Navigating the new normal

Coronavirus and UK Immigration: FAQs


All content on this page is correct as of April 27, 2021

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause disruption for UK visa holders and their employers, we are ready to help you understand the ever-changing immigration system.

From visa applications and tribunals, through to Skilled Worker sponsorship concerns and rights to work, our expert team of immigration lawyers are on hand to help you.

See below the FAQs we’ve seen from clients:

Applying for a UK visa outside the UK

Can I travel to the UK at the moment?

From 15 February 2021, stricter rules are in place for travel to England.

Before you travel to England:

Unless any relevant concessions apply, if you are travelling to England will need to complete the Passenger Locator Form and have a negative coronavirus test result, taken no less than 72 hours before their arrival date. You will need to carry the Passenger Locator Form and evidence of your negative test result with you when you travel.

When you arrive in England:

Unless any relevant concessions apply, if you are travelling to England you will be required to quarantine for 10 days and take a coronavirus test on day 2 and day 8 of the quarantine period (the cost of which passengers must bear). You must book this before you enter the UK.  

If you have travelled from or through a government “red list” country, you will not be able to enter the UK unless you have a relevant exemption, are a British or Irish national, or have residency rights in the UK.

We understand a residency right to be those who have: Indefinite Leave to Remain; Leave to Remain under, for example, a Skilled Worker or Student visa; and all those who have pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

If you are in this category, you will have to stay in a government designated hotel for the full length of your quarantine period. The charge for a single adult will be less than £1,750.

Fines, checks and enforcement action will all be scaled up as part of this process. The government has announced that those attempting to conceal that they have travelled in a ‘red list’ country on their passenger locator form could face a £10,000 fine or up to 10 years in prison.

You can purchase an early release test to end your quarantine sooner, if needed.

Can I apply for a UK visa at the moment?

Visa applications can be submitted online and many visa application centres around the world have reopened, though local restrictions may still apply. You should check the website of the visa application centre (VAC) you want to attend for details of which centres are open and what restrictions are in place in light of Covid-19. Centres are run by TLS in Europe, Africa and some countries in the Middle East, and by VFS everywhere else.

As some visa centre operations are still affected by Covid-19, the Home Office has issued guidance confirming that, up until 30 June 2021, you may attend a visa centre in another country if the centres in your country are closed due to Covid-19. You will need check travel restrictions and entry requirements before booking an appointment at a visa centre in a different country.

I would like to use one of the priority services to submit my application, can I still do so?

Priority and super priority services have resumed in some countries. You should check with your visa application centre as to whether this option is available for you.

Availability of these services is subject to rapid change as countries impose local lockdowns in response to Covid-19.

I left the UK in 2020 and haven’t been able to travel back due to Covid-19, do I have any options?

The Home Office introduced the Covid Visa Concession Scheme in January 2021, which enabled individuals whose visas expired while they were outside the UK and who were unable to travel back due to Covid-19, to return to the UK in order to make a leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain application. This concession was only in place till 31 March 2021.

The Home Office has published guidance to say that absences from the UK due to Covid-19 will not count toward your total absences for the purposes of an Indefinite Leave to Remain application. However, if you currently have Indefinite Leave to Remain and have been outside of the UK for 2 years, your leave will lapse even if your absence was due to Covid-19.

I submitted an application and provided my fingerprints and passport, when will I get a decision and how do I get my passport back?

Home Office guidance states that as visa application centres (VACs) re-open they will prioritise returning customer passports. If the VAC where you applied remains closed, they will not be able to return your passport. If your passport is in a VAC and a decision has been made on your application, the VAC will contact you to arrange collection. If your application has not been decided, the VAC will not contact you to return your passport until it has. If you would like your passport to be returned even though a decision has not been made, you should contact the VAC to arrange collection.

I’ve already received my visa, can I travel to the UK?

You can travel to the UK with a valid visa but please see ‘Can I Travel to the UK?’ above for information on Covid-19 restrictions for arrivals to the UK.

If you received a 90-day vignette which has now expired, you can request a replacement. The cost of a replacement is £154 and you will need to re-enrol your biometric information at a visa application centre (VAC). You should apply via this form.

