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Visas extended for those currently unable to return home due to COVID-19

25.03.2020 Immigration

Marta Mendiondo

Marta Mendiondo Immigration Consultant

Visa nationals who cannot return home due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to extend their visa. Unlike the Home Office previous guidance applicable to Chinese nationals, visa holders must contact the Home Office to have their leave extended.

The extension will apply to anyone whose leave expired after the 24 January and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation. This will last until 31 May but will be kept under regular review in case further extensions are needed.

A dedicated COVID-19 immigration team has been set up within UKVI to make the process as straightforward as possible. Anyone in this situation just needs to contact this team, via this email address CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk, to let them know their visa has expired and they will be issued with an extension.

To help those who want to apply for visas to stay in the UK long-term, the Home Office is also temporarily expanding the in-country switching provisions.

This will mean people can apply to switch routes, such as from Tier 4 (student) to Tier 2 (General Worker), whilst remaining in the UK. Some applications may take longer than usual due to COVID-19 related operational pressures.

The extension has been put in place to give these individuals peace of mind that they will not be penalised for overstaying their visa when the situation is out of their control due to COVID-19.

Those who contact the Home Office for these visa extensions will be expected to return to their home countries as soon as possible once flight and border restrictions are lifted. No immigration enforcement action will be undertaken during this time for those who email the Home Office as outlined above.

In light of the current advice on self-isolation and social distancing, the Home Office is also waiving a number of requirements on visa sponsors, such as allowing non-EU nationals here under work or study routes to undertake their work or study from home.

If you’re in the UK and your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020

Your visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

You must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) to update your records if your visa is expiring.

You should provide:

  • your full name (include any middle names)
  • date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
  • nationality
  • your previous visa reference number
  • why you can’t go back to your home country, for example if the border has closed

We’ll let you know when your request is received and when your visa has been extended.

If you’re applying to stay in the UK long-term

During these unique circumstances you’ll be able to apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31 May. This includes applications where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country.

You’ll need to meet the same visa requirements and pay the UK application fee.

This includes those whose leave has already been automatically extended to 31 March 2020.

You can apply online. The terms of your leave will remain the same until your application is decided.

If you’re outside the UK

Many UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) are closed or offering limited services.

In some areas the UK cannot send visa vignettes across some borders and routes due to border restrictions.

If you have an appointment and the VAC is now closed, you’ll be contacted and told your appointment will not take place.

English Testing Centres are also currently affected.

Getting your documents

If you’ve paid for courier return, your passport will be returned if courier routes remain open.

If your passport is currently held in a VAC and you would like it to be returned by courier, you should contact TLS or VFS directly if you haven’t already paid for courier return.

The Home Office will prioritise the return of all documents once VACs are open.

British nationals abroad who need to apply for a passport

If your country‘s VAC is closed, you won’t be able to apply for a British passport. If you urgently need to travel to the UK, you can apply for an emergency travel document.

If you need further clarification or assistance with your UK immigration matters, please contact

Article authors:

Marta Mendiondo