UK Visa applications delayed due to Covid19 pandemic

This information is for UK visa applicants outside the UK whose visa application has been delayed because of the Covid19 pandemic

If you have made an application from outside the UK for a UK visa, it is very likely that your application is now on hold and delayed due to the Covid19 (coronavirus) Pandemic. Most UK visa centres around the world are now closed and will not be reopening until the ‘lockdown’ is eased.

Naturally you will be concerned about your pending application. The Home Office (UKVI) has announced that all pending visa applications will eventually be considered once the visa processing offices return to work. They have also confirmed that no applicant will be prejudiced because of this delay.

If you’re outside the UK

All UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) are closed. For updates to the status of VACs in your country, contact:

  • TLS contact if you’re in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East
  • VFS global for all other countries

In some areas UKVI cannot send visa vignettes across borders and routes due to restrictions.

If you have an appointment and the VAC is now closed, you’ll be contacted and told your appointment will not take place.

English Testing Centres are also affected. Visit the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)’s website or contact your test centre for more information.

Getting your documents

Due to worldwide border, travel and public health restrictions it may not be possible to return your passport at this time.

If you have submitted your passport and would like it returned, you must contact the visa application centre where you logged your application to see if courier return is available in your location.  

If you are applying for a Global Talent, Start-up or Innovator visa

If your endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because you have not been able to travel to the UK you may still be eligible for a visa. You should make your application as planned and we will consider all applications on a case by case basis.

Temporary UK Visa Rules during Covid19 Lockdown

The Home Office UKVI has announced emergency measures and changes to the law relating to temporary visa holders and visitors from outside the EU who are currently in the UK. These changes take effect due to the restrictions announced by the UK Government to try to protect the public from the Covid19 pandemic.

If you’re in the UK and your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020

Your visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

You must request an extension by updating your records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) if your visa is expiring and you cannot leave the UK at present but are not planning to stay in the UK in the long term.

If you’re applying to stay in the UK long-term

You can apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31 May 2020. This includes applications where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country. This temporary change therefore includes those people wanting to apply under the spouse visa rules.

You’ll need to meet the requirements of the route you are applying for and pay the UK application fee.

This includes those whose leave has already been automatically extended to 31 March 2020.

You can apply online. The terms of your current leave (your current visa) will remain the same until your application is decided.

Application and Service Centres in the UK

UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) and Service and Support Centres (SSCs) are temporarily closed because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

You cannot book an appointment at any UKVI office until further notice.

If you’ve already made an appointment

If you’ve already made an appointment to attend a UKVCAS or an SSC, you will be contacted to be informed that it has been cancelled. You’ll be advised when you can book a new appointment. At present the Home Office are not taking new appointments for any type of application until there is clarity from the Government on when the Covid19 restrictions may be relaxed or removed.

Your immigration status in the UK will not change as a result of you not being able to attend an appointment.

If you are on a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa and your business has been disrupted

You no longer need to employ at least 2 people for 12 consecutive months each. The 12 month period you are required to employ someone for can be made up of multiple employees across different months.

Time when your employees were furloughed will not count towards the 12 month period.

If have not been able to employ staff for 12 months in total by the time your visa expires, you will be allowed to temporarily extend your stay to give you time to meet the requirement.

If you’ve applied for a Tier 4 visa and are waiting for a decision on your application

You can start your course or studies before your visa application has been decided if:

  • your sponsor is a Tier 4 sponsor
  • you have been given a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS)
  • you submitted your application before your current visa expired and you show your sponsor evidence of this (this only applies to students renewing their student visa)
  • the course you start is the same as the one listed on your CAS
  • you have a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if required

If your application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused you must stop your course or studies.

If you’ve applied for a Tier 2 or 5 visa and are waiting for a decision on your application

You can start work before your visa application has been decided if:

  • you have been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
  • you submitted your application before your current visa expired and you show your sponsor evidence of this
  • the job you start is the same as the one listed on your CoS

If your application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused your sponsor will stop sponsoring you and you must stop working for them.

