On the evening of 23rd March 2020, UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, formally triggered the COVID-19 lockdown, ominously stating, “From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction - you must stay at home. Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households. That is why people will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes: shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible, one form of exercise a day - for example, a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household, any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person, and travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home. That’s all - these are the only reasons you should leave your home”.
From this date, life as we knew it effectively stopped. Workplaces closed, transport came to a grinding halt, leisure facilities shut their doors, and the apparatus of government was temporarily closed, with no clear idea of when it would all reopen. For migrants from outside of the UK planning to enter the country for work, study, or to care for relatives, and those already in the UK hoping to extend their stay, apply for indefinite leave to remain, or switch to a new visa type, the closure of UKVCAS Service Points meant their applications could not be completed.
As of the day of writing (29th July 2020), 30 UK based service centres have reopened, these are as follows:
See full details here.
In addition, a number of other service points are reopening in August 2020, as follows:
Some new service points are also due to open in Bath and Luton in the week commencing 3rd August 2020.
The remaining 32 service points which have yet to reopen are expected to unlock their doors in Autumn 2020.
In the initial weeks following reopening, service points worked to clear their backlog of appointments which were cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. As of today, UKVCAS has caught up considerably and is now dealing with visa applicants who registered with them in June 2020. They are working from the earliest to the latest registrations in order and will be writing to each applicant to invite them to book an appointment.
In response to the huge backlog and significant demand for their services, UKVCAS in agreement with UKVI recently announcedplans to accelerate the immigration application process.
What they are saying is that they will ‘reuse’ your biometric data if you have previously enrolled with UKVCAS. As such, this means that some applicants will not need to visit a service point. According to the UKVCAS website, UKVI is currently sifting through their systems to work out which applicants will not need to visit a service point, and which will. If you are one of those selected who will not need to visit a service point, you will be advised of this by UKVAS in an email with the title ‘COVID-19: Update as a result of new UKVI Policy’. This means you will not be invited to make a booking to enrol your biometrics, and that your BRP can be created with your existing data.
In a significant move, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) have now removed the policy which entitled visa holders in the UK whose leave was due to expire between 24th January 2020 and 31st July 2020 to an automatic extension to the end of July 2020. As of 29th July 2020, the UKVI website has been updated, and states, “If you had a visa that expired between 24th January 2020 and 31st July 2020 you were able to request an extension if you were not able to return home because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19).
Now travel restrictions are lifting globally you will no longer be able to extend your visa automatically on this basis and 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”.
This is significant because those whose visas have expired or are due to expire will now no longer be able to request an extension, and will be required to leave the UK.
UKVI are, however, offering a period of grace of one month (up to 31st August 2020) to prepare to leave the UK. Those who do plan to leave but cannot by that date maybe able to request more time (referred to as ‘exceptional indemnity’), which as UKVI explains, “does not grant you leave but will act as short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after your leave has expired”.
While it would seem that the UK immigration system is slowly returning to normal, much will now depend on whether there is a second wave of COVID-19. Unfortunately, there are already signs of this occurring in Europe, and it is very possible that this may happen in the UK in the coming weeks or months. It is unclear whether there will be another full-scale national lockdown, or whether a more nuanced approach will be taken. Either way, you can be assured that we will keep you updated as events unfold.
Are VACs Accepting New Applications Made Prior to Temporary Closure?
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