Coronavirus and UK Immigration

Coronavirus and UK immigration

First published on 28 March 2020. Last updated 22 May 2020.

Many of our clients have expressed deep concern about their immigration circumstances, in light of the coronavirus or Covid-19. Here we look at UK Immigration and Visas’ (UKVI’s) latest guidance on coronavirus and UK immigration.


Due to the Covid-19, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised British citizens not to travel internationally, unless their travel is deemed to be essential. We have one client, a British national, who is considering travelling to Canada to be with his Canadian wife, as she is now no longer able to progress her spouse visa application

For those wishing to travel, it is important for those individuals to be aware of the latest travel information, as countries continue to review their containment measures and restrict travel. Such measures can be introduced by countries without notice and individuals can be arrested if laws around quarantine and self-isolation are not adhered to. Therefore, travellers are advised to check the latest position with your travel provider or consulate and only travel is absolutely necessary.  

Current UK visa holders unable to leave the UK

There are a number of visa holders in the United Kingdom (UK), whose UK visas are due to expire. Failure to leave the UK on or prior to the expiry of the visa will normally cause significant issues to a person’s immigration history. Our strong advice has, and always will be, to adhere to the terms of the visa. Yet, many individuals are finding it extremely difficult to secure their travel to leave the UK and travel overseas.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to flights being cancelled, and some airlines have ground flights altogether. The Home Office has fortunately recognised the difficulties facing UK visa holders in the UK and and announced, subject to UKVI guidance, that such individuals will receive an automatic extension of their visa until 31 March 2020.

On 24 March 2020, UKVI updated their guidance. The current position (as of today’s date at least), is that visa holders, with visas that are due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020, will receive an extension of their stay until 31 May 2020. Initially this had been restricted to Chinese nationals because of the extreme difficulties they faced returning to China but has now been widened.

The extension of the visa length applies to UK visa holders who cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions in place or self-isolation related to coronavirus, so this will apply to a significant number of individuals. Nevertheless, in order to fall within the provisions, UKVI advise that visa holders with visas expiring between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020, contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) so that UKVI may update their records.

As of 22 May 2020, UKVI advise that visas may be extended until 31 July 2020, for those unable to leave the UK because of Covid-19 related matters.

UKVI state that any emails sent to CIT, seeking an extension of leave, should provide the following information:

Their full name (including any middle names);

  • Their date of birth (in the following format – dd/mm/yyyy);
  • Their nationality; and
  • Their previous visa reference number.

The UK visa holder is also asked to provide an explanation as to why they cannot leave the UK and return to their home country. For example, this may be due to the closure of the border or inability to secure travel arrangements.

UKVI will acknowledge receipt of the email and go on to consider the contents. If satisfied, UKVI will inform the visa holder of the temporary extension of their visa.  

This is a helpful solution for UK visa holders facing uncertainty over the coronavirus and UK immigration status. It may be that coronavirus and UK immigration measures remain in place beyond 31 May 2020. If so, UKVI will no doubt look to extend their measures. UK visa holders that receive an extension or have a visa due to expire soon after 31 May 2020 are advised to pay close attention to any updates from UKVI.

In the interim, it is advisable for UK visa holders impacted by the coronavirus to collate and retain records of any communications with UKVI relating to the extension of their visas, and of any communications relating to cancelled travel or travel difficulties. This includes screenshots of any attempts to book their overseas travel.

UK visa holders wishing to stay in the UK long-term

UKVI had initially advised that Chinese nationals in the UK under the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa category could exceptionally switch to a Tier 2 General visa from within the UK. That is, if their UK visa was due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020.

The requirements for affected individuals to first leave the country and apply from overseas has been set aside for the present time.

On 24 March, UKVI provided coronavirus and UK immigration guidance to UK visa holders who would ordinarily return to their home countries in order to apply for leave to enter the UK under a new visa category. In light of the travel difficulties and coronavirus, UKVI advised that such visa holders may exceptionally apply to switch into a longer term immigration category from within the UK.

This option is available to UK visa holders until 31 May only and applies to individuals whose visas may have already been extended until 31 March 2020.

As of 22 May 2020, UKVI updated their guidance so that the deadline for making an application, from the UK, to switch to a visa that would normally require a person to apply from your home country has been extended to 31 July 2020

Individuals seeking to apply for a longer term visa from within the UK must ensure that they meet the visa requirements under the immigration rules, otherwise the application will fail. They must also pay the correct UK application fee and immigration health surcharge, is applicable.

Applications may be made online. However, UK applicants should note that they will not able to book a biometric appointment as per usual, as the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS), Post Office enrolment services and Service and Support Centres (SSCs) are temporarily closed due to the coronavirus.

