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Can Voluntary Departure Become Deportation

Living through a global pandemic is frightening enough if you are safe in your own home, in your own country. But for an estimated 300,000 UK travelers stranded abroad, the experience is both desperate and terrifying.

Some people can get home, but it is not quick and certainly not cheap. Marie Young, who was stranded in Auckland, New Zealand (at the time of writing it is unclear if she has returned home), told the BBC she had borrowed £1,350 for a plane ticket home because her airline had yet to refund her the amount she paid for her flight which was canceled when the country went into lockdown.

"There's a duty of care with airlines to get you home if something happens. They can't just cut and run and leave you," she says.

"I think the Government needs to put pressure on them. We're not expecting a free ride home, but we are expecting a refund from a canceled flight."

What Is The Government's Policy On Repatriating British Citizens?

The official UK government guidance is that the use of public funds to bring those stranded abroad due to Coronavirus will only be available as a last resort and will be in the form of a loan.

Unfortunately, the advice provided is rather thin and mainly consists of common sense, for example:

  • "find accommodation that is suitable for your needs
  • to keep up-to-date with our travel advice and the British embassy or high commission social media accounts.
  • keep up-to-date on the latest information from transport providers and local authorities on your departure options
  • contact your travel insurance provider: the Association of British Insurers says most providers will look to extend single trip cover for up to 60 days if you are making every effort to return home. This should ensure your emergency medical cover continues while you are unable to return
  • keep in regular contact with family and friends at home, so they know you are safe and well
  • approach family, friends, and employer for money to pay for a ticket home
  • contact charities with benevolent funds that may be able to provide financial assistance, such as those with benevolent funds. Turn2Us may provide charities to contact."

Pressure On The Government To Provide Charter Flights To Get British Nationals Home

In late March, a group of 60 cross-party MPs urged the Government to do more. As stories reached the media of British citizens stranded in countries like Nepal, Pakistan, and India, demands were made that charter flights be organised to repatriate people.

On 13 April, Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab was told by the Labour party to "urgently intervene" and help citizens get home.

Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, wrote to Mr. Raab calling for him to "get a grip" on the situation, saying among stranded citizens "there is a growing sense they have been abandoned".

"Many are running out of money or medicine, worried about their accommodation, and have no idea when or if they might be able to get a flight home."

Ms. Nandy also urged the Foreign Secretary to clamp down on airlines "charging vast sums for flights home" and refusing to refund passengers for canceled journeys.

"Where commercial flights are unavailable or unreliable, the Government must overcome its reluctance to intervene and charter flights.

"I understand the Government has concerns regarding the cost but these are British citizens, many of who have now been stranded for some time, and they must be brought home."

Charter Flights Back To The UK

The Conservative Government heeded the desperate calls for action a few days later and organised over 17 charter flights to bring British citizens home from India. Planes departed from Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bangalore, Delhi, Goa, and Mumbai.

The chartered flights were made possible through the government partnering with airlines and providing £75 million for repatriation costs.

However, 73-year-old Amrik Bola from Derby told the Guardian that the charter flights were of no use to him as he was stranded in a remote village in Punjab, eight hours from Dheli, with his wife and sister-in-law. They cannot get to the Indian capital because of the country's travel ban.

"If they've arranged those flights, why don't they think about the 15,000 people struck in Punjab? That's really bad.

"Every day we end up crying. We're sitting three of us in a room. We don't know when we will get back.

"Our family is in England, our children are in England. If we are in England, we are close to our children if something was to happen.

"What we worry about is if something was to happen to us in India they wouldn't be able to come."

In response, Acting High Commissioner to India, Jan Thompson told Business Traveller,

"We are working around the clock to arrange additional flights from locations where we know large numbers are still stranded".

UK Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon commented:

"We know this is a difficult time for British travelers and there is a great demand for these flights. This is a huge and logistically-complex operation, and we are working tirelessly with the Indian Government and state authorities to help more British travelers get home."

Charter flights have now left New Zealand, Islamabad, and Bangladesh among other countries with priority seats given to the elderly, pregnant, and those with underlying health conditions. However, passengers have had to pay significant sums of money to get home, with flights from New Zealand costing £800.

What Should You Do If You Are Stranded Abroad?

If you are currently stranded abroad, unable to reach an airport due to a lack of funds, travel restrictions, or for health reasons, the internet is your best friend. Check the official UK government website and the British Embassy or consulate website of the country you are in for updates. It is also useful to keep an eye on UK newspapers for up to date information.

If you are having visa problems in the country you are currently in, you can contact our immigration solicitors for advice on 020 3744 2797.

Keep safe and well.

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Reiss Edwards Awards

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Department For International Development
University Of Cambridge
ACQ5 Awards Award
Lexis Nexis
Three Best Rated
Department For International Development
University Of Cambridge

O.L

Andy Tieu is absolutely amazing.

