The UK government has extended visas for travellers who are not currently able to get home due to restrictions, suspensions, and lockdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Home Secretary Priti Patel announced on Tuesday that the new policy would apply to any individual whose visa expired after January 24, who is unable to leave the country due to self-isolation policies or travel restrictions.
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Now, visas will be extended until May 31. However, they will be “kept under regular review” should any further extensions be necessary.
“A dedicated COVID-19 immigration team has been set up within UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) to make the process as straightforward as possible,” a statement on the official government website explains.
“Anyone in this situation just needs to contact this team, via this email address [email protected], to let them know their visa has expired and they will be issued with an extension.”
For those wishing to request a long-term visa to remain in the UK, the Home Office is also temporarily broadening the domestic switching services.
This alteration means that people can apply to convert their visa status. For example, travellers can switch from Tier 4 (student) to Tier 2 (General Worker), while staying in the UK.
UKVI will proceed with its efforts to process applications as efficiently as possible, but there may be longer wait times due to the influx of requests and pressures resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The UK continues to put the health and wellbeing of people first and nobody will be punished for circumstances outside of their control,” Home Secretary Patel said in a statement.
“By extending people’s visas, we are giving people peace of mind and also ensuring that those in vital services can continue their work.”
The visa extension policy has been implemented to assure foreign nationals that the UK government will not penalize them for staying longer than their visa permitted for a situation that is entirely out of their control, such as coronavirus.
Those applying for visa extensions will be required to travel home as soon as flights and border restrictions are revoked.