Breytenbachs are getting several queries from clients who are worried about the effect of Covid-19 on UK immigration-related matters. Breytenbachs have sourced information on some of the most pressing issues. We recommend, however, that you speak to your Breytenbachs consultant for advice in your specific circumstances.
Covid-19 Testing and Quarantine Rules
Persons who arrive in England will need to follow testing and quarantine rules. The rules will differ depending on where they have been in the ten days before they arrive in England.
They will either need to:
- Quarantine in the place they will be staying for ten days
- Follow the hotel quarantine rules in a government-approved hotel for ten days.
Note that you also to get two Covid-19 tests after you arrive in England and that these have to be booked before you travel.
Ireland, Scotland and Wales have their own restrictions and rules. Please seek advice if you are travelling there.
Visa Applications and Biometrics from within the UK
Visa applications from within the UK are continuing as per usual. Immigration and visa services are essential services. Clients can thus still travel to attend their appointments and enrol their biometrics.
UKVCAS is the service provider that process UK visa applications on behalf of the Home Office. They have also confirmed that they have an “Essential Service” status. Their staff also have the status of “key workers”.
The UKVCAS service points will remain open throughout the pandemic. Persons with an appointment can travel during the pandemic to attend their appointment at the selected UKVCAS service point.
Exceptional Assurance Leave for persons in the UK
Migrants who are unable to leave the UK can apply to regularise their stay. If they want to leave the UK but cannot do so, and have a visa that expires before 30 September 2021, they can apply for “exceptional assurance”.
The exceptional assurance permission does not grant a person leave to stay in the UK. However, it will serve as short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after your leave has expired.
If conditions allowed you to work, study or rent accommodation, you might continue to do so. This concession is subject to you having exceptional assurance leave.
If you already have exceptional assurance, but your circumstances have now changed, you have to apply again. If you cannot leave by the assurance date given, you also have to re-apply. The application will be a subsequent application, and you will have to provide new supporting evidence.
For help with applying for your exceptional assurance leave, please contact your Breytenbachs consultant.
Switching from within the UK
The Home Office made a further concession to migrants who intend to stay or regularise their stay in the UK.
A person would normally have to apply to submit certain visa applications from their home country. Under a Home Office concession, they can now apply from within the UK. The terms of the current leave to remain will stay the same until you receive your application’s outcome.
Persons who are switching to work or study routes may even commence work or study while the application is under consideration at the Home Office. However, this concession will depend on the terms of your current permission to be in the UK.
It is also possible to regularise your stay by applying for leave to remain if you have ‘exceptional assurance’ leave. You will have to submit your application before your exceptional assurance leave expire.
Please contact your Breytenbachs consultant for more advice in your specific circumstances.
Overstayers in the UK
If you have a UK visa or leave to be in the UK and this has expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020, there will be no adverse immigration consequences.
However, if you have not made arrangements to apply for exceptional assurance or applied to regularise your stay, you have to make arrangements to leave the UK.
Expiring 90-day Visa Vignette
If you have a 90-day vignette to work, study or join your family in the UK, and it has expired, you can apply for a new one. There are, however, costs, and you have to resubmit your biometric details.
The Home Office advises that you only apply for a new visa or replacement of your visa vignette as soon as you are confident that you will be able to travel to the UK. The new vignette will also only be valid for 90 days.
Collecting your Biometric Residence Permit
The Home Office will not penalise persons who arrive in the UK and cannot collect their biometric residence permit (BRP) due to Covid-19 measures.
Loss of Income – Minimum Income and Maintenance Requirement
Persons who had a loss of income due to Covid-19 up to 31 May 2021 will also receive a concession. The Home Office will only consider the employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income. However, you must have met the income requirement for at least six months before the date of the income loss.
If your salary was lower than normal due to furlough, you do not need to worry. The Home Office will consider the income as if you are earning 100% of your salary.
Persons who are self-employed and had a loss in their annual income due to Covid-19 between 1 March 2020 and 31 October 2021 also receive a concession. The Home Office will disregard this loss of income and the impact on employment income for the same period for any future applications.
English Language Requirements
The Home Office also conceded English language tests. If you had to take an English language test as part of your visa application, and the test centre was closed, or you could not travel due to Covid-19, you can apply for an exemption.
How Breytenbachs can help you
Breytenbachs have an expert team of consultants who will be able to assist with your immigration matter. Please feel free to contact us for more information or to arrange a consultation at [email protected]
However, please note that we cannot advise clients on travelling during the current pandemic. We recommend that clients liaise directly with their travel agents or airline for the most up to date information.