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

You are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so or apply to regularise your stay in the UK. You are allowed to access Visa and Immigration services as these are considered an essential public service and will continue to operate safely under local and national restrictions.

If you intend to leave the UK but have not been able to do so and you have a visa or leave that expires between 1 December 2020 and 31 January 2021 you may request additional time to stay, known as ‘exceptional assurance’.

Please submit your request for an exceptional assurance by emailing cihassuranceteam@homeoffice.gov.uk with the following details:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • nationality
  • Home Office, GWF or any other reference number
  • type of visa
  • expiry date of visa
  • reason for request
  • evidence of flight or evidence showing reason you can’t leave

The subject header of your email should read “Request for an assurance”.

In your email you should attach evidence to show why you cannot leave the UK. For example, if you can’t leave the UK because you can’t find a flight before your leave/visa expires, you’ll need to submit a copy of a confirmed flight ticket. If you can’t leave the UK because you have coronavirus, you’ll need to submit confirmation of your positive coronavirus test result.

If you’ve previously completed the online form to request exceptional assurance and you’re waiting on the outcome and your flight is imminent, please email the above address with the requested details. We are considering all requests and we will contact you to let you know the outcome as soon as we can. During this time, you will not be treated as an overstayer or suffer any detriment in any future immigration applications for this consideration period.

During the time in which your request for ‘exceptional assurance’ is pending you will continue on the conditions as per your current or most recently expired visa.

If you are granted ‘exceptional assurance’ it will act as a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after your leave has expired. If conditions allowed you to work, study or rent accommodation you may continue to do so during the period of your exceptional assurance. Exceptional assurance does not grant you leave. It is a means to protect those who are unable to leave the UK due to COVID-19 restrictions and not to facilitate travel, other than to return home.

If you’ve already been given assurance but your circumstances have changed or you’re unable to leave the UK by the assurance date previously given, you must reapply using the process above. You will need to clearly state that you’re making a subsequent application. You’ll be asked to provide new supporting evidence.

If you intend to stay in the UK

If you decide to stay in the UK, you should apply for the necessary leave to remain to regularise your stay. You’ll be able to submit an application form from within the UK, whereas you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country.

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

The terms of your leave will remain the same until your application is decided. If you are switching into work or study routes you may be able to commence work or study whilst your application is under consideration.

You’ll need to show your application is urgent, for example if you need to start a new job or course of study, please provide full details of this in a covering letter with your supporting documents.

You are also able to apply for leave to remain to regularise your stay if you have been issued with ‘exceptional assurance’. You’ll need to meet the requirements of the route you’re applying for, pay the UK application fee and you must submit your application before the expiry of your ‘exceptional assurance’.

If you have overstayed your leave

If your visa or leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 there will be no future adverse immigration consequences if you didn’t make an application to regularise your stay during this period. However, if you have not applied to regularise your stay or submitted a request for an exceptional assurance you must make arrangements to leave the UK.

Application and service centres in the UK

As immigration and visa services are an essential service you can still travel to attend your appointment and enrol your biometrics.

Most UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) have reopened for existing customers. You can check which UKVCAS centres are open and book an appointment if you have not already done so.

UKVCAS Service Points are essential services and will remain open throughout the UK so customers can continue to book and attend appointments to progress their visa applications.

Service and Support Centres (SSCs) are essential services and will remain open. 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 have been asked to enrol your biometrics at a participating Post Office branch you can travel to your nearest branch. Further details are contained in your biometric enrolment letter.

If you’re a Student or Child Student applicant in the UK and have given your fingerprints before

If you’re applying in the UK as a Student or Child Student (including Tier 4 student), UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may be able to reuse your fingerprints.

If 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

You can book a test at most of the approved English Testing Centres in the UK.

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 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 have 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 but this must be equivalent to 2 full time jobs.

Time when your employees were furloughed will count towards the 12 month period if they have been paid at least 80% of their normal salary.

If you’ve not been able to employ staff for 12 months by the time your visa expires, you’ll be allowed to extend your stay for a further 2 years, if you can show:

  • you‘ve created at least 2 jobs by the date you apply
  • you’ve been unable to employ staff for 12 months due to coronavirus

If you have a Start-up visa and your business has been disrupted

You can apply for additional leave of 12 months. This will allow your Start-up visa to go beyond the normal maximum 2-year period so you can continue developing your business against your agreed business plan.

You must meet the requirements of the route as normal, including being endorsed by an endorsing body. Your endorsing body must assess your business and be satisfied that reasonable progress has been made, taking into consideration the impact of coronavirus and that the business remains viable.

Your endorsing body must provide you with an endorsement letter. This must state it is an application for a temporary extension by completing the relevant sections and providing the required information, within the endorsement letter.

