Detailed guide: Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents

Home Office

March 1
00:15 2021

If youre in the UK

You are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so or apply to regularise your stay in the UK. You are allowed to access Visa and Immigration services as these are considered an essential public service and will continue to operate safely under local and national restrictions.

If you intend to leave the UK but have not been able to do so and you have a visa or leave that expires between 1 March 2021 and 31 March 2021 you may request additional time to stay, known as exceptional assurance.

Please submit your request for an exceptional assurance by emailing with the following details:

  • 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 cant leave

The subject header of your email should read Request for an assurance.

In your email you should attach evidence to show why you cannot leave the UK. For example, if you cant leave the UK because you cant find a flight before your leave/visa expires, youll need to submit a copy of a confirmed flight ticket. If you cant leave the UK because you have coronavirus, youll need to submit confirmation of your positive coronavirus test result.

During the time in which your request for exceptional assurance is pending you will continue on the conditions as per your current or most recently expired visa.

If you are granted exceptional assurance it will act as a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after your leave has expired. If conditions allowed you to work, study or rent accommodation you may continue to do so during the period of your exceptional assurance. Exceptional assurance does not grant you leave. It is a means to protect those who are unable to leave the UK due to COVID-19 restrictions and not to facilitate travel, other than to return home.

If youve already been given assurance but your circumstances have changed or youre unable to leave the UK by the assurance date previously given, you must reapply using the process above. You will need to clearly state that youre making a subsequent application. Youll be asked to provide new supporting evidence.

If you intend to stay in the UK

If you decide to stay in the UK, you should apply for the necessary permission to stay to regularise your stay. Youll be able to submit an application form from within the UK, whereas you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country.

Youll need to meet the requirements of the route youre applying for and pay the UK application fee.

The terms of your permission will remain the same until your application is decided. If you are switching into work or study routes you may be able to commence work or study whilst your application is under consideration, depending on the terms of your current permission.

You are also able to apply for leave to remain to regularise your stay if you have been issued with exceptional assurance. You must submit your application before the expiry of your exceptional assurance.

If you have overstayed your leave

If your visa or leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 there will be no future adverse immigration consequences if you didnt 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.

Application and service centres in the UK

As immigration and visa services are an essential service you can still travel to attend your appointment and enrol your biometrics.

Most UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) have reopened for existing customers. You can check which UKVCAS centres are open and book an appointment if you have not already done so.

UKVCAS Service Points are essential services and will remain open throughout the UK so customers can continue to book and attend appointments to progress their visa applications.

Service and Support Centres (SSCs) are essential services and will remain open. SSCs are offering a reduced number of appointments because of coronavirus. As more appointments are made available UKVI will invite you to arrange an appointment by email or post.

If you have been asked to enrol your biometrics at a participating Post Office branch you can travel to your nearest branch. Further details are contained in your biometric enrolment letter.

If youre a Student or Child Student applicant in the UK and have given your fingerprints before

If youre applying in the UK as a Student or Child Student (including Tier 4 student), UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may be able to reuse your fingerprints.

If UKVI can reuse the fingerprints youve already given, youll be emailed with instructions on how to send them an image of your face and your supporting documents.

This will mean you do not have to attend a UKVCAS or an SSC service point appointment to provide biometric information.

If you cannot send the information through the instructions given, youll be able to book an appointment.

English language testing centres in the UK

You can book a test at most of the approved English Testing Centres in the UK.

For more information on how you can book your English Language Test, contact either:

If youve already made an appointment

We have contacted you if you made an appointment to attend a UKVCAS that is still temporary closed to let you know it has been postponed. Youll be contacted when you can book a new appointment.

Your immigration status in the UK will not change as a result of you not being able to attend an appointment.

If you have a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa and your business has been disrupted

You no longer need to employ at least 2 people for 12 consecutive months. The 12 month period youre required to employ someone for can be made up of multiple jobs across different months but this must be equivalent to 2 full time jobs.

Time when your employees were furloughed will count towards the 12 month period if they have been paid at least 80% of their normal salary.

If youve not been able to employ staff for 12 months by the time your visa expires, youll be allowed to extend your stay for a further 2 years, if you can show:

  • youve created at least 2 jobs by the date you apply
  • youve been unable to employ staff for 12 months due to coronavirus

If you have a Start-up visa and your business has been disrupted

You can apply for additional leave of 12 months. This will allow your Start-up visa to go beyond the normal maximum 2-year period so you can continue developing your business against your agreed business plan.

You must meet the requirements of the route as normal, including being endorsed by an endorsing body. Your endorsing body must assess your business and be satisfied that reasonable progress has been made, taking into consideration the impact of coronavirus and that the business remains viable.

Your endorsing body must provide you with an endorsement letter. This must state it is an application for a temporary extension by completing the relevant sections and providing the required information, within the endorsement letter.

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