Exceptional Assurance – COVID 19 Visa Concession

Covid-19 has changed many people’s plans in the last year, and it has made things more complicated for some of those who are in the UK with a visa. The government has made several attempts to allow a little leeway for those affected by disrupted flights, and the most recent amendments come in the form of ‘Exceptional Assurance.’

What is Exceptional Assurance?

‘Exceptional Assurance’ is a form of permission to stay that is being granted to those whose visas have or will expire, but who have been unable to leave the UK due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Who is it for?

It is intended to be for those who are planning to leave the UK but have been unable to. The government have stated that people should ‘take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so,’ so the Exceptional Assurance is only granted if you can provide proof that this hasn’t been possible.

For example: if someone has tried to book a flight, but has been unable to do so because of the restrictions, or has been unable to travel due to having contracted Covid-19 and needing to self isolate.

Who is not covered?

The government have also stated that people should apply to regularise their stay in the UK if they can, so this is not suitable for those who are planning to stay long term. However, if plans change, it is possible to apply for a visa when you have been granted Exceptional Assurance.

For example: if an Indian National had a Tier 4 Student Visa and had completed their studies but are unable to travel back to India due to the flight restrictions, they can apply for the Exceptional Assurance if they were planning to return home. They would not be able to apply for it if they were simply planning to apply for a further visa eg a student visa or a work permit, as in this case they should apply for the further leave to remain as usual.

How is it granted?

This leave is not automatic and you do need to apply for it. However, if you have overstayed your current visa then you may be refused the Exceptional Assurance, unless if was during a specific period (January to August 2020), as the government have stated that:

If your visa or leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 there will be no future adverse immigration consequences if you didn’t make an application to regularise your stay during this period. However, if you have not applied to regularise your stay or submitted a request for an exceptional assurance you must make arrangements to leave the UK.”

Hopefully those in the above circumstances have already contacted a UK Immigration Solicitor and either been granted Exceptional Assurance or applied for a visa. Anyone who hasn’t should do so urgently.

How do you apply?

Those wishing to apply for Exceptional Assurance should email cihassuranceteam@homeoffice.gov.uk. The header of the email should be ‘Request for an assurance’ and it should include the following:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Nationality
  • Home Office, GWF or any other reference number
  • Type of visa
  • Expiry date of visa
  • Reason for request
  • Evidence of flight or evidence showing reason you can’t leave

What are the terms?

If granted Exceptional Assurance, the terms of your current visa will continue for the period granted. The terms of your current or most recent visa will also continue while you are waiting to hear the outcome of your application.

If you are still not able to leave before the end of your Exceptional Assurance, then you are permitted to make an application for a further period. You would need to state that you are making a subsequent application and provide further evidence that you have been unable to leave.

In conclusion:

Exceptional Assurance is not a grant of leave, but simply short-term protection from the negative consequences of overstaying a visa. It is important that those who are intending to stay apply for the correct visa, and they should seek advice from an Immigration Solicitor if they are unsure. Exceptional Assurance will be useful for some in providing extra time for them to arrange travel to their home country.

Please feel free to share and comment to raise awareness of these changes. Also, if you have been affected by any of these immigration rule changes and need a quick chat with a UK Immigration Solicitor, do not hesitate to contact Tito Mbariti for a free one-off, no-obligation general immigration advice consultation via either phone, WeChat, Facetime or Skype. 

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