The UK government has now released immigration guidance for Chinese nationals, and others, affected by the Coronavirus travel restrictions. It was published by the Home Office and UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) on 17 February 2020.
A Coronavirus Immigration Helpline, and email address, also went live on 18 February 2020, for immigration enquiries related only to Coronavirus:
The government webpage provides information for Chinese nationals in the UK whose visa has recently expired or is about to expire. It states:
"If you are a Chinese national in the UK and have been compliant with the conditions of your visa prior to the coronavirus outbreak, your leave will be automatically extended to 31 March 2020 if your visa has an expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020.
You don’t need to do anything to get this extension.
You will be subject to the same immigration conditions as your last visa during the extension period.
You will not automatically receive a new visa or Biometric Residence Permit card.
Your new expiry date (31 March 2020) will be added to UK Visas and Immigration’s systems.
If you need a status letter confirming this extension, or a new Biometric Residence Permit with a revised expiry date, you should contact the coronavirus immigration helpline.
If you have already applied to extend your visa you don’t need to do anything.
If you are intending to apply to extend your stay in the UK before 31 March 2020 you should continue to do so."
Similar provisions are in place for non-Chinese and non-EEA nationals who are in the UK but who are normally resident in China.
Further guidance is also provided for:
- those switching to a Tier 2 category in the UK
- British nationals whose passport is at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) in China
- Chinese or third country nationals whose passport is at a VAC in China
Finally, Tier 4 sponsors have been given assurances about how to manage student absences due to the virus:
"Some Tier 4 students or Tier 2/5 employees may be prevented from attending their studies or employment due to illness, the need to serve a period of quarantine or the inability to travel due to travel restrictions caused by coronavirus.
"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.
"The Home Office will keep this under review, especially if the length of absences mean a potential repeat of period of studies become necessary."
We understand that the Home Office and UKVI will continue to monitor the situation and will assess if operational guidance or policy will require further updates in the longer term.
In the meantime, members should continue to flag specific issues directly with UKCISA so we can raise these with the Home Office / UKVI.