Since the coronavirus started just a few months ago, more than 182,000 people are known to be infected and over 7,100 deaths have been recorded. While the outbreak started in China, the bulk of cases and fatalities are now outside the country and the virus is spreading internationally.

As a migrant living in the UK, you might be wondering and quite unsure about your immigration status, especially if your visa expiration dates is between January 24th 2020 and the 30th of March. The Home Office moved to reassure people saying that most foreign citizens in the UK whose immigration status is affected by the coronavirus outbreak will get an automatic extension of their visa until 31st March 2020.

Chinese nationals in the UK whose visa has recently expired or is about to expire

Chinese nationals living in the UK may now be able to have their visas automatically extended to 31st March 2020; and for those on a long-term standard visitor visa valid for 2, 5, or 10 years with their visa expiring date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020 will also have their visas extended.

To get this extension you will not be mandated to any additional procedures or requirements, you will however, be bound to the same immigration conditions attached to your last visa extension.

In this case, you will not be issued a Biometrics Residence Permit card (BRP).

The new expiry date which is March 31st will be added to immigration systems and UK visas.

For those who intend to extend their visas in the UK, can go ahead to put in their applications for extension.

Switching to a Tier 2 category in the UK

In addition, Chinese nationals in the UK on a Tier 2 ICT visa looking to switch to a Tier 2 general may now do so in country. This eliminates the need for them to travel back to China to make the application. This is obviously in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has now engulfed most of Europe and China.

Switching to a Tier 2 general visa from a Tier 2 ICT is not usually possible without leaving the country. The normal conditions to be eligible will be to leave UK for about 1 year and reapply for a Tier 2 general visa.

 In light of the travel restrictions due to the coronavirus epidemic, the new guidance allows all Chinese nationals with a tier 2 intra company transfer visa (ICT)  in the UK (whose visa will expire from January 24th- March 30th 2020) to put in their application for a Tier 2 general visa without leaving the country.

Given the spread of the virus it is likely that the Home Office will be forced to extend visas of those affected beyond 31 March 2020 and we anticipate guidance will be updated to cover individuals from other countries and not just China.  We also expect the guidance will need to generally be much more wide-ranging to take account of such issues as right to work checks, access to healthcare, and registration with the police for immigration purposes and absences from the UK for indefinite leave to remain applications.

Does the New Guidance apply to Non-EEA/ Non- Chinese nationals?

Chinese nationals in the UK, who are normally residents of China with visa expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020, will not have their visas automatically extended in connection to the new guidance by the home office. They’ll need to contact the coronavirus immigration helpline to ask for an extension.

However, if you can provide the necessary documents to prove that you are a resident in China. your leave to remain maybe extended to 31st March 2020. You will not need additional requirements or go through procedures to get this extension, the same conditions attached to your last visa extension applies.

New guidance for Tier 4 and Tier 2/5 absences

The home office have also taken certain exceptional circumstances into consideration, cases where students and employees are prohibited from attending classes and going to their work place due to illness, and need to be quarantined for a required period of time, or situations where there are restrictions to travel/ restriction of movement in relation to the coronavirus outbreak.

Sponsors have been asked not to withdraw sponsorship from students who are unable to attend classes for more than 60 days or employees absent from work without pay for about four weeks or more due to the issue of coronavirus.  

The home office has also advised sponsors of students/workers that there is no need to report if the reason for their students or workers absence is connected to coronavirus.

British citizens in China application/collection of passports

Chinese centers for UK visa application have been reported to no longer be operational till further notice. For persons whose passports and documents are due for collection and are held up at a visa application center in China will be contacted for the collection of their documents. Documents held up in various visa application centers have been submitted to the British Embassy in Beijing, or the Consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Presently, it is not possible to put in application for a British passport from China

For urgent travels, Non- British citizens in China should contact the consular representatives in China or the Chinese Authorities to obtain a substitute travel document pending on when the visa application centers will reopen. If you intend to discuss the Home Office’s guidance on the outbreak of coronavirus and how it affects employment and immigration law in the UK, please feel free to contact one of the immigration solicitors for advice and clarity.

Author's Bio: 

Precious Nicolas is a correspondent for Reiss Edwards – an organisation of leading UK immigration solicitors. A lover of nature and media personnel who enjoys reading, research, travels and tourism. With an educational background in Journalism and mass communication gives a broad base to her approach to writing.