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

Taken from Home Office Website - updated 5 February 2021

If you’re 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 January 2021 and 28 February 2021 you may request additional time to stay, known as ‘exceptional assurance’.


Please submit your request for an exceptional assurance by emailing cihassuranceteam@homeoffice.gov.uk 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 can’t 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 can’t leave the UK because you can’t find a flight before your leave/visa expires, you’ll need to submit a copy of a confirmed flight ticket. If you can’t leave the UK because you have coronavirus, you’ll need to submit confirmation of your positive coronavirus test result.


If you’ve previously completed the online form to request exceptional assurance and you’re waiting on the outcome and your flight is imminent, please email the above address with the requested details. We are considering all requests and we will contact you to let you know the outcome as soon as we can. During this time, you will not be treated as an overstayer or suffer any detriment in any future immigration applications for this consideration period.


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 you’ve already been given assurance but your circumstances have changed or you’re 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 you’re making a subsequent application. You’ll 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. You’ll 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.


You’ll need to meet the requirements of the route you’re 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 didn’t 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 you’re a Student or Child Student applicant in the UK and have given your fingerprints before


If you’re 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 you’ve already given, you’ll 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, you’ll 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:

  • your test centre

  • Trinity College London

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

  • LanguageCert website

  • Pearson Test of English

If you’ve already made an appointment


We have contacted you if you made an appointment to attend a UKVCAS or SSC that is still temporary closed to let you know it has been postponed. You’ll 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’re on 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 you’re 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 you’ve not been able to employ staff for 12 months by the time your visa expires, you’ll be allowed to extend your stay for a further 2 years, if you can show:


  • you‘ve created at least 2 jobs by the date you apply

  • you’ve been unable to employ staff for 12 months due to corona

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.


If you’ve applied for a Student or Child Student visa (including Tier 4 visas) and are waiting for a decision on your application


You can start your course or studies before your visa application has been decided if:


  • your sponsor is a Student sponsor

  • you have been given a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS)

  • you submitted your application before your current visa expired and you show your sponsor evidence of this

  • the course you start is the same as the one listed on your CAS

  • you have a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if required

If your application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused you must stop your course or studies.


If you’ve applied for a work visa and are waiting for a decision on your application


This includes:


  • Skilled Worker visa

  • Health and Care Worker visa

  • Intra-company Transfer visa

  • T2 Worker visas

  • T5 Temporary Worker visas

You can start work before your visa application has been decided if:


  • you’ve been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) and either:

  • you’re applying under the Health and Care visa

  • it was assigned before 1 January 2021

  • you submitted your application before your current visa expired and you show your sponsor evidence of this

  • the job you start is the same as the one listed on your CoS

If your application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused your sponsor will stop sponsoring you and you must stop working for them. You should either leave the UK or seek to regularise your immigration status if this happens.


If your CoS is assigned from 1 January 2021 and you are not applying under the Health and Care visa, you must wait until your visa application has been granted before starting work, unless your current visa allows you to work in that job.


If you’re working for the NHS


If you work in healthcare and your visa expires between 1 October 2020 and 31 March 2021

You may be eligible for a free extension to your visa. If you’re eligible, your dependants (partner and children under the age of 18) could also get their visas extended for a year.


You and your dependants will not have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.


If your visa is due to expire after 31 March 2021, or you are changing employer, you cannot extend your visa for free.


If you’ll be working at a different NHS site than your usual place of work because of coronavirus


You can work at any NHS hospital during the coronavirus outbreak if your sponsor can maintain their sponsorship duties.


Sponsors will not need to notify UKVI of the change in your place of work.


If you do any different or extra work due to coronavirus


You can carry out supplementary work in any role at any skill level during the coronavirus outbreak. There is no restriction on the number of hours you can work.


Changes to the current restrictions on the number of hours you can work or volunteer


There is no longer a limit on the number of hours you can work or volunteer each week if you’re a:


  • Student (including Tier 4 student) working for the NHS in a list profession

  • worker with a Skilled Work, Health and Care Work, Intra-company Transfer or T2 Worker visa and your NHS job is a second job

  • visiting academic researcher

  • holder of a short-term visa and are permitted to volunteer

If you’re a pre-registration nurse or midwife on the Temporary Register in the UK


The deadline for you to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been extended to 30 September 2021. If you do not pass on the first attempt, you’ll have until 31 December 2021 to pass the exam.


