Home Office Guidance on Coronavirus
The Home Office has published Guidance on the Coronavirus on 17 February 2020 for those unable to return to China from the UK, due to circumstances outside of their control.
If you are in the UK, and your immigration status is affected by the coronavirus outbreak the guidance states that “most people” will receive an “automatic extension of their visa until 31 March 2020”.
Coronavirus Guidance for Chinese Nationals in the UK
The Coronavirus Guidance states that if you are a Chinese national in the UK, who was compliant with the conditions of their visa before the outbreak, and if your visa had/has an expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020, it will automatically be extended until 31 March 2020. You do not need to make any application or do anything else in order to receive this extension.
Therefore, for example, if you are a Chinese student or visitor in the UK, you will be permitted to stay in the UK until 31 March 2020, according to this guidance.
You will be subject to the same immigration conditions as whatever visa you held that expired during that time frame, and will not receive a new visa or new BRP, it will simply be updated in the Home Office’s systems. If for work or other purposes you need evidence of this extension you should contact the Coronavirus Immigration Helpline:
Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) Calls are said to be free of charge
What if you are a Chinese national who wants to extend their visa? You should make the application before 31 March 2020, which is the new date of your stay expiring.
Non-Chinese and non-EEA nationals normally resident in China
If you are normally resident in China, but are not a Chinese or an EEA national, and your visa expired or will expire between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020, then the Home Office says to contact the above helpline, so they can extend your visa until 31 March 2020.
Switching to a Tier 2 category in the UK
The Home Office gives specific advice for Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) Migrants who would ordinarily have had to have returned to China to make a Tier 2 (General) application if they wished to switch routes. The Home Office says exceptionally they will permit you to switch from within the UK if your Tier 2 (ICT) visa expires between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020. You will, of course, still have to meet all other requirements and pay the relevant fees.
Passport is with a Visa Application Centre in China
As these UK Visa Application Centres in China are currently closed, it is not possible to deliver, remove or collect passports until they re-open.
If you are a British National need to urgently travel the Home Office states that you can apply for an emergency travel document.
If you are not a British national, the Home Office advises you to contact Chinese authorities or your local consular representative to obtain an alternative travel document, as only then can an urgent visa request be considered once you have a valid travel document.
Tier 4 Students and Tier 2 and Tier 5 Employees
If you are prevented from attending your studies or continuing your employment due to illness, quarantine, or an inability to travel due to coronavirus restrictions, you should still inform your employer/educational institution to have the absence authorised.
The reason for this is the Home Office Guidance states that licenced Tier 2, 4 or 5 Sponsors do not need to report student/employee absences related to coronavirus which they have authorised. Nor do they need to withdraw sponsorship if they consider there are exceptional circumstances leading to the student not being able to attend for more than 60 days, or for employees being absent from work without pay for 4 weeks or more.
The Home Office says it “recognises the current situation is exceptional and will not take any compliance action against students or employees who are unable to attend their studies/work due to the coronavirus outbreak, or against sponsors which authorise absences and continue to sponsor students or employees despite absences for this reason.” However, the Home Office will keep this under review, including if a length of absence means that a repeat period of studies becomes necessary.
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