As a lawyer myself I can categorically say that he knows his stuff, gentle, responsive, cares about you and not just about the money, very professional.
I mean I can go on and on!

Andy and the entire team at Reiss Edwards are amazing!

Thanks again Andy.

Kiran Sardar


I found Joe very helpful and tremendous patience which is a must in this professional as there are lots of emotions always involved in each and every case.

The way they dealt with my case during COVID19 Situation is highly appreciable. I would definitely recommend Joe D. and Anna F. Anna is an amazing lady, her patience is beyond my words.

Her hard work and professionalism have no boundaries. She is the right person for all type of cases.

Thanks to Anna and Joe for all your support and guidance which helped me fulfill my dream.

I would say Reiss Edwards is lucky to have Joe D. and Anna F. Great job Reiss Edwards.

thanks once again. Anna you’re a Gem and a Star.

Cheyam Shaked

"Anna Foley was the lawyer helping my partner obtain an EEA EFM visa. She was outstanding. Handling the case with constant correspondence over a lengthy, lockdown delayed 7-month application process. Her expert advice guided us successfully through some difficult times as a result of COVID-19. Some of the best service I have received for any service ever! Often replying to emails late at night, offering to send additional correspondence to the home office and going above and beyond in handling our case! Well done and thank you Reiss Edwards and thank you Anna!!".

Isaac .T

"Professional service. I was very impressed with the fact that my ILR application was successful 6 weeks after the submission amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. I also think the portfolio put together by the team at Reiss Edwards has played a big part in the quick turnaround of my application".

Jesse Lee

"Reiss Edwards did a great job, and so much work, for their reasonable fixed fee. I would heartily recommend them to anyone looking to secure a Visa and /or Visa renewal. I will use them again when mine needs to renew. Great value".

Majlinda Berisha

"The help, the professionalism, the kindness from this team is phenomenal. A massive thank you to Anna Foley.

I have had a really tough time with getting my husband’s visa. My last immigration lawyer made many mistakes that caused stress, disappointments and sadness.

I was weary about getting another lawyer as I thought I was going to go through the same experience but no, it turned out better than what I had hoped or even imagined.

What I received was: constant emails and calls updating me and asking if anything else is needed. If I called and they missed my phone call I would get a call back within 10 minutes. All of my documents were carefully checked and I would get a reply the next day if anything was missing or not correct. There were times that I was impatient and asked to just send the visa off, but was reminded that everything had to be perfect and correct before submitting the application. I was told about every option I had and discussed what the best would be. I was always spoke in a nice, calm, polite manner.

The overall intelligence of this team, especially Anna Foley for me, is outstanding. I am speechless. Anna done such an amazing job on my husband’s application that although we couldn’t apply for the fast service and was told to wait for 12 weeks, we got a reply within 5 weeks.

That alone shows what an amazing and talented team Reiss Edwards are. Thank you".

Christine .C

"I wholeheartedly recommend Reiss Edwards to anyone who is in search of immigration advice. I had the pleasure of speaking with Amar who has been very thorough in finding a solution to my enquiry, and followed up with additional information even after the consultation. I normally don't leave reviews, and this firm already has enough good reviews for me to need to my own anyways! However, in this instance, I do hope that my review can let anyone who reads it be aware that RE is a great choice, these people care enough to help you the best they can".

Zohaib Butt

"I had the chance to use Reiss Edwards services for my Tier 2 extension. Marija dealt with my case and I found her very professional and experienced in dealing with my application. The care and attention to detail was exceptional. I would definitely recommend Reiss Edwards!".

Quintus Liu

"Knowledgeable, experienced, and relatable. Translated a complex process into steps that are easy to follow. Cruised to 3 successive wins on my Tier 1 graduate/entrepreneurship visa which allowed us to play our part in making the UK a better and healthier place!".

Khasan Vosijonov

"Thank you, Ms. Anna Foley! I am writing this with tears of joy.

As a family, we are all grateful to Anna Foley and her firm Reiss Edwards, for doing all the hard work and giving us the best support. Finally We found the best law firm".

Saira Lawson-Brown

"Highly professional organisation and really supportive solicitors. Ina Iteva the solicitor that was provided to us was a blessing in disguise, as our first solicitor was let go off due to pandemic. She was so supportive and understanding throughout the process, and my husband spouse visa was granted due to their effort and attention to detail. We constantly try to keep in touch with her and consider her as more of a friend now than a solicitor. Sure, to bother her and the firm more in the future".

Nora Nkechi

"My Tier 1 Investor Visa was dealt with quickly and without issue. Would recommend Reiss Edwards as an Immigration law firm in London. Thank you to the team".

Deepak Chartbhurjh

"This is the only firm that i spoke with that didn't ask for money before listening to me, will be using them again. I used Reiss Edwards for my Tier 2 visa application and it was successful. The team was ever present and happy to answer my question. The caseworker that dealing with my case went on holiday yet by case did not suffer one bit. Another lawyer stepped and took over the case without any hassle".

