Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents

This is advice for visa customers and applicants in the UK, visa customers outside of the UK and British nationals overseas who need to apply for a passport affected by travel restrictions associated with coronavirus.

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

Your visa will be extended to 31 July 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’ve already had your visa extended to 31 May 2020, your visa will be extended automatically to 31 July 2020.

You are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK before this date where it is possible to do so.

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 July 2020 if your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020. This includes applications where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country.

You can also apply from the UK if your leave expires after 31 July 2020 but you urgently need to make a new application, for example to start a new job or course of study, and cannot leave the UK to make an application from overseas. This includes applications to switch into a different work route or to change jobs in the same route using a new Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).

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

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

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

Application and Service Centres in the UK

Some UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) have reopened for existing customers. You can check which UKVCAS centres are open.

Service and Support Centres (SSCs) are offering a reduced number of appointments because of coronavirus. As more appointments are made available UKVI will invite you to arrange an appointment by email or post.

If you’ve given your fingerprints before

If UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) can reuse the fingerprints you’ve already given, you’ll be emailed with instructions on how to send them an image of your face and your supporting documents.

This will mean you do not have to attend a UKVCAS or an SSC service point appointment to provide biometric information.

If you cannot send the information through the instructions given, you’ll be able to book an appointment.

English language testing centres in the UK

Some English Testing Centres are resuming services. For more information on how you can book your English Language Test, contact either:

If you’ve already made an appointment

We have contacted you if you made an appointment to attend a UKVCAS or SSC that is still temporary closed to let you know it has been postponed. You’ll be contacted when you can book a new appointment.

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

If you’re 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. The 12 month period you’re required to employ someone for can be made up of multiple jobs across different months.

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

If you’ve not been able to employ staff for 12 months by the time your visa expires, you’ll be allowed to temporarily extend your stay to give you time to meet the requirement.

These arrangements will continue for applications made after 31 May 2020, where the jobs you’re relying on were disrupted due to coronavirus.

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
  • 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’ve 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 need more information about the measures in place for students and their sponsors

You can read detailed guidance on the temporary measures in place for Tier 4 sponsors, their students and short-term students in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

If you’re working for the NHS

Some health workers and their families will get their visas automatically extended because of coronavirus. The extension will apply from the date your visa is due to expire.

If your visa is due to expire after 1 October 2020, you’ll need to apply to extend your visa as usual.

These changes will apply to you if:

  • you work for the NHS or an independent health or care provider
  • your visa expires between 31 March and 1 October
  • you work as a:
    • biochemist
    • biological scientist
    • dental practitioner
    • health professional
    • medical practitioner
    • medical radiographer
    • midwife
    • nurse
    • occupational therapist
    • ophthalmologist
    • paramedic
    • pharmacist
    • physiotherapist
    • podiatrist
    • psychologist
    • social worker
    • speech and language therapist
    • therapy professional

If you’ll be working at a different NHS site than your usual place of work because of coronavirus

You can work at any NHS hospital during the coronavirus outbreak if your sponsor can maintain their sponsorship duties.

Sponsors will not need to notify UKVI of the change in your place of work.

If you do any different or extra work due to coronavirus

You can carry out supplementary work in any role at any skill level during the coronavirus outbreak. There is no restriction on the number of hours you can work.

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’re 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’re 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. If you do not pass on the first attempt, you’ll have until 31 May 2021 to pass the exam.

If you’re working on coronavirus research

If you’re a scientist researching coronavirus (COVID-19), you may be able to apply for a Global Talent visa using the UKRI endorsed funder option. Find out about the requirements for coronavirus researchers.

If you’re outside the UK

There are changes at the border because of coronavirus. Check what you need to do before you travel.

Some UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) are resuming services where local restrictions allow. Services will reopen in phases.

To support customers accessing their documents, a limited number of VACs are opening for passport return only, before resuming wider services where local restrictions allow.

The reopening of VAC locations remains subject to local circumstances. For updates to the status of VACs, including opening times in your country, check with:

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

Ongoing global restrictions mean some UKVI services will remain closed. Where services are resuming, existing customers will be contacted.

Some English Testing Centres are also resuming services. Visit the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)’s website, the Pearson Test of English website or the LanguageCert website or contact your test centre for more information on where we are reopening and how you can book your Secure English Language Test.

Getting your documents

As VACs reopen their services, we will prioritise returning customer passports.

If the VAC where you applied is still closed we will not be able to return your passport.

To support customers accessing their documents we are opening a limited number of VACs for passport returns only. Where a VAC is only open for passport return, you will not be able to submit a new application.

If your passport is in a VAC, and a decision on your application has been made, the VAC will contact you to arrange collection.

If your application has not been decided, we will not contact you to return your passport until it has. If you would like your passport returned, even if your application has not been decided, please contact the VAC to arrange collection.

To see if the VAC is open for passport return in your country, check with:

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

We are continuing to reopen more VACs where local restrictions allow and social distancing can be maintained.

British nationals abroad who need to apply for a passport

Her Majesty’s Passport Office is accepting online passport applications.

If you’re advised that you must book an appointment at your nearest VAC to submit your passport application, you should check if it’s open.

If your country’s VAC is still closed, you won’t be able to apply for a British passport until it reopens.

If you urgently need to travel to the UK, you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to discuss your options. You can also check the latest travel advice from the FCO.

