We wish to update you about the immigration position in light of the coronavirus infection rates and transmission worldwide and in China. To date, the number of infections in China has risen to more than 20,000 and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the crisis as a global health emergency, with at least 151 cases in 23 other countries and regions. However, the WHO has at the time of writing not described the situation as a pandemic, although experts believe that may very soon be the case. The UK now has two confirmed cases and the above statistics are likely to worsen over the coming days.
The UK government is yet to provide official guidance on how they wish to handle this matter from an immigration perspective, however, we have received news that they intend to do so in the very near future. We will update you as soon as official guidance is published in the coming days. The aim of the guidance may be to provide clarification, particularly to Chinese nationals who cannot return to China because of Coronavirus. It will also no doubt provide guidance to sponsors/ employers with applicants who are still in China and cannot come to the UK owing to the travel restrictions, among other scenarios.
We wish to remind you and emphasize that given that we do not yet have an official policy and guidance from the government, the current immigration rules obtain. This means that if your visa is due to expire or come to an end soon - including instances where your right to remain in the UK will go beyond the limits allowed under Immigration Rules - you may be viewed as an overstayer if you do not leave the country or submit a further leave to remain application. It is expected (and the government have given indications) that the Home Office will be pragmatic and reasonable when considering applicants affected. But until we receive official confirmation, we cannot predict how pragmatic they will choose to be in practice.
If you are currently affected by the current circumstances and your visa or leave to remain in the UK is about to expire or go beyond the allowed limits (particularly for holders of long-term visit visas), there is one option to consider. You could make an application to the Home Office citing that owing to the exceptional circumstances of the coronavirus outbreak, they should consider extending the visas until the circumstances change. The advantages of making the above application would be if the ‘exceptional circumstances’ application is made in time, that is, before your visa expires, then the applicant will not be considered an overstayer in the UK as you would be protected by a rule known as 3C of the Immigration Act 1971, which effectively extends the applicant’s current visa until the Home Office pass a decision. The ‘in time’ application will also help alleviate the anxieties or concerns about the official policy that the government will use, as the Home Office will most likely keep the applications pending until they release the official guidance. If you do not make a formal application, then the only option would be to hope that the Home Office will indeed be pragmatic and reasonable when they assess your future application.
If you require any help or advice in relation to the above matter, please contact us using the details below. And as promised, we will update you as soon as the government publishes its formal guidance.