The Home Office has today published eagerly awaited guidance on the situation of non-EEA nationals in the UK whose ability to make applications or to travel is being impacted by COVID-19.

Concessions introduced so far allowed those who have leave to enter or remain in the UK expiring between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 to stay until 31 July 2020, or alternatively to make applications to “switch” status into a category which would normally require an “entry clearance” application overseas. There was also a concession enabling some persons whose leave was to expire after 31st July to make applications where they had an “urgent need” to do so in the context of COVID-19.

The Home Office had initially stated the concession would not be renewed beyond 31 July 2020. . That has now changed in the light of an announcement made today and set out here.

Whilst the announcement is welcome news for many, it does in certain ways raise as many questions as it answers.

For now, these are the key points to note:

  • There will be no further automatic visa extensions past 31 July 2020 given that travel restrictions are “now lifting globally”.
  • Those planning to leave the UK and whose leave was due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 will be given an extra month’s “grace period” in the UK to 31 August 2020 to allow time to make the necessary arrangements to leave. During this time, a person’s conditions of stay in the UK will be the same as the conditions of their leave. Those intending to leave the UK during the grace period do not need to contact the Home Office.
  • Those who intend to leave the UK but cannot do so by 31 August 2020 can request an “exceptional indemnity” which would allow them additional time to stay without facing adverse consequences after their leave has expired.
  • Those who intend to stay in the UK need to apply for the necessary leave to remain in the UK.
  • Those who have overstayed their leave between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 will not face adverse consequences, but they must apply to regularise their status from 1 August 2020.

Many questions remain unanswered for our clients, particularly with regard to switching status in the UK and we are seeking urgent clarification from the Home Office on this announcement.

Due to the uncertainty created by this announcement, we would recommend that anyone seeking to rely on these concessions seek urgent advice.

Please contact Chetal Patel if you have any questions on the above.