Employment and Immigration Law Update – Coronavirus – implications for UK visas
28 February 2020
The Government has announced new guidance to protect people in the UK whose immigration status is affected by the travel restrictions in place due to the coronavirus.
Under the new guidance a Chinese national, currently living in the UK, but whose visa will expire between 24 January and 30 March 2020, who has been compliant with the conditions of their visa prior to the coronavirus outbreak, will automatically have their leave extended to 31 March 2020.
The individual will not need to do anything to get this extension and they will remain subject to the same immigration conditions as their last visa during the extension period. No new BRP will be issued, but the new expiry date (31 March 2020) will be added to Home Office systems.
Individuals who need a status letter confirming this extension, or a new BRP should contact the coronavirus immigration helpline on 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm) or [email protected].
Please note that those already intending to apply to extend existing visas should continue to do so.
The guidance does not automatically extend to non-Chinese nationals. Non- Chinese or non-EEA nationals in the UK who are normally resident in China with a visa expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020 should contact the coronavirus immigration helpline. Leave may be extended to 31 March 2020 if it can be demonstrated that the individual is normally resident in China. Existing immigration conditions will continue to apply.
Switching to a Tier 2 category in the UK
Part of the new guidance permits a Chinese national in the UK on a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa to switch to a Tier 2 General visa without having to leave the UK. At present this only applies to those whose visas expire between 24 January and 30 March 2020.
Please note that in usual circumstances it is not possible to switch from Tier 2 ICT to Tier 2 General without leaving the UK and spending a minimum of 12 months abroad before being eligible to apply to return under Tier 2 General. Whether the UKVI had intended such a generous concession is unclear, but we will continue to monitor this situation. Employers interested in switching any Chinese ICT workers to Tier 2 General while the concession is in effect should contact a member of our Immigration Team for advice.
Tier 4 and Tier 2/5 absences
The Home Office recognises that some Tier 4 students or Tier 2/5 employees may be prevented from attending their studies or employment due to illness, the need to serve a period of quarantine or the inability to travel due to travel restrictions caused by coronavirus. They have therefore advised that sponsors do not need to report student or employee absences related to coronavirus which they have authorised.
In addition, sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship if they consider there are exceptional circumstances when a student will be unable to attend for more than 60 days or where an employee is absent from work without pay for four weeks or more due to complications around the coronavirus.
Visa Application Centres in China
UK Visa Application Centres in China are currently closed and it is therefore impossible to remove any documents, arrange further delivery or collection of new/replacement passports.
British nationals whose documents are being held have been advised that they should apply for an emergency travel document for urgent travel. Non-British nationals are advised to contact the Chinese authorities or consular representative in China to get an alternative travel document for travel urgently. We will advise further when the UK Visa Application centres are once again fully operational.
This article is from the February 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 February 2020.