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

If your endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because you’ve 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.

If your 30 day visa to work, study or join family has expired

If your 30 day visa to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired, or is about to expire, you can request a replacement visa with revised validity dates free of charge until the end of this year.

To make a request, contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre. You’ll need to include your name, nationality, date of birth and your GWF reference number with ‘REPLACEMENT 30 DAY VISA’ in the subject line. If you’ve already contacted us about this, please let us know in your email.

You’ll be contacted when our VACs reopen to arrange for a replacement visa to be endorsed in your passport. Your replacement visa will be valid for 90 days.

You will not be penalised for being unable collect your BRP while coronavirus measures are in place.

This process will be in place until the end of 2020.

The guidance is different if you applied through an enrolment location operated by Immigration New Zealand.

If you’re applying to enter the UK or remain on the basis of family or private life

There are temporary concessions in place if you’re unable to meet the requirements of the family Immigration Rules to enter or remain in the UK due to coronavirus. Up to 31 July 2020 applicants in the UK as a visitor or with leave of up to 6 months can switch into a family or private life route provided the requirements of the Immigration Rules are otherwise met.

If you’re unable to travel back to the UK due to coronavirus travel restrictions and your leave has expired, a short break in continuous residence will be overlooked. You are expected to make your next application as soon as possible.

Fiancés, fiancées or proposed civil partners

If you’re here with 6 months’ leave as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner and your wedding or civil ceremony has been delayed due to coronavirus, you can either request an extension until 31 July 2020 by updating your records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team, or apply to extend your stay for a further 6 months to allow the ceremony to take place.

Changes to the minimum income and adequate maintenance requirement

If you’ve experienced a loss of income due to coronavirus, we will consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income due to coronavirus, provided the requirement was met for at least 6 months up to March 2020.

If your salary has reduced because you’re furloughed, we will take account of your income as though you’re earning 100% of your salary.

If you’re self-employed, a loss of annual income due to coronavirus between 1 March 2020 and 31 July 2020 will generally be disregarded, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications.

If you’re unable to provide specified documents

In some cases, we will be able to decide your application without seeing certain specified documents if you cannot get them due to coronavirus. Otherwise, you may be asked to submit the specified documents after the date of application.

Changes to the English language requirement

If you’re asked to take an English language test as part of your application, you can apply for an exemption if the test centre was closed or you couldn’t travel to it due to coronavirus when you applied.

If you want to cancel your visa

Read the guidance on how to cancel your visa, immigration or citizenship application because of coronavirus.

Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre

If you have immigration queries related to coronavirus, please email the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre.

Email: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk. Your email must be in English.

You will usually get a reply within 5 working days. Do not send follow up emails - they may delay you getting a reply.

You can also call the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre. If you’ve emailed the help centre already, please do not contact them by phone.

Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

Calls to this number are free of charge within the UK.

Check call charges with your phone provider if you’re calling from abroad.

If your query doesn’t relate to immigration provisions associated with coronavirus, please contact the general immigration helpline.

Published 24 March 2020
Last updated 8 July 2020 + show all updates
  1. Added Pearson Test of English to the list of English Testing Centres.

  2. Updated process on biometric information.

  3. Added link to guidance for applicants in New Zealand who applied through an enrolment location operated by Immigration New Zealand. Added information on concessions for Global Talent visa applicants who are working on coronavirus research.

  4. Updated to clarify information for those in the UK whose visa will expire after 31 July 2020 but need to urgently make a new application.

  5. Updated to clarify that the reopening of VAC locations remains subject to local circumstances.

  6. Updated to add information on some VACs reopening.

  7. Updated information on Service and Support Centres, English language tests, and 90 day validity of replacement visas.

  8. Added a new section on temporary concessions if you’re applying to enter the UK or remain on the basis of family or private life.

  9. Updated information if you are outside the UK, getting your documents and for British nationals abroad who need to apply for a passport.

  10. Updated section on applying for a British passport from overseas.

  11. Response times updated.

  12. Updated information on UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) and UK Visa Application Centres (VACs). Added a link to guidance on how to cancel your visa. Added a link to the latest information on changes at the border.

  13. Visa extensions for those unable to leave the UK because of coronavirus have been extended to 31 July 2020. The deadline for making an application from the UK to switch to a visa that would normally require you to apply from your home country has been extended to 31 July 2020.

  14. Updated Secure English Language Test (SELT) contact information.

  15. Updated information about calling the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre: check call charges with your phone provider if you're calling from abroad.

  16. Added further guidance for frontline health workers on working in different locations, carrying out supplementary work. The list of frontline workers affected has been expanded to include more occupations.

  17. Added information on what to do if your 30 day visa to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired or is about to expire.

  18. Added a link to coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance: Tier 4 sponsors, migrants and short-term students.

  19. Added link to Tier 2 worker guidance to explain that some NHS workers and their families will get their visas automatically extended because of coronavirus.

  20. Information added about applicants who can start work or study in the UK before their visa application has been decided.

  21. Added link to form for visa holders to update their information with the Coronavirus Immigration Team.

  22. Guidance added for NHS staff, holders of Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas and those applying for a Global Talent, Start-up or Innovator visa.

  23. UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS), Post Office enrolment services and Service and Support Centres (SSCs) are temporarily closed because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

  24. Updated to add information on the 5 working day response time for helpline emails.

  25. First published.