If you’re working on coronavirus research


If you’re a scientist researching coronavirus (COVID-19), you may be able to apply for a Global Talent visa using the UKRI endorsed funder option.


If you’re outside the UK


If you’re planning to travel to the UK, you’ll need to make sure you comply with all travel restrictions including pre-departure testing. Please check the travel advice issued by your carrier and check what you need to do before you travel.


Applying for a visa to the UK


There are changes at the UK border because of coronavirus (COVID-19).


You’re advised to consider border control guidance and any current travel bans before you apply for a visa.


If you’re applying for a visitor visa, visit in transit or direct airside transit (DAT) visa from a country where travel to the UK is suspended, your application decision may be delayed. If your visa application is successful, you will receive your visa when suspension of travel is lifted.


If you applied for a visitor visa, visit in transit or direct airside transit (DAT) visa from a location where travel to the UK is suspended, but need to travel urgently for compassionate reasons, you can contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre (CIH) for guidance: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk.


You’ll need to use the heading ‘Visitor Visa – Urgent Travel Request’ in your email. Your email must be in English and you should provide your name, date of birth and full details of your circumstances.


Applications for visas for work, study or residence in the UK continue to be accepted from all locations but you must comply with UK border measures.


Visa Application Centres (VACs)


Most UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) have resumed services where local restrictions allow.


Priority and Super Priority services are only available in some locations. If available, you’ll be able to purchase these services when booking your appointment.


For more information, and for updates to the status of VACs, including opening times in your country, check with:

  • TLS contact if you’re in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East

  • VFS global for all other countries

Ongoing global restrictions mean some UKVI services will remain closed. Where services are resuming, existing customers will be contacted.


English language tests are available in most countries but may be temporarily suspended in some countries due to coronavirus restrictions. You can find a list of all approved test centres outside the UK. Check the SELT provider’s website to find out when tests are available and to make sure the test centre is open. Do not contact the test centre directly.

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

  • your test centre

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

  • LanguageCert

  • Pearson Test of English

  • PSI (Services) UK Ltd

Applying for a visa if your visa application centre (VAC) is closed


You can apply for a visit visa from any UK VAC. You should apply for all other UK visas from the country you’re living in.


If your VAC is closed due to coronavirus restrictions, you can apply online and select a VAC in another country worldwide to submit your application and biometrics. You’ll need to make sure you’re permitted to travel to that country beforehand.


You’ll be able to make any type of UK visa application. You must select the country where you would like to submit your biometrics at the start of your application.


This concession has been extended to 31 March 2021.


If you’ve already submitted your application through Access UK and now intend to submit your new application at a different VAC from the one selected in that application, you’ll need to make a new application and select the VAC where you’ll submit your application.

You’ll need to pay the fee associated with your new application and request a refund for your earlier application.


Getting your documents


As VACs reopen their services, we will prioritise returning customer passports.


If the VAC where you applied is still closed we will not be able to return your passport.


If your passport is in a VAC, and a decision on your application has been made, the VAC will contact you to arrange collection.


If your application has not been decided, we will not contact you to return your passport until it has. If you would like your passport returned, even if your application has not been decided, please contact the VAC to arrange collection.


To see if the VAC is open for passport return in your country, check with:

  • TLS contact if you’re in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East

  • VFS global for all other countries

We are continuing to reopen more VACs where local restrictions allow and social distancing can be maintained.


British nationals abroad who need to apply for a passport


Her Majesty’s Passport Office is accepting online passport applications.


If you’re advised that you must book an appointment at your nearest VAC to submit your passport application, you should check if it’s open.


If your country’s VAC is still closed, you won’t be able to apply for a British passport until it reopens.


If you urgently need to travel to the UK, you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to discuss your options. You can also check the latest travel advice from the FCO.


If you’re applying for a Global Talent visa


If your endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because you’ve not been able to make an application for a visa, you may still be eligible.


Your endorsement will be accepted if both:

  • it was granted on or after 24 January 2020

  • you apply for your visa before 1 January 2021

Applications that do not meet these requirements will be considered on a case by case basis.


