LBW

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

COVID-19 And UK Visa Concessions


Visa extensions and other concessions
General policy (UPDATED 24 November)

Some people who were in the UK when the pandemic hit were unable to leave before the expiry of their visa because of travel restrictions. The government had been allowing people in this situation to easily extend their visas through a simplified online application process, but that concession has now been replaced with “exceptional assurance”, a promise of extra time to stay that falls short of proper leave to remain.

The first version of the coronavirus concession was introduced on 17 February 2020. It unilaterally conferred leave to remain until 31 March to Chinese citizens whose UK visas expired between 24 January and 30 March. It also allowed non-Chinese, non-EEA nationals in the UK who were normally resident in China to get an extension of leave by emailing in to request one.

The concession was updated to cover all nationalities on 24 March. People in the UK on an expiring visa were able to have it extended to 31 May.

Between 24 March and 6 April, the Home Office wanted applications for an extension under this policy to be submitted by email to the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre (see below). That set-up was then replaced with an online form.

On 22 May the Home Office extended the concession to 31 July and later bolted on a “grace period” allowing people to stay until 31 August. As the main coronavirus guidance page summed up the position:


To allow time to make the necessary arrangements to leave the UK, if you have a visa or leave that was due to expire between the 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020, you’ll be able to stay within the UK to 31 August 2020.

The Home Office also said that it didn’t need to be notified if someone needed to stay on during the grace period.

What about now that the grace period is over? It is still possible to request additional time to stay in individual cases. The Home Office initially called this “exceptional indemnity” but it is now “exceptional assurance”. Either way, it is a weaker form of concession than outright visa extensions:


If you are granted ‘exceptional assurance’ it will act as a 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 may continue to do so during the period of your exceptional assurance. Exceptional assurance does not grant you leave.

Exceptional assurance was initially available only to those with a visa expiring up to 31 October, but has now been extended to 30 November as part of the second England-wide lockdown.

People requesting exceptional indemnity/assurance need to fill in an online form to explain why they can’t leave by 30 November. If the form isn’t working, the Home Office advises emailing [email protected]with the subject line “Request for an assurance” instead.

The guidance also allows people to apply for further leave to remain in the UK even “where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country” — provided that the application is “urgent”.

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