UK Now under “Lock Down“
UK is now under lockdown for next three weeks from tonight (23th March 2020) with Prime Minister issuing a press conference ordering UK citizens to stay in their homes in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus. measures includes :
- A ban to all but essential travel in the UK.
- A ban to public gatherings for more than two people: including: weddings, churches and baptism etc.
- Non-essential shop e.g. clothes shop, to be closed immediately.
This is lockdown is affecting everyone in UK, and of course essential to the countries fight against this Covid-19. However, this article aims to highlight how this changes it affects UK immigration.
Travel and Flight restrictions
Please note that the increasing travel restrictions may affect you and your family, for example, since the 19th of March Australia has closed its borders to all visitors, except for citizens and permanent residents and their close family members.
A useful summary for flight restrictions is available here: flight restrictions Map. Please note that the restrictions differ from one country to another, with some countries allowing some flights to leave, but no one to come in.
The simple advice is DON’T; the UK government, through The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), has advised British people against all non-essential travel worldwide since the 17th of March 2020. This is because, apart from most travel insurance becoming invalid, you may be stuck abroad for an unknown period if the airline closes, or have to pay astronomic amounts of money to get a seat on the few flights available, if you wait until the borders are shut.
So remember, if you are in UK and thinking of flying… don’t, unless you are happy to be stuck where ever you are going for a long while…
Travelling back to the UK:
If you are abroad and looking to get back to the UK, the UK government has advised that you DO IT NOW, while you still can. This is what the government Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab Asks Brits Abroad To ‘Return Home Now‘
The latest government Guidance for British people travelling overseas during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic :
- Contact your airline, travel company or transport provider as soon as possible for the latest information on available options.
- Plan ahead, but be prepared for your plans to change at short notice.
- If you have travel insurance, you should also contact your insurance company.
- Consider a range of options: you may need to first travel to another country to get back to the UK. Check these travel advice pages for the latest information on any travel restrictions that could affect your travel plans.
- Keep up-to-date with government travel advice, and check out social media accounts for where you are.
Please note the updated advice from the foreign office. If you can travel back to the UK, do so now before the country you are in, or the UK, impose travel restrictions that may affect you.
People in the UK – Stay Put – Stay Safe
Please note the recent published Coronavirus (COVID-19): immigration guidance.
To help foreign nationals that may now find themselves in an unexpected position, the government have introduced the following changes:
- Chinese nationals in the UK will have their visa automatically extended to the 31st of March 2020, if their visa has an expiry date between the 24th of January 2020 and the 30th of March 2020.
- Chinese nationals who are in the UK on a long-term standard visitor visa that lasts 2, 5 or 10 years, and have reached the maximum stay of 180 days between the 24th of January 2020 and the 30th of March 2020, will have their visa automatically extended to the 31st of March 2020.
- Non-Chinese and non-EEA nationals who are in the UK but normally resident in China can have their visaextended to the 31st of March 2020, subject to contacting the corona virus helpline.
- Chinese nationals who are in the UK on a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa, and want to switch to a Tier 2 General visa can now apply for this in the UK; this is different to the normal rules, which would normally require a return to China to make the application.
- Home Office to allow absence due to coronavirus for Tier 4 students or Tier 2/5 employees, without the sponsor having to report student or employee absences, as long as they are related to coronavirus and have been authorised.
- Sponsors do not now need to withdraw sponsorship if they consider there are exceptional circumstances when: a student will be unable to attend for more than 60 days or an employee is absent from work without pay for four weeks or more.
- The Home Office vowed not to take any compliance action against students or employees who are unable to attend their studies/work due to the coronavirus outbreak, or against sponsors which authorise absences and continue to sponsor students or employees despite absences for this reason.