For anyone that has submitted an application and had managed to book an appointment, or have a biometric enrolment letter, applicants will be contacted directly and told what to do next.

The terms of the individual’s current visa will continue until a decision has been made on the new application. Their immigration status will not be negatively affected as a result of their inability to attend an appointment or enrol their biometric data at a participating Post Office. It is therefore crucial that any new immigration application is properly prepared so as to avoid an adverse decision.

UK visa holders with an expired 30 day visa

When an applicant’s visa application to work, study or join a family member in the UK is approved, UKVI will issue the applicant with a visa vignette in their passport to facilitate their entry within a 30 day period. Once in the UK, the visa holder must replace the visa vignette with a Biometric Residence Permit valid for the period of leave.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, some visa holders in the UK have been unable to replace their 30 day visas with Biometric Residence Permits. If so, UKVI advise that the visa holder contact them via email to request a replacement visa. The visa holder must include the following within the email:

  • Name
  • Nationality
  • Date of birth
  • GWF reference number

The email subject line should state: ‘REPLACEMENT 30 DAY VISA’.

If the visa holder has already contacted UKVI, the email should highlight this. UKVI will respond to the email in due course with a view to issuing a replacement visa vignette in the passport.

UKVI has stated that visa holders in this situation will not be penalised because they are unable to collect the Biometric Residence Permit while social distancing measures remain in place.

The process involving the replacement of the 30 day visas will be in place until the end of 2020.

Tier 1 Entrepreneurs in the UK

On 3 April, UKVI updated their guidance to take into account the impact of Covid-19 on businesses continuity.

UKVI states that Tier 1 Entrepreneurs, whose business has been disrupted by the pandemic, will no longer need to employ at least 2 people for 12 consecutive months each.

Instead, the 12 month period that resident workers must be employed for, may be made up of multiple employees across different months.

Time during which the employees were furloughed will not count towards the 12 month period.

If the Tier 1 Entrepreneur has not been able to employ staff for 12 months in total by the time their visa expires, they may be allowed to temporarily extend their stay to enable them to meet the requirement.

It is helpful that UKVI has taken this flexible approach to Tier 1 Entrepreneurs. Normally, UKVI can be extremely rigid when applying the rules under the points based system, something we intend to cover in a later blog post.

Thinking ahead, we suggest that Tier 1 Entrepreneurs collate any data to evidence how the disruption to their business has manifested as a result of Covid-19. This may include collating published government announcements about the closure of certain sectors to better implement physical distancing, and accounts data.

Doing so now, can make the preparation of the extension or settlement application much easier, particularly if memories fade about such things with the passage of time.

Doctors, Nurses and Paramedics in the UK

For doctors, nurses and paramedics in the UK, who work for a National Health Service (NHS) employer, with visas due to expire before 1 October 2020, their visas will be automatically extended by one year. On 1 May 2020, UKVI extended this list to include some frontline health workers and their family members – see below.

UKVI will contact NHS employers directly to identity staff that are eligible for the automatic extension. UKVI will then advise the employers and eligible individuals about the new visa status.

The automatic visa extension announcements will also apply to the family members of doctors, nurses and paramedics, where the visas are due to expire before 1 October 2020.

The extension is free and UKVI state that such visa holders will not be required to pay the immigration health surcharge. Such a shame that UKVI cannot indefinitely waive the immigration health surcharge for doctors, nurses and paramedics visa holders.

In addition, doctors, nurses and paramedics, working in the NHS, will no longer have restrictions placed on this as to the number of hours that they may work or volunteer each week. This will apply if they are:

  • A Tier 4 student
  • Tier 2 worker and the NHS job is a second job
  • A visiting academic researcher
  • A holder of a short-term visa and are permitted to volunteer

UKVI have extended the deadline by which pre-registration nurses may sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). This has been extended to 31 December 2020.

On 1 May 2020, UKVI added further guidance for frontline health workers working in different locations and/or those carrying out supplementary work. The list of frontline workers affected by the guidance was also expanded to include more occupations. The list of frontline health workers is as follows:

  • Biochemist
  • Biological scientist
  • Dental practitioner
  • Health professional
  • Medical practitioner
  • Medical radiographer
  • Midwife
  • Nurse
  • Occupational therapist
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Paramedic
  • Pharmacist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Podiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Social worker
  • Speech and Language Therapist
  • Therapy professional

If an NHS/ frontline worker is unsure whether their profession is eligible, they may wish to check with their employer who will be in a better position to advise.

