Following the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) first reported in Wuhan, China at the end of December 2019, a number of quarantine measures and travel restrictions have been brought into force affecting travel between China and the UK. On 17 February 2020, the Home Office published guidance for those affected by these travel restrictions, with further updates issued on 21 February 2020.
For Chinese nationals who are currently in the UK and hold a valid visa or have leave to remain, they will be granted an automatic extension until 31 March 2020, so long as they previously complied with the conditions attached to their leave. This applies to any Chinese national whose visa is due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 March 2020. As this extension is automatic, the Home Office will update their own systems without the individual needing to make an application and no new documentation (such as a vignette or BRP) will be issued. The extension of leave will mean the individual will be under the same conditions as their current leave. Individuals requiring a letter of confirmation of their extended status for any reason can contact the Home Office via their dedicated telephone helpline and email address for all coronavirus immigration related issues.
Non-Chinese nationals with residence in China will need to contact the Home Office in order to obtain an extension to their leave or visa as this will not be done automatically. They will also need to prove residence in China before the extension is given.
For any Chinese national currently in the UK on a Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visa which is expiring in the period between 24 January 2020 and 31 March 2020 and who want to switch to a Tier 2 (General) visa, they will not have to leave the country and will be able to make the application from within the UK. They will however, still need to show they meet all the relevant requirements and pay the fee.
Any Chinese national on a Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 visa who has been prevented from attending employment or studies due to quarantining, illness, or travel restrictions related to the coronavirus, will not be penalised for these absences and the Home Office will not take any compliance action against the sponsor for authorising the absences and continuing to sponsor the student or employee.
Whilst the guidance specifically caters to Chinese nationals who already have some form of leave or visa in the UK, there are provisions already in the Immigration Rules which Chinese nationals may rely on if they do not have valid leave in the UK but cannot return to China. Those who have been in the UK for a number of years may be able to make an application for limited leave to remain on the basis of their established private life in the UK, and on the basis that there are significant obstacles to re-integration into China due to the coronavirus outbreak and the current travel restrictions.
If you are a Chinese national in the UK who is worried about your immigration status and wants advice, please contact our immigration department on 033 3772 0409.
Author Aisha Ahmed is a solicitor in the Harrow immigration department where she works under the direction of director Tamana Aziz. Aisha is qualified under the Law Society Immigration & Asylum Accreditation Scheme as a Senior Caseworker, and has expertise in both business and person immigration, as well as asylum, human rights, and nationality law.
Contact Aisha on 020 3114 1165 or at email@example.com
Contact Tamana on 020 3114 1130 or at firstname.lastname@example.org