Hakeem Salam

"I used Reiss Edwards immigration lawyers to assist with my immigration matter and that of my family. It was an EX1 application. They dealt with the matter properly and even when complications were coming up from the Home Office, they helped resolve the issue properly. They are very professional and are very popular in London. I am happy to have worked with them".

Top Notch Immigration Service

"Reiss Edwards is a top notch immigration service company. The way they handled our documentation and also the list of documents they sent was efficient and top quality. They helped us professionally throughout the process. We are very happy with the immigration advice we received from the team. We highly recommend them".

Mo Hussein

"I have been using Reiss Edwards for three years now for my family's immigration application. Both for my initial application and extension. They are really affordable. The team of solicitors at this firm are probably one of the most efficient and economical in terms of cost. They offered free advice over the phone and spent good time with us before inviting us for consultation".

Gallagher Jones

"I contacted Reiss Edwards to help me with my wife's UK settlement visa. They acted with utmost professionalism throughout the entire application. I spoke with Joe Dinh, he is an immigration solicitor and he is one of the best solicitors out there. He ensured that there was little to no room for error. At some point I thought he was over cautious. He remained calmed and continued to assure us on our immigration matter. Most people in his position would have panicked but he was calmed and continued to assure us. We received out positive outcome very quickly".

Richard Stone

"I have just had British Citizenship application approved. Prior to making the application, I was not sure which law firm i should hire to facilitate the paperwork. After a few hours of research, i decided to go with Reiss Edwards and i must confess that I wasn't disappointed. The immigration lawyers at Reiss Edwards handled my case well and they really knew what they were doing. They were fully aware of what documents I needed and it was easy for them to tell if my case was going to be easy or not. At the end of the day, I have not received my British citizenship within 3 months. If anyone is looking for a good immigration lawyer to handle their case, contact Reiss Edwards".

Fong Li

"Investing over 2 million pounds is definitely not a routine decision. We had to make sure that the Tier 1 investor immigration lawyers that we'd be picking has to be one of the best within the Tier 1 investor category. We contacted Reiss Edwards and they were able to get us not only the Tier 1 investor visa but also suggested profitable investment portfolios in addition to what we already had in mind".

Nancy Jacquard

"It's a shame that you don't have an 'Excellent' star rating on here, as my experience with Reiss Edwards is nothing short of an excellent rating. They handled my application for an Indefinite Leave to remain in April 2014 and did my husband's one very recently including my daughter. Every time i have approached them, they have continued to treat me with courtesy, respect and patience. Amar was indeed a very thorough and professional gentleman. He is very knowledgeable, corporative and engaging. He responded to my emails, calls and enquiries promptly. He was always reassuring. I could not have asked for a better Immigration service. I would recommend them over and over again for anyone looking for an immigration advice. They gave me a free immigration advice when i called them, and the quality of the advice was something other charge thousands for. If you need a particular, name, Amar would be it. He exemplifies, for me, the true, professional gentleman. He is a valuable asset to Reiss Edwards".

Florence Giwa

"I am glad that i instructed Reiss Edwards on my visa matter. It started with a 20 minutes free immigration advice. I met with Amar to discuss my ILR refusal. He gave me a great deal of quality advice and decided to take on my messy case. I had doubts on the merits of my case by he was relatively convinced he could win it. That made me quite secure. To be honest, things did not start as quick as I would have wanted, but they kept on communicating the process and state of things to me.A big thank you to Verusha and Foram. They were also very helpful. Brilliant and informative. Their fee was fair and reasonable, especially if you compare them to other law firms and immigration law firms in London; some of whom even told me that i would not be able to get an indefinte leave to remain in this country. The process was long but was worth it. In the end, a big thank you to Reiss Edwards".

Salisu Ibrahim

"Fantastic Solicitors!!! My wife's spouse visa extension application was refused by the Home Office and they gave her 14 days to leave the country. We contacted Reiss Edwards and they said "OK don't worry we will sort this out". They put together the list of documents for me to obtain and they prepared a bundle which was as thick as the printer it came out from.We followed everything they asked us to do and in the end we won our appeal and got our spouse visa. We can't recommend them enough and we have promised ourselves never to make any more UK visa applications without them".

Amir Sandeep

"The team of lawyers at Reiss Edwards are very professional and friendly people. Their experience in and around UK immigration law is quite extensive; be sure that you application is in safe and competent hands. My immigration matter was an indefinite leave to remain application based on Tier 1 on a self-employment basis. The immigration lawyers at Reiss Edwards made sure that the application was perfect and ready to be accepted. I got a positive decision and I recommend them highly for anyone who needs a UK immigration help".

Reiss Edwards Reviews

O.L

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"Anna Foley was the lawyer helping my partner obtain an EEA EFM visa. She was ou...

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