The Home Office has published updated guidance to its concessions which allow individuals to have their leave extended temporarily until 31 July 2020 or, if they are applying to remain in the UK under a long term immigration category, to submit the immigration application from within the UK, rather than having to return to the applicant’s home country and apply from there.
The concessions were originally limited to non-EEA nationals whose leave was due to expire between 24 January and 31 May 2020. They have now been extended to cover those whose leave expires between 24 January and 31 July 2020.
Extension of leave until 31 July 2020 for those who cannot leave the UK due to COVID-19
The Home Office previously granted a temporary extension to a person’s leave on request to those with leave expiring between 24 January and 31 May 2020 but who could not leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation because of COVID-19. This was not an automatic extension and a request had to be made.
The Home Office has now announced that those whose leave has already been extended will have their leave automatically extended further to 31 July 2020. These individuals will not need to take any action. However, those individuals who have not already requested an extension to their leave will need to submit a request for an extension.
It’s worth remembering that this concession is only for those who cannot leave the UK at present due to COVID-19 but who are not planning to stay in the UK long term. Individuals are also expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK before 31 July 2020 where it is possible to do so.
Concession to allow individuals to apply for long term immigration status from within the UK where they would normally need to leave the UK and apply from overseas
The Home Office has announced that individuals who are currently in the UK may apply from within the UK to switch to a long-term immigration category provided that their current leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020. This includes applications where the individual would usually need to apply for entry clearance from their home country.
Individuals will need to meet the requirements of the route they are applying for and pay the UK application fee.
The first concession should be used with caution but the second concession may be particularly helpful.
For example, the second concession would allow an individual whose leave is due to expire on or before 31 July 2020 to submit an application from within the UK to switch from Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) leave into Tier 2 (General). All other requirements would still need to be met though, such as undertaking the Resident Labour Market Test where required and applying for and then issuing a restricted Certificate of Sponsorship. This means that individuals will not need to travel back to their home country to submit the application and potentially face quarantine in both their home country and upon arrival back in the UK.
Although Sopra Steria immigration application centres in the UK are gradually re-opening from 1 June 2020, individuals will still face delays in being able to attend a biometric appointment to complete the processing of their applications. The centres are not currently accepting new appointments but are only re-scheduling previous appointments that were cancelled due to the lockdown.
Despite these delays, the terms of an individual’s immigration leave will usually remain the same as their current leave until their application has been decided and the Home Office has confirmed that they will not be regarded as an overstayer. However, in another helpful concession, the Home Office has confirmed that individuals who have submitted an application to switch into Tier 2 before their current leave expires may start work for the new sponsor before the application has been decided.
We recommend seeking advice before submitting an application under any of the concessions.