On 31 March 2020 the Home Secretary announced that doctors, nurses and paramedics with visas due to expire before 1 October 2020 will have them automatically extended for one year. This is estimated to apply to around 2,800 NHS staff who have Tier 2 work permits. This extension will be automatic and free of any fee or immigration health surcharge, and will also apply to the main applicant’s family members.
The Home Office has also lifted the number of hours student and trainee nurses and doctors with Tier 4 leave to remain can work during term time.
This is welcome news, and no doubt a relief to those for the doctors, nurses and paramedics whom it will benefit. It demonstrates the ability of the Home Office to respond quickly when necessary. However, controlling the coronavirus pandemic will involve many other frontline workers in the health and social care sector, and indeed keyworkers from many other sectors. There will be thousands of keyworkers in the UK with limited leave to remain that is due to expire before 1 October 2020.
The current guidance for migrants in the UK only applies to ‘visa applicants and temporary UK residents’. It confirms:
If you’re in the UK and your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020
Your visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19).
Such individuals would need to contact the new Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre to notify the Home Office. Additionally, the rules against switching into visa categories have been relaxed in recognition that people cannot return to their countries of nationality to apply.
For individuals outside the UK, the update confirms that many visa application centres are only offering limited services. Individuals planning to apply for entry clearance are instructed to contact their local visa application centre for updates.
The guidance as it is ignores the fact that there will be UK residents with limited leave to remain who are currently outside the UK, and maybe trapped there due to border closures. It is hoped that these absences will not count against them in future immigration applications.
More immediately, there will be individuals trapped outside the UK whose leave to remain will expire while they are outside the country. Under normal circumstances they would be expected to apply for entry clearance. This can be a time consuming process, and then they would have to re-start their route to settlement.
The Home Office has been quick to extend the leave to remain of specific NHS frontline workers. It remains to be seen if they will be as quick to assist other migrants whose work could be invaluable in the response to Covid-19.
This blog is for information only and does not constitute legal advice. Please refer to the linked sources. Information correct as at 3 April 2020.
All Coronavirus guidance related to immigration is accessible here:
Particularly references in this blog: