Information for students and staff about immigration including visa status, guidance for Faculties and Departments on ‘Right to Work’ checks and access to the NHS for overseas visitors.

Students

Q. Will there be any implications on my Tier 4 visa?

The Home Office recognises the exceptional circumstances of the current situation and the University will continue to sponsor a student’s Tier 4 visa during any disruption to studies as a result of the coronavirus outbreak and/or whilst continuing studies remotely. This is the case whether you are currently overseas or in the UK.  

Research students should consider whether an application for Work Away or Intermission is appropriate to their circumstances. Tier 4 sponsorship continues during an approved period of ‘Work Away’, in accordance with usual procedures. As the current circumstances are exceptional, Tier 4 sponsorship can continue during a period of intermission of up to 4 months. This timeframe will be kept under review where students are unable to attend for a longer period owing to this situation and extended if permitted within Home Office guidance. Where a disruption to studies means a research students’ submission deadline is extended past their current Tier 4 visa expiry, a visa extension may be required in future and the International Student Office can provide further guidance at the relevant time.

 

Q. My visa has or is about to expire. What do I do?

If you’re in the UK and your visa expired/expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020, your visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if you are unable to leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19). This applies to all nationalities.

This will not be applied automatically. In these circumstances, you must contact the Home Office Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT): CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk

You should provide:

  • your full name (include any middle names)
  • date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
  • nationality
  • your current visa or BRP reference number
  • why you can’t go back to your home country, for example if the border has closed

The Home Office will contact you once your visa has been extended. You will not be required to enrol biometrics or attend any further appointments.

If you meet the visa requirements to make a longer-term visa application, during these exceptional circumstances up until 31 May 2020 you will be able to apply without the need to leave the UK even where this would not usually be possible (for example, switching into another visa category from a visitor visa which normally could only be done from outside the UK).

Please note if you intend on applying for another visa inside the UK, you will have to attend a biometric appointment. However, due to the current situation, all local biometric centres will be closed for at least 6 weeks. If you already hold an appointment, Sopra Steria will automatically reschedule your appointment. Applicants who are making a new visa application in the UK should register for an account as normal when they reach this part of the online application and are asked to check the Sopra Steria website regularly for updates.

Q. Where can I get further information about my immigration status?

For student immigration matters, please contact the International Student Office.

Staff

Q. Should new members of staff recruited from outside the UK still come to the UK?

At the moment the UK border is open and flights still operate to the UK. This may be subject to change at short notice.

If a staff member/visitor has successfully gained a UK visa then they can still enter, however it is important at this stage to have practical conversations with new staff to determine if they could work from home, if required, following their arrival in the UK (see guidance on right to work checks below).

Q. Can I still apply for a visa to come to the UK?

Completing the visa process requires you to attend a local Visa Application Centres (VACs).

VFS Global, which run the VACs on behalf of the Home Office, has updates on which centres are currently open or closed, via this page here: https://www.vfsglobal.com/en/individuals/covid-19-customer-advisories.html

Also, if you are required to sit an English language test as part of your visa application, please note that many IELTS centre’s are also closing temporarily which may then affect your ability to apply. Further details are available here: https://www.ielts.org/news/2020/covid19-information-for-our-global-test-taker-community

Where possible, the Home Office will return passports currently held in VACs to customers via courier, where courier return has been requested. This will not be possible in all locations.

Q. If a non-EEA national staff member opts to remain in their home country, what will happen to their UK visa?

If the staff member either decides not to come to the UK, or is instructed not to come, their 30-day entry vignette will lapse and they would likely be required to apply for a new one to enter at a later date, where possible.

At this time, we do not know if the Home Office will issue refunds for visas which are not used. However, the Home Office are taking a pragmatic approach to his unprecedented situation, and it is likely that decisions will be made case by case once the current circumstances change.

Q. My visa has or is about to expire. What do I do?

If you’re in the UK and your visa expired/expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020, your visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if you are unable to leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19). This applies to all nationalities.

