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30 April 2020

UK residents stranded outside the UK due to lockdown with leave about to expire

3 mins

The lockdown measures across the world are an essential step in controlling the coronavirus outbreak. But necessary as they are, the potential consequences of such a lockdown could be serious for some.

What will happen to the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of migrants who live in the UK with work permits and other types of limited leave to remain, and were outside the UK when lockdowns happened across the world?

A requirement for indefinite leave to remain and naturalisation is to have spent a certain number of days in the UK. What if, for some people, a prolonged absence due to Coronavirus takes them over the threshold? The current policies allow a degree of discretion for compelling circumstances but a specific waiver for absences due to Covid-19 would provide much-needed clarity.   

More urgently, what about the many people whose leave to remain might expire soon, and who, under normal procedures, cannot submit an application from abroad to extend their leave to remain?

The Home Office has provided an email for a Coronavirus Helpdesk. For such a significant issue however, a proper policy is required to provide clarification and inspire confidence. The Home Office has acted quickly and deftly to extend limited leave to remain for doctors, nurses and paramedics working in the UK.  It is very unfortunate that as yet there has been no policy or statement regarding UK based residents  trapped outside the UK.

Bindmans LLP represents an individual stranded outside the UK, and as the Home Office failed to respond to a request to exercise discretion in her case, took the first steps in a judicial review.

The Home Office responded to state that they are considering further policy adjustments including “a concession to continuous residence requirements for those trapped overseas due to Covid-19 travel restrictions who should be in the UK to renew their leave’.

Happily, the Home Office  confirmed ‘The customer will not be disadvantaged by the impact of Covid-19’ and said if our client is able to secure a flight to the UK after her leave expires, she should seek a visa waiver.

By publicising this we hope to assist others who may be in a similar position to our client, but we look forward to a formal policy which is much needed.

This blog was correct at time of publication and does not constitute legal advice. Anyone who might be affected by this issue should check the coronavirus website for the latest policy.

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