As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all UK Service Centres for Biometric fingerprinting are currently closed, and the crisis has raised a number of important issues for temporary residents of the UK in relation to their ongoing immigration status.  Some of the key issues, and answers where available, are set out below:

1. My leave to remain expires shortly but I am unable to obtain a Biometric appointment before the expiry of my current leave to remain. What should I do?

Provided that you file your online application for leave to remain prior to the expiry of your current leave to remain, you are legally allowed to remain in the UK until such time as you are able to undertake your Biometric fingerprinting and your application has been determined by the Home Office.  You are entitled to remain on the basis of your existing status with all rights attached.

However, if you leave the UK before your application is determined, your application will be deemed to be cancelled and you will have to start a UK immigration process all over again.

2. I am currently in the UK as a visitor and my right to remain expires prior to 31st May 2020. Currently I am unable to leave the UK owing to travel restrictions in my home country.  What should I do?

The UK Government has confirmed that any individual whose leave to remain or right to stay in the UK expires on or before the 31st May 2020 is entitled to apply to remain in the UK temporarily provided that they have been unable to leave the Uk because of travel restrictions .There is a requirement to complete an application form to take advantage of this opportunity.

3. I am currently in the UK as a visitor and my right to stay expires prior to 31st May 2020, and I was intending to leave the UK to apply from my home country for a Tier 2 visa. What should I do?

In your position, you are entitled to make an application to switch status in the UK prior to the 31st May 2020, provided that your prospective employer has obtained a Certificate of Sponsorship for you.  Because of the current suspension of the Service Centres, you will not be able to complete your Tier 2 visa application, but the Government has confirmed that you may commence work for your employer notwithstanding this.

If your visa application is refused, you would have to stop working for your employer immediately.

4. I am currently the holder of a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa but I am currently stranded in my home country and unable to return to the UK. As a result of this, I am going to have been outside of the UK more than 180 days in the last 12 months. Will this affect my next extension application?

The Immigration Rules state that you should not be outside the UK for more than 180 days in any rolling period of 12 months during your period of residence.  However, the Home Office does have a discretion to allow excess absences in circumstances beyond the Applicant’s control.  Although there is no specific guidance on this issue yet from the Home Office, it would be entirely unreasonable if they refused to waive the excess absences in these circumstances.

5. I am due to apply for settlement in the UK next month, but I am unable to sit the required English language test and Life in the UK test at present because all the Test Centres are shut. What should I do?

There is no clear guidance from the Home Office on this issue as yet.  However, you should ensure that you submit your online application prior to the expiry of your present visa.

You should try to  avoid booking your Biometric appointment until the Test Centres have re-opened and hopefully you have been able to pass the tests.

Although you are supposed to have met the English language and Life in the UK test requirement on the date of your online application, it would be entirely unreasonable for the Home Office to refuse your application where it was impossible for you to take the tests prior to submission.

For more information or advice please contact Partner and Head of Immigration, Graeme Kirk.