This will not be applied automatically. In these circumstances, you must contact the Home Office Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT): CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk

You should provide:

  • your full name (include any middle names)
  • date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
  • nationality
  • your current visa or BRP reference number
  • why you can’t go back to your home country, for example if the border has closed

The Home Office will contact you once your visa has been extended. You will not be required to enrol biometrics or attend any further appointments.

If you meet the visa requirements to make a longer-term visa application, during these exceptional circumstances up until 31 May 2020 you will be able to apply without the need to leave the UK even where this would not usually be possible (for example, switching into another visa category from a visitor visa which normally could only be done from outside the UK).

Please note if you intend on applying for another visa inside the UK, you will have to attend a biometric appointment. However, due to the current situation, all local biometric centres will be closed for at least 6 weeks. If you already hold an appointment, Sopra Steria will automatically reschedule your appointment. Applicants who are making a new visa application in the UK should register for an account as normal when they reach this part of the online application and are asked to check the Sopra Steria website regularly for updates.

Q. What is the situation for Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa holders?

The Home Office recognises the current situation is exceptional and will not take any compliance action against employees or visitors who are unable to attend their work due to the coronavirus outbreak.   

The Home Office have confirmed to us that we will not be required to make any onward reporting to them in respect of a reportable event where affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

However, for audit purposes, where possible please continue to notify the HR Compliance Team where such events occur (full list below) so that the individual’s file can be annotated:

  • Any grant of unpaid leave (other than statutory leave such as maternity leave, paternity leave etc.). Note: periods of unpaid leave in excess of four weeks will not terminate sponsorship, where related to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Unauthorised absences of 10 consecutive working days or more. Note: periods of self-isolation and working from home will not be treated as unauthorised for sponsorship purposes.
  • Arriving after the expected arrival date
  • Leaving employment early (dismissal or resignation). Note: must still be made a leaver on CHRIS.
  • Any changes to contractual hours
  • Any change to salary or allowances (other than increments and cost of living increases)
  • Switching immigration category inside the UK

Given the current situation, we appreciate that it may not always be possible to relay this information to the HR Compliance team, so it is only required where practically possible.

Q. What is the process for Right to Work checks?

Where a new or existing staff member is self-isolating or working from home, including where they’ve just arrived in the UK, and where a right to work check will need to be taken for pre-employment or ongoing employment purposes, the following procedure should be followed: 

  • The individual must provide a scanned copy of their passport or visa/Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). This can be as simple as taking a photo of it and sending it to their department.  
  • Where a visa/BRP is held, the department should check validity as normal. If in doubt, please contact the HR Compliance Team for verification. If circumstances permit, the department should conduct a short video call with the individual to determine they are the rightful holder. 
  • When taking a copy of the right to work check, where possible please sign and date/time as normal, and annotate the copy with the following wording: "Copy seen due to COVID-19. Agreed by HR Compliance".  If not possible to annotate due to working from home, please retain the email via which the RTW documentation was received as proof of date and time it was received.

Note: Where the individual will be working from overseas, no right to work check is required. Only if they enter the UK, would the above process then need to be followed. In these circumstances, please notify the HR Compliance Team.

Q. I’m an EEA/non-EEA visitor in the UK. Will I be charged for NHS access if I need to be treated for coronavirus?

No. The government has issued guidance on this here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-entitlements-migrant-health-guide   

In summary:

There can be no charge made to an overseas visitor for the diagnosis or treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19).

All overseas visitors, including anyone living in the UK without permission, should be aware that:

  1. No charges apply to testing for COVID-19, even if the result is negative, or to any treatment provided for COVID-19 if the result is positive or up to the point that it is negatively diagnosed. The same is true of most other infectious diseases.
  2. NHS trusts have been advised that no immigration checks are required for overseas visitors that are known to be only undergoing testing or treatment for COVID-19.

 

Q. Where can I get further information about my immigration status?

For staff immigration matters, please contact the HR Compliance Team.