If you’re a doctor, nurse or paramedic working for the NHS

Your visa will be automatically extended by one year if it is due to expire before 1 October 2020. Family members with a visa due to expire before 1 October 2020 will also have their visa extended.

The extension is free and you will not have to pay the immigration health surcharge.

You do not need to apply. We will contact NHS employers to identify staff eligible for this extension.

We will tell you and your employer if you have received an automatic extension.

Changes to the current restrictions on the number of hours you can work or volunteer

There is no longer a limit on the number of hours you can work or volunteer each week if you work for the NHS as a doctor, nurse or paramedic and you are a:

  • tier 4 student
  • tier 2 worker and your NHS job is a second job
  • visiting academic researcher
  • holder of a short-term visa and are permitted to volunteer

If you are a pre-registration nurse in the UK

The deadline for you to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been extended to 31 December 2020.

British nationals abroad who need to apply for a passport

If your country‘s VAC is closed, you won’t be able to apply for a British passport. If you urgently need to travel to the UK, you can apply for an emergency travel document.

If you are applying for a Global Talent, Start-up or Innovator visa

If your endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because you have not been able to travel to the UK you may still be eligible for a visa. You should make your application as planned and we will consider all applications on a case by case basis.

Coronavirus Immigration Help

If you have immigration queries related to coronavirus, or any other aspect of UK Immigration Law please email us.

Telephone: 020 8401 7352 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

What does ‘furloughed worker’ mean? How do employers access the Job Retention Scheme during the Coronavirus shutdown

What does ‘furloughed worker’ mean? How do employers access the Job Retention Scheme during coronavirus

If your employer wants to access the Job Retention Scheme announced by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week to help save jobs during the Coronavirus pandemic, this guide will help them do that. If you are an employee you might want to share this guide with your employer to help them, to help you.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a series of emergency measures in the fight against Coronavirus. One of those measure is that for the first time in history, the UK Government will pay up to 80% of employees salaries, capped at a maximum £2,500 per month. All employers are able to apply to HMRC for this help.

What are furloughed workers?

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all employers in the UK will be able to access support to continue paying part of employees’ salaries who would otherwise have been laid off during the ongoing health crisis.

Furloughed workers are those whose employers cannot cover staff costs due to coronavirus, and as such they have been asked to stop working, but have not been made redundant.

These employers are now able to get support to continue paying part of their staff’s wages, to avoid redundancies. If you are an employee worried for your job, tell your employer about this scheme. It could save your job and also help your employer through these tough times.

How does the scheme work?

If your employer intends to access the job retention scheme, they should first discuss with you becoming classified as a furloughed worker. This means that you are being kept on your employer’s payroll, rather than being laid off. However; you would not be attending the workplace or carrying out all your usual duties.

To qualify for this scheme, you should not undertake work for your employer while you are furloughed, according to gov.uk.

By doing so, this allows your employer to claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month, per employee. The employer is not under a duty to pay you the remaining balance of 20%, although if they do so, it will not affect your entitlement. That part is up to your employer. During this time you, the employee, would remain employed.

If your salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit.

The scheme will initially run for at least three months, from 1 March 2020, with all UK businesses eligible. The Chancellor has said that this scheme will be extended if necessary.

What should employers do to access the scheme?

To access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, employers will need to take the following steps:

1. Designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change – changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law.

2. Submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required). Once this portal is set up we will update this blog post with a link and further information on how to apply.

If an employer’s business needs short term cash flow support, they may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan.

Are employees still covered by the Employment Laws when furloughed?

The answer is ‘yes’. As long as an employee complies with the rules they remain protected by the employment laws. However; this does not mean that employees can do anything that breaches their employment contract whilst they are furloughed. So for example, an employee cannot take a second job whilst furloughed and they cannot set up a new business of their own either.

The scheme is designed to help employees survive through the economic hardships of the Coronavirus pandemic.

If you need further information or advice, contact us at info@solicitorsfirm.com

NHS Staff Appreciation – Covid19 – Coronavirus

Covid19 – Coronavirus Appreciation To Our NHS Community & Staff

In recognition of your ceaseless dedication to the wellbeing of all people, and your selfless devotion to the common good, we are offering free legal consultations and a free Will writing service to all front-line NHS staff for the next month (30 days from 24 March 2020).

We believe that those of you who put your lives on the line should not have the fear of legal problems and unanswered questions about your (and your family’s) future hanging over your heads.

Please email abraham@solicitorsfirm.com and info@solicitorsfirm.com with the subject line ‘NHS Front Line Staff Support‘ to access this service. Please let us have your official workplace email address where applicable, as well as your job title, place of work, and a short description of your role as a front line healthcare worker.

Your data will be treated in accordance with our firm’s confidentiality and privacy policy.

25.03.2020 UPDATE –

Whilst we want to help as many of you brave NHS staff out there, there’s a limit as to how much we can get done in a day. There has already been a tremendous response to this offer in barely 24 hours and we assure all those who have contacted us that they will receive our promised free help. However; judging by the response we will therefore treat all enquiries on a first come first served basis, and try to fit in as many of you as we can. When we reach capacity, we’ll do our best to let you all know by posting on this blog, so please keep an eye out. We thank you again for all your hard work!

Couples Islamic ceremony did NOT create a legal marriage – Court of Appeal

The marriage of a woman who wed her husband in an Islamic ceremony should not have been declared void, the Court of Appeal has ruled, in a case we say could have significant consequences for marital rights.

Her Majesty’s Attorney General v Akhter and Khan concerns a decision by Mr Justice Williams, in the family court, to pronounce a decree nisi of nullity. The couple wed in an Islamic ceremony which took place in a London restaurant in 1998. They knew the ceremony had no legal effect and intended to follow it up with a civil marriage ceremony compliant with English law, but this did not happen. 

The wife issued a divorce petition in 2016, relying on the Islamic ceremony. The husband said the couple were not legally married. The wife then relied on the presumption of marriage and, alternatively, sought a decree of nullity under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. The attorney general intervened in the proceedings and argued that the petitioner was not entitled to a decree of nullity because the ceremony was of no legal effect.

Williams said the court was justified in taking a ‘holistic view of a process rather than a single ceremony’ and ruled that the wife was entitled to a decree of nullity.

However, in a judgment handed down today, the appeal court said the ceremony did not create a void marriage because it was a non-qualifying ceremony. ‘The parties were not marrying “under the provisions” of part II of the 1949 Marriage Act. The ceremony itself would have been permitted under section 44 if it had met the requirements of the law and had been performed in a registered building, but it was not. In addition, no notice had been given to the superintendent registrar, no certificates had been issued, and no registrar or authorised person was present at the ceremony. It was not, therefore, a marriage within the scope of, in particular, the provisions of section 26 of the 1949 act. We would also add that the parties knew that the ceremony had no legal effect and that they would need to undertake another ceremony which complied with the requirements of the 1949 act if they were to be validly married,’ the appeal court said.

The ruling has prompted calls for marriage laws to be updated. It is an unfortunate fact that every year thousands of women, usually muslim women, take part in these types of ceremonies and believe that they are legally married. Only when the relationship sours do they discover, to their shock and amazement, that they are not legally married and that the protections that the law gives to married women do not apply to them. Due to this, these women will miss out on a fair division of their husband’s assets and will have no rights of inheritance.

The previous High Court decision had given long needed hope to many women who are going through matrimonial breakdown with their Muslim husband’s, only to discover the English law does not recognise their marriage at all. However; today’s judgement, as unwelcome as it is, confirms the old position that these women will not be protected by the courts, unless the law of the land is changed. The only body who has the power to change the law is Parliament, which will need to pass a new law to help protect these women.

The issue being discussed here relates only to Muslim marriages that are conducted inside England & Wales. Those Muslim couples who marry according to their Islamic beliefs abroad are almost always validly married and those marriages are legal in England. But couples who actually have their marriage ceremony in England or Wales without a proper registration with the Registrar of Marriages, they are the ones affected by this decision.

Although this case involves a Muslim couple, the same law applies to any other religious couple who decide to marry in England using only their religious procedure and not the official Registrar of Marriages route.

If you have questions about the validity of your marriage, you can call us on 02084017352 for advice and guidance.