UK Immigration and Covid-19 - August 2021

UK Immigration and Covid-19 - August 2021

From Lila Du Plesis

UK Immigration and Covid-19 - August 2021

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The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on life in the UK in all its forms, but thanks to the vaccination programme, the worst is now over, and we hope to now look forward to some degree of normality, though always remaining conscious of taking sensible measures to protect ourselves, as it is a fact that we shall have to live with this virus side by side for years to come.


For some time commencing with the first lockdown in March 2020, UK visa centres were closed both in this country and abroad. Although applications could still be made, there was no guarantee when an appointment would be available for the taking of an applicant's biometrics. Now is quite a different story, where travel in and out of the UK can take place for the time being.


Furthermore, even if a passenger managed to obtain a visa, it was doubtful if they could travel to the UK within the 30 or 90 days permitted to take up the particular visa to enter the UK. The visa date could expire, invalidating the visa.


Many individuals have no doubt been stranded out of the UK, where their travels have been inconvenienced like never seen before. For example, people with family members in the UK who can not visit them, businessmen and women who can not travel in and out, investors who may be seeking to invest in UK financial services or real estate investment UK, alongside holidaymakers and travellers who have also most certainly felt the impacts of Covid-19. The UK was a late starter with regards to developing an effective Covid-19 strategy; however, it managed to turn it around through the development of an effective vaccination program. This has enabled the country to move back to more familiar standards of normality more rapidly than its direct neighbours in the EU and many other countries and regions in the world.


Where in-country UK visa applications were concerned, the practice developed by the home office allowing discretionary extensions of time if a passenger was unable to leave the UK, for example, to make an entry clearance application from abroad, thereby allowing in-country applications to be made which otherwise would not have been in accordance with the immigration rules to switch status.


Even today, the online exceptional assurance' scheme allows an applicant to ask for an extension of time to remain in the UK if the Covid situation in their country of return makes it difficult for them to do so. It is a free online application available to people whose permission to be in the UK expires before 30th September 2021. However, this is restricted to people who are trying to return to countries on the red or amber list.


The UK implemented a traffic light system for travellers that enforces that individuals should avoid travelling back from red list countries unless they are British citizens or residents returning to the UK. Upon arrival from a red list country, individuals must book themselves into a quarantine facility and remain there for one week to ten days. This system is still in place and states that only British citizens or returning residents are allowed to return from countries on the "red list".


For "amber list" countries, individuals must take a covid-19 test 3 days before travelling to the UK and then book and pay for a Covid - 19 test that must be taken after their arrival to the UK and also complete a passenger locator form online. 


For those applying to come to the UK from abroad, the good news is that UK visa centres are now open both inside the UK and in many locations abroad. This means that it is quite easy to get a biometrics appointment if you need to have one for a specific visa application or immigration route. 


For individuals who are worried about breaking their continuous residence in the UK because they can not make it back to apply for indefinite leave to remain, which is the same as permanent residence, don't need to concern themselves about breaking the rules as exceptions can be made based on the current COVID-19 situation and the country that they are currently stuck in. Appendix Continuous Residence now states that absences caused by travel disruption due to the pandemic will not count towards the 180-day maximum.


Certain NHS workers can get an automatic one-year extension free of charge, and spouses who apply for visas to remain, where one of the parties has loss of earnings as a result of the pandemic, six months employment income instead before the loss sustained can be taken into account.


Students unable to attend face to face classes because of the pandemic can also take advantage of long-distance teaching offered by their universities or colleges.


In general, many flights and airlines have resumed activities to the UK, so it is possible to fly in from many destinations directly (minus most or all red list countries). Nevertheless, if you are a British citizen or individual with indefinite leave to remain who is returning to the UK, then you must be prepared to meet and fulfil whatever quarantine requirements are applicable; the UK authorities do consistently check on you if you are quarantining at home for example and there can be penalties enforced if you are caught out. There have been, in fact, a number of prominent cases where individuals who returned broke the rules and were fined heavily for doing this, so do be cautious and compliant. 


If you will be travelling to the UK during COVID-19, it is best to first speak with a team of immigration solicitors to find out the correct information about your trip and how to plan it. For more info, immigration solicitors such as those at Gulbenkian Andonian Immigration Solicitors in London will be able to help to not only advise you but assist you with regards to how to fulfil current immigration requirements needed to travel to the UK.

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