The Home Office recently updated its Covid-19 related concessions for those applying to enter or remain in the UK on the basis of family or private life. The key concessions are now:

  • Switching into a family or private life route from within the UK

Up to 31 August 2020 those in the UK as a visitor or with permission to stay (“leave”)  up to 6 months could on a concessionary basis “switch” into a family or private life route, provided the other requirements of the Immigration Rules were met. Normally people in this situation can’t switch.

Home Office guidance states that there will be no future adverse immigration consequences if there has been a short break of continuous residence if your leave expired between 1 March 2020 and 31 August 2020. However if you did not make a valid application to remain in the UK by 31 August, the guidance states you must now make arrangements to leave. If you intend to leave but were unable to do so by 31 August 2020, you can apply for an ‘exceptional assurance’ – see our Q&A for further details. It is strongly recommended to take advice if you are in this situation, particularly if you do wish to remain in the UK long term.

If your leave expires after 31 August 2020, and you wish to switch into the family or private life route but the rules normally require you to apply from your home country, you can make your application from within the UK if your application is “urgent” and you cannot apply from outside the UK or if you cannot apply from outside the UK due to coronavirus. Urgency is not defined in this context.

  • Overlooking of breaks in continuous residence

If you are outside the UK, your leave has expired and you are unable to travel back due to coronavirus travel restrictions, Home Office guidance now states that a short break in continuous residence will be overlooked. You are expected to make your next application as soon as possible. If you are in this situation we recommend you take advice where possible and retain any evidence of your inability to travel, e.g. flight cancellations, screenshots of government websites evidencing travel restrictions etc. From the guidance wording it is not clear whether short breaks in residence will also be overlooked where an applicant was unable to travel for health reasons, but if you are in this position we recommend retaining evidence of this and taking advice. In our view there is a strong case for arguing that these breaks should also be disregarded.

  • Extensions for fiancé(e)s and proposed civil partners

If you are in the UK with 6 months’ leave as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner and your wedding or civil ceremony has been delayed due to coronavirus, you can apply for an ‘exceptional assurance’ and provide evidence of when the wedding will take place. Alternatively you can apply to extend your stay for a further 6 months to allow the ceremony to take place. It is recommended you seek advice if you are in this situation.

Changes to the minimum income and maintenance requirements

Home Office guidance now confirms that if you have experienced a loss of income due to coronavirus up to 1 January 2021, it will consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income due to coronavirus, as long as the requirement was met for at least 6 months up to the date the income was lost. We recommend obtaining and retaining any evidence of your income being affected by coronavirus, such as letters from your employer linking redundancy or hours and pay reductions to coronavirus.

If you have been furloughed, the Home office will take account of your income as though you’re earning 100% of your salary. Again we recommend keeping any communications from your employer with regards furlough and the impact on your salary. If you’re self-employed, a loss of annual income due to coronavirus between 1 March 2020 and 1 January 2020 will generally be disregarded, whether you are seeking to rely on this on its own or in combination with employment income.

  • Flexibility with regards to specified documents

The Home Office has confirmed that it may be possible to decide an application without seeing certain specified documents, if you cannot obtain these due to coronavirus. Again we recommend retaining any evidence in relation to this, such as confirmation from your employer that payslips or letters are not available, or confirmation from your bank that statements cannot be issued. If the Home Office cannot decide your application without the documents, you may be asked to submit them after the date of application. If you are in this situation we recommend you take advice before submitting your application.

  • English language requirement

If you need to take an English language test as part of your application and you have been unable to do so because the test centre is/was closed, or because you couldn’t travel to the centre because of coronavirus, you can either:

  • apply for an exemption in relation to meeting the English language requirement. The Home Office has confirmed that Covid-19 will count as an exceptional circumstance for the purposes of applying for an exemption; or
  • submit your application without an English language test. The Home Office has confirmed that individuals can do this, but you will then need to pass an English language test before your application is decided. Where possible you should only submit your biometrics  after you have passed a test in this scenario.

If you are in this situation it is recommended you take advice on the best course of action.