Your VAC may be able to directly re-submit your passport and provide you with the amended endorsement.  We recommend getting in touch with your VAC to see if they arrange this.

I need to meet an English language requirement to qualify for my visa, but the test centres are closed, what should I do?

In most cases you will need to wait until the Secure English Language Test (SELT) centres re-open before you can apply for your visa. 

Some English Testing Centres are now resuming services. You can see a list of approved testing centres in the UK and abroad here.

For Student Route applicants it may be possible for sponsors to assess your English language ability and confirm this on the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).  You should discuss this with your course provider.

For some applications made on the basis of family or private life, it may be possible to apply for an exemption to the English language requirement.

Applying to the Home Office in the UK

I am in the UK and my visa is about to expire. I did not plan on staying here long-term but I can’t leave, what should I do?

You are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so or apply to regularise your stay in the UK. If you were unable to leave the UK and your visa or leave expires between 1 January 2021 and 30 June 2021, you can request additional time to stay, known as ‘exceptional assurance’.

You should email [email protected] with the following details:

  • full name;
  • date of birth;
  • nationality;
  • Home Office, GWF or any other reference number;
  • type of visa;
  • expiry date of visa;
  • reason for request; and
  • evidence of flight or evidence showing reason you can’t leave.

The subject header of your email should read “Request for an assurance” and you should attach evidence to show why you cannot leave the UK (e.g. cancelled flights, travel restrictions, confirmation of a positive Covid-19 test, etc.)

Once you submit your information you should receive an email asking you to verify your email address and you should then hear back from the Home Office within 5 working days. It is recommended to take a screenshot of the form before you submit it, for your own records.

‘Exceptional assurance’ acts as a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after your leave has expired. It does not grant you leave, and you are expected to make arrangements to leave the country as soon as possible. You can continue to undertake activities permitted under your original visa.

If you’ve already been given assurance but your circumstances have changed or you’re unable to leave the UK by the assurance date previously given, you must reapply using the process above. You will need to clearly state that you’re making a subsequent application. You’ll be asked to provide new supporting evidence.

We are aware there are now significant gaps in Home Office guidance since the ‘exceptional assurance’ scheme was launched and we do recommend that you seek advice if any of the above applies to you.

I am in the UK and my visa is about to expire – can I extend my current visa?

If you are in the UK with existing leave and had been planning to make an application to extend this, you should do so as normal before your current leave expires. The government has classified UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services as an “essential service” which remains open. All applicants other than Child Students or Students (including Tier 4 students) must now attend an in-person appointment to enrol their biometrics.

Child Student or Student (including Tier 4 student) applicants will have an email sent to their UKVCAS registered email address instructing them to either book an in-person appointment or use the ADV app. You should wait to receive an email from UKVCAS confirming the steps you should take after submitting your application. If you do not hear anything 14 days after submitting your application, you should get in touch with UKVCAS.

You can find the latest updates on the timing of appointments and the IDV app here.

Can I start work while I am waiting for my work visa application to be processed?

If you have applied under the Skilled Worker visa, Health and Care Worker visa, Intra-company Transfer visa, T2 Worker visa or T5 Temporary Worker visa, and are waiting for a decision on your application, you can start work before your application is decided if:

  • you have been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS); and either
    • you are applying under the Health and Care visa; or
    • your CoS was assigned before 1 January 2021; and
  • you submitted your application before your current visa expired and you show your sponsor evidence of this; and
  • the job you start is the same as the one listed on your CoS.

If your application is eventually rejected or refused your sponsor must stop sponsoring you and you must stop working for them.

If your CoS was assigned from 1 January 2021 and you are not applying under the Health and Care visa, you must wait until your visa application has been granted before starting work, unless your current visa allows you to work in that job.

If you have applied under the Student Route you can start your course before your visa application has been decided if your sponsor is a Student sponsor; you have been given an confirmation of acceptance of studies (CAS); you submitted your application before your current visa expired and can show your sponsor evidence of this; the course you start is the same as the one listed on your CAS and you have an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if required. After having been suspended for a time due to Covid-19, the ATAS scheme is open again for applications through the FCDO. If your application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused you must stop your course or studies.

I am in the UK and my visa is about to expire. I want to stay in the UK long-term but can’t return home to make a new visa application, what should I do?

If your visa or leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 there will be no future adverse immigration consequences if you didn’t make an application to regularise your stay during this period. However, if you have not applied to regularise your stay or submitted a request for an exceptional assurance you must make arrangements to leave the UK.

If your leave expires after 31 August, you can apply for permission to stay from within the UK. You will need to meet the other usual requirements of the route you are applying under and pay the UK application fee. The terms of your existing leave will remain the same until your application is decided. This means that if you are currently here as a visitor, for example, and want to apply for a route that allows you to work in the UK, you won’t be able to work until your new application is decided.

If you are here on the Student Route and you normally would not be able to extend your leave from within the UK, you can exceptionally apply to do so. You must make the new application before the expiry of your current leave or, if your leave expired between 24 January and 31 August 2020 and you were granted an extension, you must have applied by 31 August 2020.

There is more information in the Home Office coronavirus guidance for Student sponsors, migrants and short-term students.

I would like to use one of the priority services to submit my application, can I still do so?

Most UK visa application centres (VACs) have resumed services where local restrictions allow. However, Priority and Super Priority services are only available for some applications. If available, you’ll be able to purchase these services when booking your appointment.

See here for a list of applications that have Priority and Super Priority services available if you are making your application from within the UK.

I have not been able to take my English language test and/or my Life in the UK test, but this is required for my application. What should I do?

You should take the Life in the UK and English language test before making your application. Many English language test centres have re-opened, though restrictions may be in place. You can see which test centres are open in the UK and outside the UK here.

If you are applying under the Family Life route, you may be able to apply for an exemption to the English language requirement if you are unable to take a test because of Covid-19.

I am a healthcare worker and have already applied to extend my visa. Can I still benefit from the free extension?

You may be eligible for a one year automatic extension to your visa if your leave expired between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021 and you work for the NHS or an independent healthcare provider in one of the following roles:

  • biochemist
  • biological scientist
  • dental practitioner
  • health professional
  • medical practitioner
  • medical radiographer
  • midwife
  • nurse
  • occupational therapist
  • ophthalmologist
  • paramedic
  • pharmacist
  • physiotherapist
  • podiatrist
  • psychologist
  • social worker
  • speech and language therapist
  • therapy professional

The Home Office expanded the list of eligible professions, but this no longer included doctors. We have followed up with the Home Office and can confirm that doctors are still eligible for the extension. The Home Office also confirmed that the extension is available regardless of the category of leave you hold, and is not limited to those with a Tier 2 visa. Family members who are dependants of eligible individuals could also get an extension if their visa is due to expire before 30 September 2021. You can sign up for the extension here.

If you’re not sure whether you work in an eligible profession, you should check with your employer, who can confirm your eligibility with the Home Office. Once you have confirmation from your employer, you can post your and your family’s BRP to the Home Office, or your employer may offer to do this for you. The Home Office will then return your BRP once your visa has been extended. We recommend that you seek legal advice on your situation before sending any documents, as it is not clear on what basis the Home Office is able to grant these extensions and it is possible you could become an overstayer if your visa expires, and it has not been extended.

If you are granted an extension, the Immigration Health Surcharge will not be applicable and you will not have to pay this.

I am a healthcare worker and have already applied to extend my visa. Can I still benefit from the free extension?

If you work in an eligible profession for the NHS or an independent health and care provider, you can work at any NHS hospital during the coronavirus outbreak provided your sponsor can maintain their sponsorship duties. Your sponsor will not need to notify the Home Office of the change in your place of work. You can also carry out supplementary work in any skill level during the coronavirus outbreak and there is no restriction on the number of hours you can work.

In a related provision, limits on working and volunteering hours have been lifted if you work for the NHS as a doctor, nurse or paramedic, and are a:

•           Student;

•           Skilled Worker and the NHS job is a second job;

•           Visiting academic researcher; or

•           Holder of a short-term visa and are permitted to volunteer.

The deadline for you to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been extended to 30 September 2021. If you do not pass on the first attempt, you’ll have until 31 December 2021 to pass the exam.

I am a healthcare worker and have already applied to extend my visa. Can I still benefit from the free extension?

