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Immigration Guidance for Individuals affected by Coronavirus travel restrictions

03.03.2020 Immigration

Marta Mendiondo

Marta Mendiondo Immigration Consultant

Where can I find the most up-to-date immigration information about COVID-19?

The Home Office has released guidance on immigration provisions for individuals affected by travel restrictions associated with coronavirus. It covers both Chinese nationals in the UK with a visa nearing its expiry, and non-Chinese, non EEA nationals normally resident in China who are currently in the UK, and British citizens currently residing in China.

There is a dedicated coronavirus immigration helpline which can be contacted on 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or by email: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk.

I am a Chinese national in the UK on a visa, what is the current advice?

Most Chinese people in the UK whose immigration status is affected by the coronavirus outbreak will get an automatic extension of their visa until 31 March 2020. Some visas will be automatically extended, but in other cases the holder will have to contact the Home Office to discuss their circumstances and arrange an extension.

If you are a Chinese national in the UK and have been compliant with the conditions of your visa prior to the coronavirus outbreak, your visa will be automatically extended to 31 March 2020 if your visa has an expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020. You will also get an automatic extension if you are in the UK on a long-term standard visitor visa that lasts 2, 5 or 10 years and you have reached the maximum stay of 180 days between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020. 

You do not need to do anything to get this extension. Your new expiry date (31 March 2020) will be added to UK Visas and Immigration’s systems. You will remain subject to the same immigration conditions attached to your visa during the extension period. 

You can also exceptionally switch from a Tier 2 Intra company transfer visa to a Tier 2 general visa if your visa expires between 24 January and 30 March 2020.

Applying for a Short Term Business Visa (STBV) to another country while in the UK is only accepted in a small number of embassies/consulates where exceptions may apply. In most cases, non UK residents cannot apply for STBVs here. 

I am a Non-Chinese, non-EEA national in the UK normally resident in China; what is the current advice? 

If you are a non-Chinese or non-EEA national in the UK but are normally resident in China and your visa in the UK has an expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020, you should contact the coronavirus immigration helpline. The team will be able to extend your visa to 31 March 2020 if you can demonstrate you are normally resident in China.

I am a Licensed Sponsor, what is the current advice?  

Licensed Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 5 sponsors will not need to report student or employee absences related to coronavirus which they have authorised due to illness, quarantine or inability to travel due to travel restrictions caused by coronavirus. If a student is unable to attend classes for more than 60 days or an employee is absent from work without pay for four weeks or more sponsors do not need to withdraw their sponsorship if they consider there are exceptional circumstances. We recommend you seek professional advice in these cases.

Can I currently apply for a Visa from China? 

It is not possible to lodge an application for a British passport or a UK visa from China at the moment. UK Visa Application Centres and Secure English Language Testing Centres (SELT) are currently closed. British citizens can apply for an emergency travel document via the British consulate. Those applicants whose passports are with the Visa Application Centres will have their documents returned by courier if possible. If this had not been arranged at submission, they should contact VFS Global directly. 

The Home Office has not released any official guidance to date with respect to other country nationals. However, at this time United Kingdom visas are not being issued to residents of Iran or to applicants who have travelled in Iran whilst the current Public Health situation exists.

What travel restrictions are in place? 

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all travel to Hubei Province. The FCO advises against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China (not including Hong Kong and Macao). The British Consulates-General in Wuhan and Chongqing are currently closed. If you are in China and able to leave, you should do so. If you are in in China and need consular support, call +86 (0)10 8529 6600 or the FCO in London on +44 (0) 207 008 1500.

The Chinese authorities continue to impose various control and quarantine measures across the country, including restrictions on movement, reduced transport, entry and exit controls for towns and villages, and isolation requirements for travel between different parts of the country. The possibility that local authorities impose mandatory quarantine in response to fresh outbreaks is high. Restrictions in place may also affect travel to Hong Kong and entry to other countries if travelling from China. 

Some countries have enforced entry bans for foreign nationals (and, in some cases, citizens too) who have visited or transited through Mainland China, Taiwan, Macau or Iraq 14 days prior to proposed arrival dates or within 2 weeks of 31 January 2020. Details can be found on the WHO or local government websites.  

For further assistance, or to check the latest developments on the coronavirus measures, contact the Immigration team at Ince.

Article authors:

Marta Mendiondo