If you’ve applied for a Student or Child Student visa (including Tier 4 visas) 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 Student 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 work visa and are waiting for a decision on your application

This includes:

  • Skilled Worker visa
  • Health and Care Worker visa
  • Intra-company Transfer visa
  • T2 Worker visas
  • T5 Temporary Worker visas

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

  • you’ve been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) and either:
    • you’re applying under the Health and Care visa
    • it was assigned before 1 January 2021
  • 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. You should either leave the UK or seek to regularise your immigration status if this happens.

If your CoS is assigned from 1 January 2021 and you are not applying under the Health and Care visa, you must wait until your visa application has been granted before starting work, unless your current visa allows you to work in that job.

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 Student sponsors, their students and short-term students in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

If you’re working for the NHS

If you work in healthcare and your visa expires between 1 October 2020 and 31 March 2021

You may be eligible for a free extension to your visa. If you’re eligible, your dependants (partner and children under the age of 18) could also get their visas extended for a year.

You and your dependants will not have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.

If your visa is due to expire after 31 March 2021, or you are changing employer, you cannot extend your visa for free.

Find out more in the visa extensions for health workers during coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance.

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:

  • Student (including Tier 4 student) working for the NHS in a list profession
  • worker with a Skilled Work, Health and Care Work, Intra-company Transfer or T2 Worker visa 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 or midwife on the Temporary Register in the UK

The deadline for you to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been extended to 30 September 2021. If you do not pass on the first attempt, you’ll have until 31 December 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

When you arrive in the UK, you’ll need to make sure you comply with all travel restrictions including pre-departure testing. Please check the travel advice issued by your carrier and check what you need to do before you travel.

Most UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) have resumed services where local restrictions allow.

Priority and Super Priority services are only available in some locations. If available, you’ll be able to purchase these services when booking your appointment.

For more information, and 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.

English language tests are available in most countries but may be temporarily suspended in some countries due to coronavirus restrictions. You can find a list of all approved test centres outside the UK. Check the SELT provider’s website to find out when tests are available and to make sure the test centre is open. Do not contact the test centre directly.

For more information on how you can book your English Language Test, contact either:

Applying for a visa if your visa application centre (VAC) is closed

You can apply for a visit visa from any UK VAC. You should apply for all other UK visas from the country you’re living in.

If your VAC is closed due to coronavirus restrictions, you can apply online and select a VAC in another country worldwide to submit your application and biometrics. You’ll need to make sure you’re permitted to travel to that country beforehand.

You’ll be able to make any type of UK visa application. You must select the country where you would like to submit your biometrics at the start of your application.

This concession has been extended to 31 March 2021.

If you’ve already submitted your application through Access UK and now intend to submit your new application at a different VAC from the one selected in that application, you’ll need to make a new application and select the VAC where you’ll submit your application.

You’ll need to pay the fee associated with your new application and request a refund for your earlier application.

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.

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 visa

If your endorsement from an endorsing body has expired because you’ve not been able to make an application for a visa, you may still be eligible.

Your endorsement will be accepted if both:

  • it was granted on or after 24 January 2020
  • you apply for your visa before 1 January 2021

Applications that do not meet these requirements will be considered on a case by case basis.

If you’re applying for a 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. We will consider all applications on a case by case basis.

If your 90 day visa vignette to work, study or join family has expired

If your 90 day vignette has expired, you will need to apply for a replacement by completing the online form. The cost of replacing an expired 90 day vignette is £154 and you will need to make an appointment to resubmit your biometric information.

We strongly advise that you only apply for a new visa, or apply to replace an expired vignette, when you are confident you can travel to the UK. The new vignette will be valid for a period of 90 days. If you cannot travel during this time, you may need to apply again to update your vignette.

If you have submitted an application for a replacement vignette, and are still awaiting a decision, but now no longer intend to travel, you should submit a withdrawal request at the Visa Application Centre that you applied from in order for your passport to be released back to you.

When you arrive in the UK you will not be penalised for being unable to collect your biometric residence permit (BRP) while coronavirus measures are in place.

If you’re outside the UK and your leave has expired before you are able to return

If you left the UK with valid leave before 17 March 2020 and you intended to return to the UK and make an application for Indefinite or Further Permission to Stay, but you were unable to do so before your leave expired because of travel restrictions related to coronavirus (COVID-19), please complete the online form.

Please ensure that you complete all sections of the online form accurately and include full details in each box. Submitting an incomplete and/or inaccurate form will lead to delays in assessing your request.

The information you provide will be sent to a caseworking team who will contact you to explain whether you may be eligible under the Covid Visa Concession Scheme and, if so, the next steps.

