In the midst of the global disruption being caused by the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Home Office has published new immigration guidance for those affected by travel restrictions to and from China.

There has been no legislation passed and no new immigration rules have been announced. This likely reflects the fast-changing nature of the situation and the need for the government to be able to update the guidance quickly in response to how the situation develops. We understand the government plans to update the guidance in the coming weeks, but there is no confirmation as to when this will happen.

The main types of individuals currently affected include:

  • Chinese nationals or those normally resident in China who are currently in the UK on a visa that has expired or will expire shortly;
  • Chinese nationals or those normally resident in China who are currently in China, and who need a visa or entry clearance to come to the UK; and
  • British nationals currently in China who need to apply for a passport.

Have you thought about the location of your current or incoming talent and how the outbreak may affect their immigration status? The new guidance will be relevant to both sponsor licence and non-sponsor licence holders who employ or host Chinese nationals (for example for business meetings), and we encourage organisations to consider the following questions and seek advice if they are affected.

All organisations

  • Do you employ any Chinese nationals, whose current immigration status may be due to expire?
  • Are you hosting any visitors who are Chinese nationals or who are normally resident in China, and whose visa may be due to expire or who may be reaching their limit of 180 days in the UK on a long-term multiple-entry visit visa?
  • Are you planning to host or employ any individuals in the near future who are Chinese nationals or resident in China?
  • Do you employ or work with any British nationals who may be in China and who may need to apply for a passport?

Sponsor licence holders –Tiers 2, 4, and 5

  • Have any of the individuals you sponsor been absent from work or study due to coronavirus?
  • Are you currently sponsoring any Chinese nationals under Tier 2 (ICT), who were planning to return to China to apply to re-enter under Tier 2 (General)?
  • Do you currently sponsor any Chinese nationals or individuals normally resident in China, who are approaching the end of their current immigration permission?
  • Are you planning on sponsoring any individuals in the near future, who are Chinese nationals or normally resident in China?

Whilst the guidance itself currently only applies to China, individuals applying for permission to enter the UK in other affected countries may also be impacted by the closure of visa application centres due to local outbreaks.