26 March 2020

Since we published our article, 'COVID-19: Statutory residence test and immigration update' on 23 March, the Home Office has updated its guidance (on 24 March and 25 March) in relation to certain immigration matters. This article summarises the key updates issued by the Home Office.

There are still certain issues which the Home Office has not addressed (in particular, the position for those who are currently absent from the UK due to COVID-19 travel restrictions) and the situation is changing on a day-to-day basis. We anticipate further Home Office guidance will be published in due course and we will continue to provide updates on this in the coming weeks.

Key points from the latest guidance

1. All visa nationals will be able to apply to extend their leave by email if their current leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020. The Home Office also confirmed the following points:

(a) No individual who is in the UK legally, but whose visa is due to, or has already expired, and who cannot leave because of travel restrictions related to COVID-19, will be regarded as an overstayer, or suffer any detriment in the future.

(b) The Coronavirus Immigration Team will update relevant details on UKVI databases. Individuals will be advised that UKVI have noted their details; they will not be subject to enforcement action; and this period will not be held against them in future applications.

2. Visa nationals who are currently in the UK under valid leave (including those who have had their leave automatically extended to 31 March 2020) will be able to switch to another long-term visa category until 31 May 2020. This also includes categories that cannot be applied for in the UK under the normal rules (e.g. in-country switch from a Tier 4 (General) student visa to a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa). The relevant visa requirements must be met and the in-country application fees will apply.

3. Most Visa Application Centres ('VACs') are now closed and applicants will be contacted about their cancelled appointments. International English Language Testing System ('IELTS') testing is currently suspended in most countries. Applicants will be able to contact the VACs and IELTS centres for further information.

4. Passports are being returned to the applicants by courier (where relevant and possible). Once VACs are open, returning documents to applicants will be a priority.

5. British nationals who are living outside the UK will not be able to apply for a British passport if the VACs are closed in their country of residence. They should apply for an emergency travel document if they need to travel during this time.

Whilst the Home Office has clarified that visa holders who are affected by COVD-19 will not be treated as 'overstayer' and that this period will not cause adverse consequences in future applications, the key issue regarding how absences from the UK during this period will be treated remains to be addressed. As mentioned above, we will provide further immigration updates as and when there are significant announcements made by the Home Office.

How can we help?

Burges Salmon’s Immigration and Tax specialists are available to discuss any legal issues arising from your immigration and residence status in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our lawyers have substantial experience in advising high net worth individuals on complex issues and interactions between UK immigration and tax law including pre-immigration tax planning, tax residence, settlement, naturalisation and domicile.

Please speak to Suzanna HarveyEmma Heelis-AdamsMyra Leung or your usual contact in the team.

Key contact

Suzanna Harvey Partner

  • Head of Private Wealth
  • Private Client Services
  • International Tax

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