The Home Office website states that if you have already applied for an extension you can email the NHS team to withdraw your existing application and apply for a refund. 

We do not recommend doing this without seeking legal advice. If you withdraw your application and you have not been granted a free extension, you could become an overstayer.

This option is not available to those who have already provided biometrics as part of the application process. 

I am a healthcare worker. Can I reclaim any visa fees me and my family have already paid?

If you have already applied for a visa extension for health workers, paid your fees and received a decision on your application, you can reclaim up to one year’s worth of visa fees by emailing the UK Visas and Immigration NHS team at the following address: [email protected]

Full guidance on the format of the claim, including the title and necessary details to be included can be found here.

If you have applied for a visa extension for health workers but have yet to receive a decision, you must either wait for a decision and reclaim in the manner described above, or withdraw your existing visa application and apply for a refund (after seeking legal advice).

I am a healthcare worker. Will I now be exempt from paying the immigration health surcharge?

You may be eligible for a full or partial refund on Immigration Health Surcharge payments depending on your role and when you made the payments.

If you have a tier 2 visa and work in a job “in the medical profession”:

You should automatically receive a full refund on payments made on or after 31 March 2020. For payments made before 31 March 2020, you will get a partial refund, covering any period of 6 months from the date the payment was made.

If you fit this criteria but haven’t received a refund, you should email the Home Office at [email protected] with the following details:

  • your name
  • your sponsor’s name
  • your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) number
  • your IHS number
  • the date you paid the IHS

A list of jobs “in the medical profession” can be found here.

If you don’t have a tier 2 visa or you don’t work in a job “in the medical profession”

You may be eligible for a partial refund for payments made on or after 31 March 2020, covering any period of 6 months from the date the payment was made. You will first need to check Annex A to see whether you work for an eligible organisation. You will also need to have worked in your role for at least 6 months for an average of at least 16 hours a week. To claim the refund, you will need to make an application online. You must submit an application for every 6-month period you are claiming a refund on. You will not be eligible if you were unemployed or had unpaid leave for more than 28 days in the 6-month period before you submit your application.

Sponsored Workers

Our organisation would like to apply for a sponsor licence. Can we still do this, and do we need to submit original documents?

Sponsors are being encouraged to apply for sponsor licence, especially as the UK is now out of the EU. Submission sheets and supporting documents are currently being accepted electronically by the Home Office although some of them must be certified in accordance with the Home Office’s guidelines. Electronic files should meet specific formatting guidelines. Documents must still be signed, although digital signatures are permitted for submission sheets, and they must meet all other requirements for the application. You should note that the Home Office still reserves the right to request original documents, and these should be kept on file in case of an audit. If you cannot provide documents electronically, you must contact the Home Office.

Compliance visits are taking place for existing and prospective sponsors and this may be in the form of virtual visits. The Home Office may also request further information from prospective sponsors when considering a sponsor licence application.

Our sponsored worker’s visa application has been approved, but they can’t start work on the start date stated on the Certificate of Sponsorship (“CoS”), can their start date be pushed back?

The current guidance states that sponsored workers can’t have their work start date pushed back by more than 28 days, the only exceptions to this rule is if the sponsored worker is required to carry out a contractual notice period with their previous employer (if allowed under their conditions of stay). If a start date is delayed by more than 28 days and the exception doesn’t apply, the sponsor must stop sponsoring the worker and inform the UKV via the Sponsor Management System. 

Our sponsored workers are working from home. Do we need to notify the Home Office?

No, provided they are working from home due to Covid-19. However, other changes must still be reported as usual. Should this become a long term arrangement, you may need to consider whether the migrant’s work address should be changed on their CoS. Please contact us if you would like further information.

Our sponsored workers are working from home. Do we need to notify the Home Office?

No, provided they are working from home due to Covid-19. However, other changes must still be reported as usual. Should this become a long term arrangement, you may need to consider whether the migrant’s work address should be changed on their CoS. Please contact us if you would like further information.

Our sponsored workers cannot return to work due to Covid-19. Do we need to notify the Home Office?

Usually, if a sponsored worker is absent from work for more than 10 consecutive working days without permission, you must report this to the Home Office. However, absences related to Covid-19 do not need to be reported. Reasons for the absence can include:

  • Illness
  • The need to isolate
  • Inability to travel due to travel restrictions

The Home Office has confirmed that they will not take enforcement action against sponsors who continue to sponsor employees despite absences related to coronavirus.

