With the unfortunate outbreak of Coronavirus and travel restrictions, many Chinese and non-Chinese holding a UK visa may face exceptional complexity in returning to China. Many fear that as their visa permission may due to expire, they may potentially be unlawfully residing in the UK.
#UKVI have today helpfully published their guidance on treatment for those that may be affected by the Coronavirus outbreak and face travel restrictions in returning to China. The full text can be found on www.gov.uk, but a summary of the guidance can be found below.
The Home Office has also set up a Coronavirus helpline which will be opened from 9 am on 18 February 2020.
Chinese nationals whose visas have recently expired or about to expire
For visa holders whose visas have expired or expiring between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020, an automatic visa extension will be granted until 31 March 2020.
The Home Office confirmed that no action is required for these individuals and their system will reflect this automatic extension.
However, those who wish to extend their stay should continue to do so.
Employers should, therefore, note that those who have existing permission to work will continue to do and repeat checks and checks for those affected should be scheduled for 31 March 2020.
Absences from Work
Absences from work because of the virus may not be considered as a compliance breach as long as the employer authorise such absences. The Home Office has confirmed that they will not take any compliance actions as a result of virus-related absences.
In any event, sponsor may retain sponsorship in this exceptional circumstance if:
- a student will be unable to attend for more than 60 days
- an employee is absent from work without pay for four weeks or more
Whether to continue to sponsor an individual is a power that is retained by an employer / sponsoring institution.
Switching into a Tier 2 category from within the UK
Affected Chinese nationals whose Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visas have or about to expiry between 24 January to 30 March 2020 may exceptionally switch into Tier 2 General (rather than having to return to China to apply in normal circumstances).
Do note that this exception is for the return to China only and applicants will still need to meet all of the Tier 2 General requirements to make a successful application.
Non-Chinese and Non-EEA nationals in the UK who usually live in China
For visa holders whose visas have expired or expiring between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020 and can show that they are normally resident in China should contact the UKVI Coronavirus Helpline to extend affected visa to 31 March 2020.
Chinese nationals with BIVS granted visa or visas from Crown Dependencies
Affected Chinese nationals whose visas have an expiry between 24 January to 30 March 2020 should contact the UKVI Cornavirus to discuss their circumstances to see what can be done with that visa.
Closure of Visa Application Centres
British Nationals or Chinese Nationals whose passports/documents are retained by visa application centres will not be able to obtain their documents until the centres reopen.
VACs remain closed as a result of the virus.
British Nationals needing to travel should apply for an emergency travel document, and Chinese nationals should consult the relevant authorities for a travel document. Chinese nationals requiring a visa will only be granted a visa exceptionally.
The Home Office has been quick in producing this guidance which is extremely helpful during this period of uncertainty. We hope that the situation will soon be under control and normality will resume.
Shores & Legal are experienced and expert immigration partners for your business and personal immigration requirements. If you are affected by the above blog and wish to discuss your circumstances, contact us at +44 (0) 207 097 6778 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Shores & Legal will provide all that a affected with an extended free consultation where needed.