You’ll receive a confirmation email soon after submitting the form so please provide a valid email address.

You need to reply to the confirmation email within 48 hours of receiving it. If you do not reply to the confirmation email within 48 hours you must complete the form again for us to consider your request. You do not need to contact the Coronavirus Immigration Helpline or mailbox again once you have replied to the confirmation email.

Once you’ve replied you’ll receive a response. We will aim to respond to you within 10 working days.

This concession will be available until 31 March 2021.

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

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.

There will be no future adverse immigration consequences if there has been a short break of continuous residence if your leave expired between 1 March 2020 and 31 August 2020. However, if you did not make a valid application to stay by 31 August 2020, you must now make arrangements to leave the UK.

If you intend to leave the UK but have not been able to do so and you have a visa or leave that expires between 1 December 2020 and 31 January 2021 you may request additional time to stay, known as ‘exceptional assurance’, by emailing cihassuranceteam@homeoffice.gov.uk.

If your leave expires after 31 October 2020, you can make your application from inside the UK where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country if:

  • your application is urgent, for example if you have a family emergency and cannot apply from outside the UK
  • you cannot apply from outside the UK due to coronavirus

This is being kept under review.

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 may request additional time to stay, also known as ‘exceptional assurance’, by emailing cihassuranceteam@homeoffice.gov.uk and providing evidence of when your wedding will take place.

Otherwise, you can 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 up to 1 January 2021, we will consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income, provided the minimum income requirement was met for at least 6 months immediately before the date the income was lost.

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 1 January 2021 will usually 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 12 January 2021 + show all updates
  1. Added information for those outside the UK whose leave has expired before they are able to return to the UK and updated information referring to the free replacement of expired vignettes.

  2. Added continuation of service notice regarding new coronavirus restrictions.

  3. Added information on Occupational Structured Clinical Examination deadline extension.

  4. Updated content under 'If you intend to stay in the UK' and 'If you’ve applied for a work visa and are waiting for a decision on your application' sections.

  5. Updated guidance.

  6. Updated content under 'If your 30 day visa to work, study or join family has expired' section.

  7. Updated information for Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Start-up visa holders.

  8. Updated to explain that the period for requesting exceptional assurance has been extended.

  9. Updated information about how to submit request for exceptional assurance because of technical difficulties with the online form.

  10. Updated to include visa extension for healthcare workers whose visa expires between 1 October 2020 and 31 March 2021.

  11. Updated UK VAC concession to 31 March 2021.

  12. Updated information to explain that overseas services will remain open but dependent on local country restrictions, and that our in-country immigration services (UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services, Service and Support Centres and English Language Test centres) will remain open. Updated 'If you’re applying to enter the UK or remain on the basis of family or private life' section to explain that the period for requesting exceptional assurance has been extended.

  13. Updated information for if you're in the UK and your visa or leave expires between 1 November and 30 November 2020. Updated 'If you’re applying to enter the UK or remain on the basis of family or private life' section to include information about the job support scheme and family emergency cases.

  14. Updated family and private visa concession and loss of income information.

  15. Updated 'Applying for a visa if your VAC is closed' to add that customers can now apply for a visit visa from any VAC.

  16. Added guidance on if you're a Tier 4 student applicant in the UK and have given your fingerprints before.

  17. Updated guidance on applying for a visa if your VAC is closed, for those who have already applied online and now wish to submit their application at a different VAC than the one they selected. Updated 'If you're in the UK' to note that if conditions allowed you to work, study or rent accommodation you may continue to do so during the period of your exceptional assurance.

  18. Updated to clarify for those whose visa or leave expires after 31 August 2020.

  19. Updated guidance on 'Applying for a visa if your VAC is closed'.

  20. Updated the 'If you’re applying to enter the UK or remain on the basis of family or private life' section. Added information on applying for a visa if your VAC is closed.

  21. Updated to add information on if your endorsement has expired for a Global Talent, Start-up or Innovator visa.

  22. Updated to add a link to the coronavirus immigration helpline contact form.

  23. Updated to reference that most UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) have resumed services where local restrictions allow.

  24. Updated to clarify for those whose visa or leave expires before 31 August 2020.

  25. Updated information if you’re in the UK and your leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020.

  26. Added information on how to request a replacement visa for if your 30 day visa to work, study or join family has expired.

  27. Added Pearson Test of English to the list of English Testing Centres.

  28. Updated process on biometric information.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

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

  32. Updated to add information on some VACs reopening.

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

  34. 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.

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

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

  37. Response times updated.

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

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

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

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

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

  45. 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.

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

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

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

  49. 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).

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

  51. First published.