UK visa applicants outside of the UK

There has been little comfort for UK visa applicants awaiting a decision on their application submitted from outside the UK. Even less for UK visa applicants that are in the process of submitting their application or were due to attend a biometric appointment.

UKVI have been slow to issue coronavirus and UK immigration guidance, in the main because they are also reliant upon the third party visa application centres to process the applications in various global locations. In turn, the third party visa application centres have found themselves in a difficult position as they try to ensure the safety of their staff and members of the public.

Due to the pandemic, and mobility restrictions placed in order to control and minimise the spread, many UK visa application centres (VACs) have closed their offices. The few VACs that remain open are providing limited services. For instance, the VAC in Moscow had stayed open, though they had closed on 29 March until further notice.

Applicants waiting for a decision on their applications have been advised by UKVI to contact the relevant VAC in their location. That is:

  • TLS contact for UK visa applicants in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East; or
  • VFS global for all other locations.

Where the UK visa applicant had submitted their application and was due to attend a biometric appointment at a centre that is no longer open, the applicant will be contacted directly by TLS Contact or VFS Global and told that their appointment is no longer taking place. We have already seen this with clients that had biometric appointments scheduled in the US, Delhi, Beirut and parts of Europe. This is particularly distressing for individuals facing continued separation from their family members and we continue to assess the situation on their behalf.

In some locations, the VAC have already return the documents to the applicants as the applicant wait for information about the decision making process. Applicants concerned about their original documents or passports will have their documents returned to them by courier, if the courier service was procured and the courier routes remain open.

If the passports are currently with the VACs and the applicants would like to secure their return,  the applicants are advised to contact either TLS contact or VFS global directly. The VAC will assist the applicants in arranging a courier service for the return of the passports.

The VACs will prioritise the return of all documents once centres are reopened. Anyone that remains concerned about the passport should contact the Coronavirus Immigration Helpline.

Those entering the UK from overseas

From 8 June, those seeking to enter the UK will experience new rules due to Covid-19. The new rules apply to UK residents and visitors.

Travelers and returnees to the UK will need to provide their journey and contact details, by way of an online form prior to arriving to the UK. Proof of completion of the online form will need to be shown at the border.

Upon their arrival, the person will be expected to stay at the address provided in the online form, for an initial period of 14 days. In other words, they must self-isolate.

Providing no Covid-19 symptoms are experienced within the first 14 days, the person may stop self-isolate but must follow government guidelines relating to social and physical distancing in the UK.

They are also advised by the government to download the NHS contact tracing app, though details will be provided by the Department of Health shortly.

The new rules will be regularly reviewed by the UK government and may be subject to change. Therefore residents returning to the UK and travelers are advised to check the latest public health advice on coronavirus before traveling.

From 8 June, a person may be fined £100 if they refuse to provide their contact details, and £1,000 if they refuse to self-isolate in England and Wales. Further action may also be taken.

Enforcement measures in Scotland and Northern Ireland will be announced soon.

A person seeking entry to the UK, who refuses to complete the form and provide the address where their will self-isolate, may be refused entry into the UK. This does not apply to UK and settled nationals, though they may receive a fine for non-compliance.

Prospective UK visa applicants outside of the UK

Individuals that are preparing their applications for submission to the VAC are also experiencing uncertainty. It is presently providing very difficult to secure their English language test or Tuberculosis screening certificates. Applicants are advised to visit the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)’s website, the LanguageCert website or contact their test centre for more information.

As for UK visa holders whose visa were not activated by their travel to the UK, and whose visas have expired, UKVI suggest that the person should re-start the visa application process. So for instance, one person who had been issued with a EU Settlement Scheme family permit 6 months ago, and had not yet traveled to the UK, and can now no longer do so, will have to apply for a new family permit. It will not be possible to extend the terms of the family permit to allow her to enter the UK at a later date.

Tier 4 Students

On 20 April, UKVI provided detailed guidance relating to Tier 4 sponsors, Tier 4 students and short term students.

Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre

If you have a coronavirus and UK immigration query UKVI advise that you contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre at: [email protected]. Emails must be in English.

The Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre will typically respond to emails within 5 working days.

The Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre can also be contacted by phone on: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

Calls are free of charge from within the UK. Please do not call the team if you have already sent the team an email. This will only waste time and slow down response times.

For anyone wishing to seek clarity about their immigration status, we recommend that you seek expert immigration advice.

All the best and please stay safe!


The Coronavirus pandemic continues to have an ever increasing pervasive impact on people’s lives, be it health, the ability to work and conduct your day-to-day affairs, or UK immigration status. It is imperative in these times that individuals follow the medical advice of self-isolating and social-distancing so as to minimise the spread of the coronavirus to ourselves, our family members and wider community.

