With a climate of extreme uncertainty around international movement and migration we have endeavoured to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about visas and Coronavirus (Covid-19) below:
Will UK Visas be affected?
We have no plans to close or reduce our hours at present, and we are all set up to be able to work from home should the need arise. Even if we do end up having to work from home, one of our colleagues will be able to come to the office each day to collect any BRPs or documents arriving by post and ensure they are dealt with appropriately.
We will still be available via phone and email as normal and we are working hard to support any of our clients who are having problems with their visas related to Coronavirus. Please be assured we will continue to be available as normal throughout this difficult time, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
I have an upcoming biometric appointment, will it still go ahead?
Some visa centres around the world are currently closed and this list is constantly changing and updating, so you should check on either the VFS or TLS website (whichever is operating in your country of application) to check if your centre will still be open and what the most up to date guidance is.
For applicants in the USA standard UK visa service has currently been suspended until at least April 1st. Applicants for UK Visas are instructed to visit the Uk Visas and Immigration website for updated information, although at present no updated information is available. In the interim, VFS PAC locations across the US (bar SFO and Seattle) currently remain open for business and walk-in fees will be waived by VFS for customers seeking service.
For in country applications the current guidance from Sopra Steria is that you should not attend your appointment if you have Coronavirus or Coronavirus symptoms. In this scenario you should email firstname.lastname@example.org with COVID-19 and your UAN in the subject line, and the details of your appointment in the body of the email. You will then receive a refund.
At the time of writing (23/03/2020) these UK sites have been shut as the government has shut all libraries. Applicants attending an appointment at one of these sites will have their appointment re-booked and the government has issued a statement that nobody will be negatively affected by this.
If you have symptoms, or have Coronavirus, after your appointment, you should email email@example.com with ‘COVID-19’ and your UAN in the subject and details of your appointment.
I am required to switch my visa out of country, but am worried about international travel, are there any provisions?
In short no, not unless you are a Chinese national switching from Tier 2 ICT to Tier 2 general with a visa expiry date before the 30th of March (if you are, there is guidance available here. The government has made no other provisions for switching in country, so at the time of writing anybody hoping to switch, for example from Tier 5 to Tier 2, will be forced to make a trip to their home country and take their chances on being able to re-enter.
There are also no provisions in place for people who are unable to leave the UK due to travel restrictions and as a result overstay their visas, although they may be able to plead that this was due to circumstances ‘out of their control’.
I am due to come to the UK after making a successful out of country application, but am unable to travel. Can I delay my entry date or start date?
If you are entering as a Tier 2 migrant the government has made no provision to allow people to delay the start date on their CoS more than the currently permitted 28 days. This means that you could potentially push your start date back 28 days, then apply for a new vignette which would allow you to enter up to 2 weeks after the start date on your CoS, ultimately allowing you a 6 week extension on your start date.
We can help with this process on 1403 801 801 or at firstname.lastname@example.org so please get in touch if you are interested in delaying your entry date. Please note that it is not currently possible to delay beyond this point without cancelling your application and making a new one. We are also able to assist with this process should you need to delay your entry beyond the 6 weeks available through the above method.
I need to take IELTs or Life in the UK for my visa or citizenship application. Are these tests still going ahead?
Some centres for IELTs are closed. An up to date list is available by country here. Unfortunately there are currently no government provisions on what to do if you need to pass a test for your visa, but are unable to sit a test as test centres are closed. We will update you as soon as any further information is available. If your appointment is cancelled you should seek guidance on what to do when you are contacted about the cancellation. If this is unsuccessful, you should try to rebook for an open centre if possible.
Currently Life in the UK tests appear to be going ahead as normal, but this may be subject to change in the future.
With so much uncertainty, we would always advise you take professional advice on any issues you relating to your visa. If you are concerned about the impact of Coronavirus on your visa or your employees’ visas, or wish to get help with any aspect of the application process, please contact us at email@example.com or on 01403 801 801 for a consultation.