With coronavirus (or Covid-19 as it has now been officially named) continuing to cause serious disruption to travel in and out of China, the government has released a set of guidelines. The government recognises that people who ordinarily reside in China but cannot return are not to blame and are not intentionally breaching the terms of their visa.
What should I do if my visa is expiring?
If your visa expires between 24/01/2020 and 30/03/2020 your visa will automatically be extended to 31/03/2020. You will not get a new document to confirm this but it will be recorded on UKVIs systems. You will be subject to the same immigration conditions as your last visa. If you are here on a work visa, you may continue to work for example. If you require a status letter or new BRP to confirm this you can contact a dedicated coronavirus helpline.
This extension applies automatically to Chinese nationals, but if you are normally resident in China and can demonstrate this then you may also be able to contact the hotline for an extension, but this will not be applied automatically.
What should I do if I am switching visas but need to return to China to make an out of country application?
If you are switching into a Tier 2 Category which would ordinarily require you to return to China to apply, and your current visa has an expiry date between 24/01/2020 and 30/03/2020 you can apply to switch from within the UK. You still need to meet all other requirements and this is a temporary measure.
What should I do if my passport is stuck at a Visa Application Centre in China?
As the application centres are all currently closed in China, you may be able to apply for an emergency travel document if you are British and urgently need to travel. If it is not urgent, the government has promised to prioritise the return of documents as soon as the visa application centres are re-opened.
If you are Chinese or from a third country you should contact either Chinese authorities or your own consular representative in China.
Do I need to report it to the Home Office or withdraw sponsorship if my Tier 4, 2 or 5 employees or students are absent because of coronavirus?
If you are happy that the absence is due to coronavirus and you have authorised it you do not need to report this. You also do not need to withdraw sponsorship if your student is absent for more than 60 days or your employee is absent without pay for more than 4 weeks. The Home Office have indicated they will not take compliance actions against students or employees who are unable to attend because of coronavirus, or against sponsors for authorising these absences. The Home Office recognises exceptional circumstances beyond the control of either the sponsor or the employee/student.
If you have any further queries about how coronavirus might impact you, the government has also set up a free dedicated helpline at 0800 678 1767 and an email at CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk.
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