 Coronavirus and UK immigration advice will differ whether you are a UK visa holder in the UK seeking to return to your home country and cannot do so because of the pandemic; are in the UK and hope to stay longer term, or have applied for a UK visa from overseas. We have highlighted some of the steps that can be taken depending on your circumstances. We hope that the above guidance is of help and we will aim to be keep you updated during these tumultuous times.

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

If you have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice, or assistance with your application to enter or remain in the UK, feel free to contact us.

Contact us at [email protected], and visit to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs

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Coronavirus and travel restrictions


A significant number of countries around the world have introduced strict travel restrictions as they seek to control and manage the incidence of coronavirus in their locations. Here, we provide a brief summary of the latest position to help you assess your next steps.

International travel restrictions

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) assessed the novel coronavirus or Covid-19, as a pandemic. At the time, there were 118,000 cases of the virus in 114 countries. And sadly, 4,291 people had lost their lives.

Below is a brief summary of the stringent travel restrictions or border controls, that countries have introduced in order to reduce or contain the spread of coronavirus.


On March 19, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that all visitors, except for citizens and permanent residents and their close family members, would be prevented from travelling to Australia.

The Department of Home Affairs in Australia has advised Australian nationals and permanent residents against all non-essential travel at this time. For Australian nationals temporarily outside of the country, the authorities advise their citizens to return to Australia, by commercial means, as soon as possible.

For those permitted to enter the country, the Department of Home Affairs states that all entrants must self-isolate for 14 days. In particular, they advise that:

  • A person may board a domestic flight to their intended destination in Australia to self-isolate there;
  • If they are well and not symptomatic, the person may self-isolate in a hotel; and
  • If the traveller does not comply with their 14-day self-isolation requirements, they may face a range of penalties that exist in each State or Territory.

Home Affairs advise visa holders in Australia to apply for a new visa before their current visa expires. However, they may be eligible for a temporary extension or bridging visa in order to protect their immigration position until a decision is made on the visa application.

Contact should be made with Home Affairs as soon as possible.


The authorities in Bahrain have announced that it will be testing all permitted travellers to the country for the coronavirus and requesting that they undertake mandatory self-isolation for a 14-day period.

Citizens and residents have been encouraged to avoid non-essential overseas travel.


The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh announced, that with effect from midnight on 21 March, scheduled commercial passenger aircraft departing from European and other destinations, will not be authorised to land at any international airport in Bangladesh. That said, the country is servicing flights from parts of the UK.

Travel restrictions will remain in place until 31 March, though are subject to extension and change at short notice.


The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development in Canada has issued a Level 3 warning against all non-essential travel at this time, due to the coronavirus.

Travel restrictions will apply to those seeking entry to Canada who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or immediate family members of Canadian citizens, aeroplane crew members, diplomats and US citizens.

Canadian nationals may sign up to the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.


The Chinese authorities have introduced a number of coronavirus containment and quarantine measures across the country.

International travellers permitted to enter parts of China will be quarantined for 14 days and there have been restrictions placed against travel between regions.

On 13 March, the Chinese authorities issued a new order, to ensure compliance with quarantine measures aimed at preventing people spreading the virus across the country.

Anyone deemed to have failed to comply with the new containment or testing measures may face a sentence of up to three years in prison. This applies to both Chinese and overseas nationals.


The Finnish Government has declared a nationwide state of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak.

As a result, Finland has closed its borders to non-Finnish citizens and non-permanent nationals.

The international airports of Helsinki, Turku and Mariehamn will remain open for returning passengers. Border crossing places in Northern Finland to Sweden and Norway will also remain open to returning passengers.

The travel restrictions will remain in place until 13 April 2020, though measures can be extended at short notice.

In addition, the Finnish Ministry of Transport has announced the suspension of the VR passenger rail service between Finland and Russia.


On 16 March, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the closure of the country’s borders with effect from 17 March. That said, French citizens and permanent residents would be permitted to return to France.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises its citizens against all non-essential travel overseas at least until 29 March. This includes travel to the United Kingdom, though it excludes Northern Ireland.

The authorities have taken a number of strict measures to limit non-essential movement within the country, including curtailing non-essential trips and strongly requesting that residents remain in their homes, except in very limited circumstances.


On March 15, the Government of Germany advised residents against all non-essential overseas travel until at least 29 March. The restrictions apply to travel to the United Kingdom, though it excludes Northern Ireland.

Germany has seen a significant number of cases of coronavirus reported across Germany, particularly in North-Rhine Westphalia, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.  

