The spread of Coronavirus is having a significant impact on all aspects of life globally, and the UK is no exception. Given the disruption to travel, work and study that the virus has caused, the Home Office has issued guidance to alleviate concerns that businesses and individuals may have. The guidance is short-term, and likely to change as the situation changes.
New Home Office Guidance for Tier 2, 4 and 5 Sponsors
The Home Office has relaxed the rules on reporting absences from sponsored students under Tier 4 and sponsored workers under Tiers 2 and 5, where those absences are related to the Coronavirus. The new guidance states:
Sponsors do not need to report student or employee absences related to coronavirus which they have authorised.
Sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship if they consider there are exceptional circumstances when:
- a student will be unable to attend for more than 60 days
- an employee is absent from work without pay for four weeks or more
Decisions on whether to withdraw a student from their studies or terminate an employment are for sponsors to make. The Home Office recognises the current situation is exceptional and will not 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.
Chinese Nationals and those ordinarily resident in China
In addition to the above relaxation of a sponsor’s obligations, the Home Office have also confirmed that where a Chinese National is resident in the UK under Tier 2 (ICT), with leave to remain expiring between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020, they can make an application to ‘switch’ to Tier 2 (General) from inside the UK.
The new guidance relates to Chinese Nationals and those ordinarily resident in China. It confirms that these categories of people with leave to remain in any category, who have previously been compliant with the conditions of their stay, and who have leave expiring between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020, will automatically have leave extended until 31 March 2020. No new biometric permits will be issued, and if you need to extend your leave to remain, you should do so before 31 March 2020.
If you are in China, all UK Visa Application Centres are currently closed and all Secure English Language Tests scheduled for March 2020 have been cancelled.
If your passport is with a Visa Application Centre in China, and you had requested a return by courier, this remains possible, but not in all locations. If you had not requested courier return you are advised to contact VFS Global directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Coronavirus UK Immigration Rules Updates
This guidance is subject to regular review in light of the extremely fluid situation and will be regularly updated. For example, whilst it only relates to Chinese Nationals and individuals whose country of ordinary residence it China, it may be extended to other nationalities in the coming weeks and months.
We will be posting regular updates to highlight changes to the UK Immigration Rules as a result of Coronavirus on the Insights pages of our website which can be accessed here.
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