NB: All UK Visa Application Centres in China are currently closed. Thus, you cannot apply for a UK visa or a UK Passport from China. Those who have already applied for a visa in China can request their passport from the Visa Application Centre and have it couriered back to them.One can speculate that the UK Visa center here will also be closing soon following the government recent lockdown order…
Asylum screening interview, Further submissions (Fresh Claims)
The Home Office have also cancelled any Asylum screening interviews from the 19th of March and will not be scheduling any new face to face interviews until further notice. This is in a bid to follow the government’s directive on social distancing to curb the spread of the coronavirus. It is rumoured that the Home Office are working on a new system for asylum claims to be registered, with as limited contact and travel as possible; this could include interviewing people digitally.
Also suspended have been the normal way of submitting fresh claims, which previously meant that people who wanted to submit further evidence to be considered as a fresh claim taking this evidence in person to Liverpool. The new process is to submit further evidence by post or email (including a cover letter of who you are and how the evidence you are sending relates to your case).
The details for sending the evidence are:Postal address: Further Submissions Unit
The Capital Building, Old Hall Street,
Liverpool, L3 9PP
E-mail address: CSUCE@homeoffice.gov.uk
Appeals and Judicial Reviews
Also affected are the First-tier Tribunal and The Upper Tribunal (including Judicial Reviews), as from the 25th of March no face-to-face appeal hearings will be listed. In line with the rest of the England and Wales the system is going online, with remote hearings for County Courts, High Courts and Courts of Appeal (Civil Division), including the Business and Property Courts.
Recent published Guidance on how HMCTS will use telephone and video technology during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak:
Current rules and practice in the civil and family jurisdictions continue. In tribunals, the Senior President of Tribunals is preparing Practice Directions to permit the maximum use of paper determinations and remote hearings where appropriate.
Current appeal hearings are currently being cancelled and decided by reviewing the evidence without a hearing, where possible (if both the appellant and the Home Office agree to this). If this isn’t possible, they are to use a video link. This is in line with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) update from the Lord Chief Justice
Those here Illegally; on a Visitor Visa or that don’t meet the Normal Rules
There have been rumours (fake news) and calls for an Immigration Amnesty for quite some time, but until now it has failed to materialise. If you don’t have a visa this is probably the closest that you will get to an amnesty, and now is as good a time as any to apply.
It is unlikely, although doesn’t mean they can’t try, that the Home Office would seek to remove or detain you in the current circumstances, as they can only detain you if removal is imminent.
If you are here on a visitor visa that is about to expire, but cannot get back home, get yourself a good lawyer and put in your application ASAP; you are likely at the very least to get a temporary visa while the current flight restrictions are in place. You may be able to apply for settlement if your spouse or family member are in the UK.
Also remember that, even if you don’t meet the normal rules, e.g. the financial requirements for a spouse visa due to losing your job as a result of the lockdown, there are overriding exceptions to the rules and an avenue for the Home Office to grant you a visa outside the rules if there are exceptional circumstances; what could be more exceptional than the current times we are living in?
Medical treatment for Covid-19 for all migrants in the UK (legal or otherwise)
The Mayor of London has also announced a sort of amnesty for illegal immigrants, so that they can seek medical treatment for coronavirus related illness or testing:
No charges will be made in the diagnosis or treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19). This applies to everyone, including anyone living in the UK without permission:
No charges apply to testing for COVID-19, even if the result is negative, or to any treatment provided for COVID-19 if the result is positive or up to the point that it is negatively diagnosed. The same is true of most other infectious diseases.
No immigration checks are required for overseas visitors that are known to be only undergoing testing or treatment for COVID-19.
The Government have issued specific advice and guidance on the health needs of migrant patients. NHS 111 can help you if you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do, they have access to translators if you need them.
So please don’t stay in the shadows and endanger yourself or others; seek medical treatment if you need to.
Cross Border Legal Solicitors Still here for you – Available online from the UK to any part of the world
For those in the UK, unless you are one of key workers or cannot work from home, Stay Home and Stay Safe.
Although Cross Border Legal Solicitors are currently not seeing clients physically at our offices in Leicester, we will continue to avail our services to persons from any part of the world, especially for those in the UK looking to extend their visas, and are contactable via phone, WhatsApp, WeChat or Facetime during normal working hours.