When You Should Use the Coronavirus Immigration Helpline
The Coronavirus Immigration Help Center was created by the home office to answer immigration questions that are now arising as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result of the restrictions in movement, by the way of “lockdowns” enforced in most countries, a lot of individuals, students, and workers whose visas have expired or about to expire are becoming increasingly worried about what becomes of their immigration status.
The Home Office, in lieu of this, moved to introduce a dedicated telephone number and email address to answer queries from foreign nationals residing in the UK that have had their immigration status called into question by the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can contact the coronavirus helpline:
Phone number: 09006781767
Email address: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk
The guidance was published earlier for Chinese citizens and Chinese residents who could not go back due to travel restrictions in China. As well as for people who are in the UK on an expiring visa, and intend to travel out of the UK or intend to extend their visas but are unable to because of the travel restrictions. On March 24th updated guidance was published to cover not only Chinese citizens and residents but it now includes other nationalities as well.
If you’re in the UK and your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020, and will not be able to leave the UK due to travel restrictions and self-isolation related to the coronavirus pandemic, your visa will be extended till May 1st, 2020. To update your records if your visa is about expired, you can contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT). You will be required to provide some basic information about this. Which includes;
- Your full name (include any middle names)
- Your previous visa reference number
- Date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
- Also provide a reason you can’t go back to your home country, i.e Closed Borders.
You will be notified when your request has been received and your visa extended.
Can I apply to stay in the UK long- term?
In normal circumstances, you will not be able or allowed to apply for a visa extension while you are in the UK, you will be required to apply from your home country. However due to the situation of travel restrictions, you may be able to apply to switch from within the UK to a long-term UK visa until May 31st, you will be required to provide the same visa requirements and pay the UK application fee. The same requirements also apply if your leave was automatically extended to March 31st. Applications can be done online while the terms of your leave will remain the same until your application result comes out.
Note, new appointments cannot be booked as the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centers (UKVCAS) and Service and Support Centers (SSCs) are temporarily closed to help protect the health and wellbeing of staff and customers in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19). For those who earlier made appointments with the UKVCAS service point or the service support center (SSC) and cannot attend due to the closure, your immigration status will not be affected and you will be contacted and instructed on the next step to take.
UK visa applicants outside of the UK
A lot of UK Visa Application Centers (VACs) are either closed or offering limited services. People in Europe, Africa, and parts of the middle east can contact TLS contact for advice on services in their various countries, while for all other countries, contact the VFS global. People with an appointment with the VAC, which has been temporarily closed down, will be contacted and informed about the cancellation of their appointments.
The British nationals abroad who may need to apply for a passport will not be able to do so if their Country’s VAC is closed. Alternatively, if there is an urgent need to travel to the UK, you can put in an application for an emergency travel document.
What is an Emergency Travel Document?
An emergency travel document is also known as an emergency passport given for urgent travel to those who can’t get a passport on time. Travel plans which include dates and countries you’ll be traveling to, will be printed on your emergency travel documents. If for any reason you might want to change your travel plans after you have been issued your travel document, you will have to apply for a new one. With an emergency travel document, you can travel to your destination through a maximum of 5 countries.
You can be eligible for an emergency travel document if all the following apply;
- If you are a British national
- If you are outside of the UK
- If your passport has been destroyed accidentally, stolen, lost, recently expired, full, or with the home office passport office/ foreign embassy.
- You should be able to present proof of your travel plans, such as bookings and confirmation.
- Or if your travel is urgent and there is no time to renew or replace your passport before your travel date.
Note that, it is impossible to obtain an emergency travel document if you have never had a UK passport. You can apply for a UK passport. Contact our immigration solicitors if you are unsure so we can guide you through the process.
Related article: Read also 'COVID-19: UK Visa Application service points worldwide - Reopening plans in Phases'
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