The authorities state:

EU-citizens and citizens of Great Britain, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland and their family members will be allowed to transit through Germany to reach their home countries. The same will apply for foreigners holding a residence permit in one of these countries. Other people may be rejected entry, if they cannot provide proof of urgent reasons for their entry“.

Temporary borders controls have been introduced between Germany and France, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Denmark.


On 21 March, the Government of Ghana announced the closure of the country’s borders, with effect from 22 March. The restrictions apply to non-Ghanaian citizens and permanent residents.

Mr Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah, the Minister of Information, announced that airlines had been instructed not to allow such anyone infected with the coronavirus to embark; and also urged border posts not permit such travellers into their jurisdiction.


As of 16 March, Guatemala has introduced international travel restrictions from the UK, as well as visitors from some European countries, Canada, the United States, South Korea and Iran.


Jamaica has imposed travel restrictions on travellers from Iran, China, South Korea, Italy, Singapore, Germany, Spain, France and the UK, as a result of the coronavirus.

The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton said that anyone arriving from countries where there is community spread will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Dr Tufton stated: “We still maintain [those] restrictions… but for all other persons travelling, once they come from a country, where there is internal spread, they will be required to be quarantined.”


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recommended that Japanese nationals and residents defer all non-essential travel.

The country has also restricted travel into Japan as it seeks to control the spread of the coronavirus.


With effect from 16 March, the Malaysian authorities has shut its borders to travellers and restricted movement within the country in order to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The measures will remain in place until 31 March, though may be extended at short notice.


On March 18, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control announced that the country would be restricting entry into the country for travellers from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, the US, Norway, the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Self-isolation, for a period of at least 14 days, has introduced for nationals from high-risk countries, including many part of Europe.

On 21 March, the Government widened its restrictions by closing its international airports at Lagos and Abuja from March 23 for one month.

Sierra Leone

As with many other countries, citizens and residents of Sierra Leone have been advised to postpone any intended travel to any country, which has reported confirmed case of COVID-19, unless absolutely necessary.

For UK nationals arriving into Sierra Leone, who may not display symptoms of the coronavirus, including those travelling from countries with 50 or more confirmed cases of coronavirus, they will be required to undergo mandatory quarantine for a 14-day period.

Trinidad and Tobago

On 16 March, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the closure of the islands’ borders to overseas nationals, with the exception of permanent residents, with effect from midnight 17 March.

Nationals of Trinidad and Tobago nationals will be allowed to re-enter the country but will be subjected to quarantine for a 14-day period.

Prime Minister Dr Rowley stated: “We will cease to accept people into this country who are not nationals of this country,” adding “We are basically disconnecting ourselves…”.


The Qatari authorities have temporarily suspended overseas nationals from entering the country, until further notice.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Effective from 19 March 2020, the UAE will only allow its citizens to enter the country. All UAE residents who are abroad will not be allowed to re-enter the UAE for a period of at least two weeks, a period that could be extended.  

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) noted: “From 19 March, the UAE will temporarily suspend all visas on arrival with the exception of Diplomatic passport holders”.

In fact, as of 19 March, the UAE have restricted all visitors from entering the countries.

The UAE authorities have stated that any violation of instructions and procedures put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) will be treated as a criminal offence.

Any non-UAE nationals looking to travel to the UAE are advised to contact the UAE consular services and travel providers for the information about the latest position.

United States of America (US)

On 16 March 2020, the United States had extended their travel ban to the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland, after having initially excluded the UK from the European travel ban announced on 11 March.

And on 19 March, the US State Department had issued a Level 4 warning, the highest level possible, advising its citizens not to travel abroad. It urged Americans: “….in countries where commercial departure options remain available” and to “arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.” 

The US has suspended routine visa services in most countries. Effective 20 March 2020, the US State Department’s passport services will be limited to ” customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours”.

This has a major impact upon US citizens, particularly US citizens in the UK and those seeking to travel to or relocate to the UK.


Coronavirus has had a pervasive impact on people’s lives, be it health, the ability to work and conduct day-to-day activities, social distancing efforts and/ or the ability to freely travel. It is important to reflect on whether any planned international travel is essential, and if so, to be aware of the continuing impact of coronavirus and international travel restrictions.

 We hope that this summary provides a snapshot of the sorts of measures that countries are taking. And we strongly suggest that you check with the appropriate consular services and travel operators before undertaking any travel.

Stay safe!

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

If you have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice, or assistance with your application to enter or remain in the UK, feel free to contact us.

Contact us at [email protected], and visit to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs

You might also like: