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COVID-19: UK Updates Immigration-Related Advice

The Home Office has introduced amendments to the special immigration guidelines. It applies to foreign citizens who cannot leave or enter the UK due to the closed borders during the pandemic.

The amendment is relevant for two categories of foreign citizens. Firstly, it concerns those who got trapped in a foreign country with their visa about to expire and who cannot go back to their home country or even cross the border because of the current situation.

Secondly, it concerns those who have lived in Great Britain for a long period of time and have been planning to apply for British citizenship and who found themselves outside the UK at the beginning of lockdown. They risk exceeding the allowed number of days they can be absent from the UK. As a rule, you cannot leave the UK for more than 90 days during the year prior to your application for citizenship and for more than 450 days during the last 5 years prior to your application.

The Home Office has issued special guidelines with the steps you need to take in such cases. First, there were a lot of exemptions: you could apply to extend your visa or switch to another visa inside the country where before it had only been possible to do abroad. However, prolonged lockdown forces authorities to to toughen the rules.

The amended guidelines say that in order to stay in Great Britain, you will need to apply for the required permission inside the country. Before you apply, make sure you comply with all visa requirements and can pay a government fee.

That means you will not be available to switch to Temporary Worker/Seasonal Worker Visa, Youth Mobility Scheme Visa, Overseas Domestic Workers and some other visa types while you are in the UK. That is to say the only possibility to apply for them is to do it from outside Great Britain.

However, what should you do if you cannot leave the UK because the borders are closed and you cannot extend your visa either? The Home Office encourages you to apply for a so-called exceptional assurance that will allow you to stay in the country until the situation is back to normal. To do that, you will need to prove that you have taken all possible steps to leave the UK by the required date but failed to do so due to external factors, and not because you did not want to.

Once you obtain the exceptional assurance, you will need to comply with all the rules, permissions and restrictions imposed on you by the visa you had before the lockdown. For instance, if you had a tourist visa, you will not be able to work or study in the UK.

Immigration and travel advice is constantly changing because of the pandemic. If you wish to know the most relevant information, feel free to contact Imperial & Legal specialists. We keep track of all the changes and will be able to provide you with complete information about the current immigration rules.

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