On Saturday, lockdown easing in the UK will continue. Casinos and bowling alleys will reopen and small wedding receptions will be able to take place.
The picture across the rest of the world is less ‘business almost as usual’ and travel restrictions and visa issues persist for those subject to immigration control. The UK Government has put in place an ‘indemnity’ or ‘assurance’ for those stranded in the UK who are not planning on staying long term, and relaxed some switching restrictions for those that need to apply for leave to remain. But what about people stranded overseas?
My earlier blog referred to one such case, thankfully now resolved, and with the client in question reunited with family in the UK. However, it is expected that there are still many people who are stuck outside the UK whose leave to remain has expired. Local travel restrictions and visas and leave to remain expiring has prevented people from returning home to the UK. The Home Office seem not to have made any efforts to assist people stranded abroad in such circumstances and have had plenty of time to put some practical measures in place.
It is now over 3 months since my blog was posted, and there have been various updated and revisions to the UKVI policy on coronavirus. However, their advice for people outside the UK is restricted to information about visa application centres and English testing centres resuming service. Submitting a new application from abroad is not possible in some routes, and applying from abroad is time consuming. The Home Office has the discretion to extend individuals’ leave when they are abroad, which would greatly assist people who are anxious about being stranded past their leave expiry, but that discretion seems under-used, if it is used at all.
The Government should update this advice page to confirm that individuals can apply for visa waivers and provide a dedicated procedure to do so. The Home Office should be directed to exercise their discretion to extend leave for short periods to enable stranded individuals to travel back home.