Our sponsored workers will be working at a different NHS site than their usual place of work because of coronavirus. Is this allowed and do we need to notify Home Office?

The Home Office guidance has been updated to state that individuals working in eligible professions (see below) for the NHS or independent health and care providers can work at any NHS hospital during the coronavirus outbreak if their sponsor can maintain their sponsorship duties. Sponsors do not need to notify the Home Office of the change in the individual’s place of work. It also states that individuals can also carry out supplementary work in any role at any skill level during the coronavirus outbreak and there is no restriction on the number of hours they can work. Sponsors should ensure they are able to maintain their sponsorship duties and document any decisions relating to sponsored workers, noting the measures in place to ensure these duties can still be met.

Our organisation would like to sponsor a new worker under the Skilled Worker visa who is already in the UK. Can we still do this?

You must first consider the individual’s eligibility and ability to switch into the category. It is also possible for employees to start work before their visa application has been decided provided that all three below requirements are met:

  • Sponsors have assigned them a Certificate of Sponsorship (“CoS”) and either;
    • they are applying under the Health and Care visa; or
    • their CoS was assigned before 19 January 2021.
  • The employee submitted their visa application before their current visa expired; and
  • The role they are employed in is the same as the one on their CoS.

This applies to:

  • Skilled Worker visa
  • Health and Care Worker visa
  • Intra-Company Transfer visa
  • T2 Worker visas
  • T5 Temporary Worker visas

Sponsors should note that their reporting responsibilities in respect of the employee commences from the date of assigning the CoS, not from the date that their application is granted. If the employee’s application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused sponsors must terminate their employment. Sponsors should also retain evidence of the Home Office guidance permitting employees to start work before their application has been decided, which can be found here, and evidence of the employee meeting the requirements in the guidance, including a copy of the submitted visa application.

Usually, if a sponsored worker is absent from work without pay for more than 4 weeks, you must report this to the Home Office and stop sponsoring them. However, the Home Office has confirmed that sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship if a sponsored worker takes more than 4 weeks’ unpaid leave due to Covid-19. We recommend sponsors keep an internal record of this.

Can our sponsored workers take unpaid leave?

Usually, if a sponsored worker is absent from work without pay for more than 4 weeks, you must report this to the Home Office and stop sponsoring them. However, the Home Office has confirmed that sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship if a sponsored worker takes more than 4 weeks’ unpaid leave due to Covid-19. We recommend sponsors keep an internal record of this.

Can we furlough our sponsored workers under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“furlough”) has been extended until 30 September 2021 as part of the Budget announced by the Chancellor on 3 March 2021.

The Home Office has published guidance stating that you can temporarily reduce the pay of sponsored employees to 80% of their salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is the lower, if you cannot pay the salary of sponsored employees because you have temporarily reduced or ceased trading. Importantly, it also states that “any reductions must be part of a company-wide policy to avoid redundancies and in which all workers are treated the same”. Reductions must be temporary, and the employee’s pay must return to at least previous levels once these arrangements have ended. You cannot reduce your sponsored workers’ rate of pay for the hours they work below the going rate for their occupation.

Whilst the Home Office guidance does not specify that sponsors may use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the wording used regarding a reduction in salary to 80% or £2,500 per month is consistent with that of the scheme. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme guidance also confirms that foreign nationals can be furloughed under the scheme.

You should note that sponsors and employees must also meet the usual eligibility criteria under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This includes the requirement for the employee to have been on the sponsor’s PAYE payroll by 23:59 on either 30 October 2020 or 2 March 2021, which means some sponsored workers may not be eligible, particularly those under Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) who may be paid by an overseas company.

Worker and Temporary Worker priority change of circumstance service

The Home Office have resumed their sponsor priority service under which sponsors can ask for the following requests to be expedited:

  •   additional certificate of sponsorship (CoS) allocation
  •   annual certificate of sponsorship (CoS) allocation
  •   adding a new level 1 user
  •   changing level one user
  •   replacing the authorising officer (AO)
  •   amending the authorising officer (AO)
  •   replacing the key contact (KC)
  •   amending the key contact (KC)
  •   adding a representative
  •   amending your organisation details – moved to new premises.

Provided a sponsor is eligible for use of the service, the first step is to submit the request on the Sponsor Management System and email the priority service team thereafter with a completed request form. The service is open from 9am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday and any requests made outside these hours will not be considered. The Home Office charge £200 per request for use of this service.

The priority service is popular with sponsors and at present, and the Home Office only accept a maximum of 60 priority service requests each day.

Sponsor Management System reports

The new immigration system has come into place as of 1 December 2020, and the Home Office have now streamlined some of their processes to make it easier for some sponsors to update their licence details on the Sponsor Management System (SMS).

The changes will allow an organisation’s licence details to be updated as soon as they are reported and removed the need for a sponsor to wait for these requests to be agreed, which can take 18 weeks to be processed and accepted.

What type of changes are affected?

Change submitted by a sponsor to its main organisation and head office address in the Sponsor Management System will take effect immediately, provided the organisation’s name has not been changed and where one of the following reasons for change has been selected as an option:

  • Office / branch closed;
  • Downsized business premises;
  • Expanded business premises;
  • Lease expired;
  • Royal Mail postcode changes;
  • Moved to new premises.

Changes to key personnel

When submitting key personnel changes by way of ‘Amend your current Authorising Officer’, ‘Amend your current Key Contact’ functions and the ‘Amend user’ button for Level 1 users, the following will take effect immediately:

  • Work address, where the new address matches the main organisation or the head office address (or, for Key Contacts and Level 1 Users, the address of your appointed legal representative, if applicable);
  • Phone number;
  • Email address;
  • National Insurance number;
  • Position within the organisation;
  • Immigration status-related fields.

Please be advised that the Home Office will still carry out the necessary checks and sponsors will be required to still send the submission sheet and any required supporting evidence in support of the request within 10 working days of the request being submitted.

Please note that the above may only be applicable to some sponsors and our understanding is that the Home Office is emailing sponsors directly to inform them of the above.

Right to work checks

Do I still need to check people’s right to work under the current crisis?

Yes, you need to check the right to work of any new employee before you employ them and will still need to check that any existing employees with limited leave to remain have the correct permission to work for you and will be seeking to regularise their immigration status before their visa expires.

How do I carry out a right to work check under the current restrictions?

Employers can either:

There are a wide range of other documents that are accepted and we can advise you further.

Under normal circumstances you are required to have the physical evidence of their right to work (such as their passport or visa) to check.  If you are in a sector still operating on a face to face basis (e.g. key workers) you can still do this.  If not, the Home Office have introduced a temporary scheme as of 30 March 2020 under which:

  • checks can be carried out over video calls;
  • job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals; and
  • employers should use the Employer Checking Service if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents.

These temporary measures will come to an end on 16 May 2021. From 17 May 2021, you must carry out right to work checks in the usual way. If you conduct a manual check, this can be done via video link however you must be in possession of the worker’s original documents. Please refer to our update here for more information.

If the worker has a current Biometric Residence Permit or Biometric Residence Card or status under the EU Settlement Scheme you can use the online right to work checking service while doing a video call – the applicant must give you permission to view their details.

When the temporary scheme comes to an end, the Home Office have announced employers will no longer be expected to retrospectively carry out right to work checks in the usual way.

What if an applicant doesn’t have any documents to show the right to work in the UK?

Employers must contact the Employer Checking Service for confirmation that an applicant they still have the right to work. 

Employers should be careful that they do not discriminate against someone who has the necessary status to work but cannot show documents to prove it.

Do I still need to check people’s right to work under the current crisis?

Are there any other special arrangements for work restrictions under the current crisis?

Those working for the NHS or an independent healthcare provider in certain eligible professions whose visas are expiring between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2020 should receive one-year visa extensions. Guidance suggests employers of those eligible will tell the Home Office if an employee is eligible. The Home Office has also lifted restrictions on the number of hours a Student (and certain other individuals) can work or volunteer for the NHS in a certain profession.

Global Talent, Innovator or Start-up

I want to apply under Global Talent, Innovator or Start-up but my endorsement has expired. Can I still do so?

