14 May Your options if you are in the UK as a visitor
The UK has been in “lockdown” for 7 weeks and the PM has recently announced that people should continue to stay at home, if possible, to avoid a second wave of infections. However, what should people do, if the UK is not their home?
The Home Office’s current advice is that if a migrant is in the UK with a visa expiring between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020 and they are unable to leave the UK at present, they can request to extend their visa up until 31 May 2020. However, the Coronavirus pandemic will not likely come to its natural end on or before 31 May.
The Home Office has not yet extended the grace period, and so the question remains: what can a visitor do if they feel safer staying put in the UK rather than travelling in particular if they are deemed vulnerable?
Switch to another visa category
According to the Immigration Rules, a visitor visa holder cannot switch to any other visa category in the UK. However, the COVID-19 guidance allows people who would usually need to apply for an entry clearance visa from their home country, to apply in the UK.
For example, if you travelled to the UK to visit your partner and had planned to apply for a spouse visa or fiancé/fiancée visa on your return to your home country and then couldn’t leave the UK to apply from overseas, you can apply in the UK by 31 May 2020. This is provided that you satisfy the relevant requirements under Appendix FM.
Another example would be if you had a job interview in the UK and were subsequently offered a Tier 2 sponsorship by a UK employer, however, are unable to leave the UK to apply for entry clearance from your home country. Provided that your employer has been granted a Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship alongside the other mandatory criteria, you should be able to apply for a Tier 2 visa in the UK, before 31 May 2020.
Extend your visitor visa
Those migrants who cannot meet the requirements of any other visa category or have no plan to reside in the UK long-term, may consider extending their visitor visa by making an in-country extension application. By doing so, you would be able to stay in the UK lawfully. However, it is to be noted that the applicant’s total stay in the UK should not be more than 6 months. Only in exceptional circumstances will the Home Office grant an extension of a visitor visa and it is at the caseworker’s discretion to do so.
The online application form must be submitted before 31 May 2020, so that your immigration status can be legally extended in accordance with Section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971. The biometric appointment can be booked once the visa centres were to re-open. This may be in June, depending on when the lockdown is eased.
If the application were to be refused, this will be listed on your immigration record. It must be declared and explained in all future UK visa applications.
The application fee for an extension of leave under the visitor visa category is £993, and processing times are likely going to be in the range of 8+ weeks.