COVID-19 update August 2020
27 August 2020
Biometric appointments, the IDV app, concessions for students and quarantine are covered in this COVID-19 update.
Visa application centres around the world continue to re-open. But unfortunately we are finding that sudden closures are also happening, due to local lockdown restrictions. For the latest information on which centres are open, you should check the VFS and TLS websites.
Remember there is a temporary concession until 30 November 2020, which allows you to submit your application and enrol your biometrics in any country where you can meet that country’s entry clearance requirements. You do not have to be resident there.
In the UK Sopra Steria is hoping to re-open more sites through the autumn, including Cambridge in w/c 14 September. There is limited availability and you do need to be prepared to travel to an appointment. At the moment slots have been released up to 28 September 2020. For the latest information on re-openings see the UKVCAS website.
It is still a case of waiting for an invitation before you can book an appointment. Invites are currently being sent to those who applied between 1-14 August 2020.
Anyone who applied on or after 15 August needs to wait for UKVI to assess their eligibility to use the new IDV app, instead of attending a biometric appointment. They will then be asked to choose which route they wish to take to enrol their biometrics.
Sopra Steria and UKVI have developed a new UKVCAS Identity Verification (IDV) app as a response to the delays caused by COVID-19. The IDV app was approved for use this month and roll out started on 17 August 2020.
UKVI will assess if applicants are eligible for their biometric reuse policy and if so, they will be invited to use the IDV app to submit their information without requiring a biometric appointment.
Invitations to use the IDV app are being sent out in waves, depending on when you applied for your visa. The hope is to process up to 4,000 applications per day once fully up to speed. The roll out plan aims to send invites by 7 September 2020 to those who registered up to 31 July 2020 and then by 14 September 2020 for August applicants.
Sopra Steria has produced some FAQs which include more information about the IDV app and a video. We will of course be providing appropriate support to any of our clients who have opted to use the IDV app rather than attend a biometric appointment, so if you have any further questions please speak to your normal contact in our Immigration Team.
As set out in our last update, the Government has said it will not provide any more automatic visa extensions. This means a significant number of people are now expected to leave the UK by 31 August 2020, or apply for a new visa if they wish to stay.
If you intend to leave the UK but are just not able to do so by 31 August 2020, you may request additional time to stay, also known as ‘exceptional assurance’, by contacting the coronavirus immigration team. But this will not be ‘leave’, it is just an agreement that you will not be prosecuted for overstaying. It is unclear whether you would be permitted to work during this time, further clarification on this point is being sought from the Home Office.
To apply for the exceptional assurance you must complete an online form. You will then be invited to submit evidence to explain why you cannot leave the UK at this time.
If you would like assistance with an application, then please contact a member of our Immigration Team.
Concessions for students
Updated guidance for Tier 4 sponsors is now available on the government website. Some of the COVID-19 concessions have now ended. For example, where English language test centres have re-opened, that concession can no longer be used. Also the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) concession has finished. The guidance also states that the concession allowing visitors or those with short-term study visas to switch to the Tier 4 Student Route only applies to those who arrived in the UK on or before 31 July 2020.
However, other arrangements have helpfully been extended. It is now possible to have distance learning for the whole of the 2020/21 academic year. Students who are undertaking distance learning are considered to be in term time and are restricted to the work hours stated on their visas.
The concession that allows students to apply for further leave in the UK has also been extended until the launch of the new Student Route in January, i.e. it is no longer limited to those whose leave expires on or before 31 August 2020. The period during which a new course must start after current leave expires has also been extended until 31 December 2020 and students may downgrade to a lower level of an integrated course within the UK.
The list of travel corridors remains subject to regular review. There is now a pattern of removing countries from the list with effect from 4am on a Saturday. Apparently this time has been chosen as very few flights arrive in the UK around then.
Andorra, The Bahamas and Belgium were all removed from the list from 4:00am on 8 August 2020. Aruba, France, Malta, Monaco and the Netherlands as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands were all removed from 4:00am on 15 August 2020. Austria, Croatia and Trindad and Tobago were all removed from the list from 4:00am on 22 August 2020. Anyone entering England from one of those countries after the cut-off time is required to complete 14 days of quarantine.
However, some countries have been added to the list, meaning you are no longer required to quarantine if you visit them and return after the list has been updated. Note anyone returning prior to this will still need to complete the quarantine period that had been imposed on them.
Travel corridors between England and Brunei and Malaysia have been in place since 4:00am on 11 August 2020 and with Portugal since 4:00am on 22 August 2020.
For the latest information regarding travel corridors and quarantine requirements see the government website.
This article is from the August 2020 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. For further information please contact a member of Birketts’ Immigration Team.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at August 2020.