Home Office guidance states that you may still be eligible for a visa if your endorsement has expired because you’ve not been able to make an application (for example, because you could not travel). The Home Office is considering such applications on a case by case basis.  

I am a researcher working on Covid-19 – are there are any special provisions that apply to me?

If you’re a scientist researching coronavirus (Covid-19), you may be able to apply for a Global Talent visa using the UKRI endorsed funder option. Applicants will have to meet the full requirements of the route as normal, except that:

  • the letter from the endorsed funder only needs to confirm the grant covers at least a year (not two as is usually required); and
  • the employment contract/hosting agreement only needs at least one year remaining (instead of two) at the time of the application for endorsement.

Applicants endorsed under the concession can switch into this route from any other category of the Rules. In all other respects the Rules remain the same.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur

I am currently in the UK under Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) but my business has been disrupted. Are there any concessions that apply to me?

The Home Office has published guidance stating that you no longer need to employ at least 2 people for 12 consecutive months each. The 12 month period you are required to employ someone for can now be made up of multiple employees across different months, but this must be equivalent to 2 full time jobs.

Time when employees are furloughed will count towards the 12 month period if they have been paid 80% of their normal salary.

If you have not been able to employ staff for 12 months in total by the time your visa expires, you will be allowed to temporarily extend your stay to for a further 2 years, if you can show:

  • You’ve created at least 2 jobs by the date you apply;
  • You’ve been unable to employ staff for 12 months due to coronavirus.

ILR and Citizenship

I am stuck outside of the UK due to COVID-19. Will this affect my ability to apply for indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship?

Your Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (ILR) or Indefinite Leave to Enter the UK (ILE) will lapse if you are absent from the UK for over 2 years.

If your ILR/ILE lapsed on or after 24 January 2020, and you’ve been unable to return to the UK due to travel restrictions in place relating to coronavirus, you may apply under the Returning Resident visa route to return to the UK and get indefinite leave.

You need to complete the online Returning Resident application form and pay the fee. As part of your application, you’ll need to explain how coronavirus restrictions prevented your return to the UK.

You’ll receive a refund of the application fee and, where applicable, a refund of £55 if you submitted your application at a Mandatory User Pay Visa Application Centre. Confirmation of your refund will be sent to you by email once we’ve made a decision on your application.

In the case of British citizenship applications, excess absences caused because an applicant was unable to return to the UK due to the global pandemic is now a scenario where discretion may be exercised if the applicant has established their home, employment, family and finances in the UK. We recommend that anyone stuck outside of the UK retains evidence of their inability to return, whether due to travel restrictions or health. This could include keeping screenshots of advice on the FCO website, government announcements etc. as information on webpages changes. 

Appeal listings

I have an upcoming appeal in the First Tier Tribunal (FTT). Will this still go ahead?

Initially all face-to-face hearings in the FTT were suspended but the tribunals have started to reopen on a reduced basis for appeals which require in-person hearings. Other appeals are continuing on a ‘remote’ basis (ie via phone/video call). Directions are being sent in individual cases and you should wait to hear from the Tribunal as to what will happen in your case.

From our experience, typically these directions provide for a remote case management review hearing (CMRH), and give a deadline for providing contact details to the Tribunal and for filing all the evidence and arguments that you wish to rely on. The remote CMRH will then assess how the appeal should proceed and give directions for a full hearing to be organised, either face-to-face, or remotely.

I have an upcoming appeal in the Upper Tribunal (UT). Will this still go ahead?

Appeals that were listed for a hearing have been postponed. All appeals in the Upper Tribunal are being judicially case managed and you should wait to hear from the Tribunal as to what will happen in your case and what you need to do.

HMCTS is publishing a weekly operational summary of the courts and tribunals so you can check for any updates for both the FTT and the UT here.

I want to lodge a new appeal, can I still do so?

New procedures have been put in place for lodging new appeals and different rules apply if you have a representative and if you don’t. More information is available in this practice statement by the President of the First Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber). It is strongly recommended to seek advice if you want to appeal a decision, but also that you should submit any appeal within relevant time limits.

If you have any further questions about the above, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Immigration team who would be happy to help.


This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of April 27, 2021.

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