Uncertainty is certainly a central part of daily life at the moment, as the world sits in a limbo, and citizens have been either encouraged, told, or made to stay at home in the hopes of stemming the spread of COVID-19.
For many migrants living in the UK, this uncertainty has been doubled by the fact that their status is made uncertain – with travel restrictions and social distancing/isolation procedures contradicting with the visa restrictions of many visa-holding individuals. Included in these individuals are international students.
Students in the UK who come from outside the EEA are usually required to hold a Tier 4 Student Visa if they want to study at a British education institution for six months or longer. This visa category falls under the UK’s Points-based system, and it requires holders to complete a certain number of learning hours according to the course they are completing. This involves attending lectures, seminars and classes, submitting physical copies of coursework, and attending exams – all activities which have been restricted, suspended or banned as part of the UK’s plans to tackle the pandemic.
So what should Tier 4 students in the UK do now? And how can they be sure they aren’t in breach of their visa deadlines and duties?
The UKVI released a statement on Wednesday which helped to answer some of these queries.
Free visa extensions
for people whose visa expired/expires between 24th January – 31st May 2020
If your Tier 4 Student visa expired or is due to expire between the period of 24th January and the 31st May the UKVI will grant a free extension if you are unable to return home. This will last until 31st May, and will be subject to review depending on how the UK’s lockdown procedures progress and shift.
This means that students due to leave who are now unable to return home because of travel restrictions will not be classed as overstayers. They will continue to retain their leave to remain until this date, or later, depending on the review.
In order to get this you must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre. It is recommended that you do this via email rather than phone, if at all possible. This is so you can retain a record of your correspondence.
If your Tier 4 Student visa expired or is due to expire between the period of 24th January and the 31st May the UKVI will grant a free extension if you are unable to return home.
When contacted them, you must provide the following information in order to be granted the extension:
- Your full name
- Your date of birth
- Your nationality
- Your visa’s reference number
- The reason you can’t go back to your home country (if the border is closed, for example)
In-country visa switching
The UKVI has also said it will allow in-country switching for routes which don’t usually allow this. For example, if you’re in the UK with a Short-term Study Visa, you will be able to switch onto a Tier 4 Student Visa from within the UK.
You still need to be able to meet all the requirements of the visa category you’re switching into. For example, if you want to switch onto a Tier 4 Visa, you need to be able to meet the maintenance grant and arrange a CAS sponsorship with an official UK institution.
if you’re in the UK with a Short-term Study Visa, you will be able to switch onto a Tier 4 Student Visa from within the UK.
Studying from home
The Home Office has also advised all UK universities who sponsor international students that they should allow students to study from home, and that this will not jeopardise their duties as a sponsor, or the student’s visa duties.
If you are concerned about how Coronavirus and travel restrictions and procedures impact you and your immigration status in the UK, call us on 020 4502 8582. Our team of immigration lawyers can help.