If you’re applying for a Start-up or Innovator visa



If your endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because you’ve not been able to travel to the UK, you may still be eligible for a visa. We will consider all applications on a case by case basis.


If your 90 day visa vignette to work, study or join family has expired


If your 90 day vignette has expired, you will need to apply for a replacement by completing the online form. The cost of replacing an expired 90 day vignette is £154 and you will need to make an appointment to resubmit your biometric information.


We strongly advise that you only apply for a new visa, or apply to replace an expired vignette, when you are confident you can travel to the UK. The new vignette will be valid for a period of 90 days. If you cannot travel during this time, you may need to apply again to update your vignette.


If you have submitted an application for a replacement vignette, and are still awaiting a decision, but now no longer intend to travel, you should submit a withdrawal request at the Visa Application Centre that you applied from in order for your passport to be released back to you.


When you arrive in the UK you will not be penalised for being unable to collect your biometric residence permit (BRP) while coronavirus measures are in place.


If you’re outside the UK and your leave has expired before you are able to return


If you left the UK with valid leave before 17 March 2020 and you intended to return to the UK and make an application for Indefinite or Further Permission to Stay, but you were unable to do so before your leave expired because of travel restrictions related to coronavirus (COVID-19), please complete the online form.


Please ensure that you complete all sections of the online form accurately and include full details in each box. Submitting an incomplete and/or inaccurate form will lead to delays in assessing your request.


The information you provide will be sent to a caseworking team who will contact you to explain whether you may be eligible under the Covid Visa Concession Scheme and, if so, the next steps.


You’ll receive a confirmation email soon after submitting the form so please provide a valid email address.


You need to reply to the confirmation email within 48 hours of receiving it. If you do not reply to the confirmation email within 48 hours you must complete the form again for us to consider your request. You do not need to contact the Coronavirus Immigration Helpline or mailbox again once you have replied to the confirmation email.


Once you’ve replied you’ll receive a response. We will aim to respond to you within 10 working days.


This concession will be available until 31 March 2021.


If you’re applying to enter the UK or remain on the basis of family or private life


If you’re unable to travel back to the UK due to coronavirus travel restrictions and your leave has expired, a short break in continuous residence will be overlooked. You are expected to make your next application as soon as possible.


There will be no future adverse immigration consequences if there has been a short break of continuous residence if your leave expires between 1 March 2020 and 31 May 2021. However, if you returned to the UK and did not make a valid application to stay upon your re-entry, you must now make arrangements to leave.


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 December 2020 and 31 May 2021 you may request additional time to stay, known as ‘exceptional assurance’, by emailing cihassuranceteam@homeoffice.gov.uk.


If your leave expires after 31 October 2020, you can make your application from inside the UK where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country if either one of the following applies to you:

  • your application is urgent, for example if you have a family emergency and cannot apply from outside the UK

  • you cannot apply from outside the UK due to coronavirus

This is being kept under review.


If you’re here with 6 months’ leave as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner and your wedding or civil ceremony has been delayed due to coronavirus you may request additional time to stay, also known as ‘exceptional assurance’, by emailing cihassuranceteam@homeoffice.gov.uk and providing evidence of when your wedding or civil partnership ceremony will take place.

Otherwise, you can apply to extend your stay for a further 6 months to allow the ceremony to take place.


Changes to the minimum income and adequate maintenance requirement


If you’ve experienced a loss of income due to coronavirus up to 31 May 2021, we will consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income, provided the minimum income requirement was met for at least 6 months immediately before the date the income was lost.


If your salary has reduced because you’re furloughed we will take account of your income as though you’re earning 100% of your salary.


If you’re self-employed, a loss of annual income due to coronavirus between 1 March 2020 and 31 May 2021 will usually be disregarded, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications.


If you’re unable to provide specified documents


In some cases, we will be able to decide your application without seeing certain specified documents if you cannot get them due to coronavirus. Otherwise, you may be asked to submit the specified documents after the date of application.


Changes to the English language requirement


If you’re asked to take an English language test as part of your application, you can apply for an exemption if the test centre was closed or you couldn’t travel to it due to coronavirus when you applied.


If you want to cancel your visa


Read the guidance on how to cancel your visa, immigration or citizenship application because of coronavirus.


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