still complete and submit their requests to the Home Office.
Successful applicants have now six months to book their British citizenship ceremony, as opposed to the typical three-month period. This ceremony is essential, as it is the last step to legally complete your application and it validates your new acquired status as a British national.
Currently, the Home Office is considering granting British Citizenship for migrant NHS workers.
To discuss your options with one of IAS’ OISC-accredited immigration lawyers, you can contact our care team today and book your first advice session with your dedicated adviser.
New guidelines for short-term visa holders
The Home Office initially allowed non-EEA nationals who were in the UK during the pandemic and who had overstayed, to obtain an extension of stay until 31st May 2020. However, the Home Office has confirmed that the concession on short-term stays in the UK to Covid-19 came to an end on 21st July 2020. At the moment, it is no longer possible for a person to make an application to extend their stay from inside the UK using this concession.
If your leave to remain in the UK expires between 24th January 2020 and 31st August 2020, and if you cannot live the UK or switch into another visa category, you will be given a grace period and be allowed to remain in the UK until 31st August 2020. If you cannot leave by this day, you can apply for an exceptional indemnity.
New guidelines for long-term visa holders
Those who are in the UK and are eligible to switch into another immigration category can make their application in the usual manner.
Those who would ordinarily have had to leave the UK to submit their forms overseas because of the rules of their immigration route can benefit from a temporary concession by submitting their application from inside the UK.
Additional information on the impact of coronavirus on UK Immigration Law
Reuse of fingerprints
The UKVCAS service was suspended in full on 27th March 2020, but centres started to reopen on 1st June 2020.
UKVI announced that, for some applicants, it may be able to reuse fingerprints previously provided.
Meanwhile, the Home Office is finalizing a new app – “IDV app”, and eligible applicants should receive further communication from UKVCAS.
It is still possible to submit an online UK Visa application, as several visa application centres overseas have now reopened.
If your 30-day visa has expired
If your application made from overseas is successful, you will get a visa which allows you to enter the UK within a 30-day window.
However, if this timeframe expires before you can travel to the UK, you will have to wait until the end of 2020 to request a free replacement, which will be valid for 90 days.
Leave to Remain extension for NHS Workers
The Home Office announced on 31st March that international doctors, nurses and paramedics with a visa expiring by 1st October would get a free one-year extension. The scheme was then extended to cover other frontline workers.
The Home Affair Committee has confirmed that the extension is available to anyone on the following list of professions:
- dental practitioner
- occupational therapist
- social worker
ILR applications: Excessive absences due to the pandemic
Although the Home Office has not provided any specific guidance on how it will treat absences due to the coronavirus outbreak, it normally exercises discretion about absences due to exceptional or compelling circumstances.
At this stage, it is expected that the Home Office will adopt a reasonable approach in cases where the applicant can demonstrate that their absences that exceed the requirements for ILR and British naturalization applications are due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, it is strongly advised a cautious approach, and to retain any evidence of applicants’ circumstances.
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