The announcement - made on 24 March 2020 - provides some comfort to individuals whose visas have, or will shortly be, expired and are unable to leave the UK because of travel restrictions or because they are self-isolating.
While these measures provide a welcome update to the previous guidance updated almost a month previously, individuals, their employers and sponsors will still have many questions which remain unanswered.
Individuals who are in the UK whose leave expires or has expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020 and are unable to leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus can contact the Home Office's Coronavirus Immigration Team to have their visa extended to 31 May 2020.
Individuals who were planning to stay in the UK in the long-term will - until 31 May - be permitted to apply from the UK to switch to a longer-term visa. This includes applications where the individual would normally need to return to their home country to apply.
As stated above, your visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of the travel restrictions but you must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team email to advise them of your situation.
The Coronavirus Immigration Team contact email is: CIH@homeoffice.go.uk
You should include the following information in your e-mail:
You can also telephone on 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm). Calls are free of charge.
However it is advisable to email in the first instance as clients have told us they have tried phoning and have been kept on hold for up to 3 hours.
If you are in the UK in an immigration category that does not normally allow you to switch to another category you will now be able to switch and apply while you are in the UK. Under normal circumstances you would have had to return to your permanent place of residence to apply for entry clearance before returning to the UK.
You must be applying to be switching from or to a published eligible route, you will need to meet the usual visa requirements and pay the relevant application fee. You have until 31 May to submit the switching application.
You will not be regarded as an 'overstayer' or be subject to enforcement action if you are unable to attend a biometric appointment due to the coronavirus or if there are delays in processing your application.
The Home Office advise you to check www.ukvcas.co.uk for up to date advice on UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres.
Tier 4 Sponsors can offer distance learning to existing Tier 4 students in the UK or who have chosen to return overseas but wish to continue their current studies. Tier 4 sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship in these circumstances.
New international students who have been issued a Tier 4 visa but have been unable to travel to the UK are permitted to undertake distance learning and their sponsorship does not need to be withdrawn.
New international students who have not yet applied for a visa but wish to start a course by distance learning do not need to travel to the UK to do so and therefore do not require sponsorship under Tier 4.
The Home Office is aware that many workers sponsored under Tiers 2 and 5 are now working from home rather than their normal workplace due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tiers 2 and 5 sponsors are normally required to notify the Home Office of such changes of circumstances. However due to the current exceptional situation the Home Office will not require sponsors to do so if the working from home is directly related to the pandemic.
The above arrangements apply initially until 31 May 2020 by which date they will be reviewed.