Coronavirus and the UK immigration system (as of 11 February 2021)

People stuck outside the UK

On 11 January 2021, the Home Office published a Covid Visa Concession Scheme. It is designed to help people who had permission to live in the UK but whose permission expired while they were stuck abroad due to coronavirus travel restrictions, leaving them unable to return. Provided they meet the eligibility criteria in the guidance, such people will be granted entry clearance valid for three months to allow them to travel back to the UK and apply properly to extend their stay. But the scheme is aimed at people who left the UK before 17 March 2020 (the date the Foreign Office changed its travel advice, apparently).

Those who left the UK after 17 March 2020 will only be considered for this concession in “exceptional circumstances”. These include “serious illness or death of a close relative overseas” and “travel for the purpose of receiving medical treatment”. 

For those worried about breaking their period of continuous residence in the UK for the purposes of indefinite leave to remain, Appendix Continuous Residence now states that absences caused by “travel disruption due to… pandemic” will not count towards the 180-day maximum.

Those who already had indefinite leave to remain but have now been outside the UK so long that it has lapsed will have to apply for a returning residents visa and pay the usual fee, but have most of it refunded. See the section of the guidance headed “If you’ve remained outside the UK for over 2 years and due to coronavirus travel restrictions your indefinite leave has lapsed”, added on 5 February 2021.

Spouses and minimum income

Another group of people under particular pressure during the crisis is families where one partner is on, or about to apply for, a spouse visa. Loss of earnings as a result of the coronavirus-induced economic crash may mean that the family fall foul of the financial requirements.

Until 8 June 2020 there was no published concession for people in this situation. There is now a section of the guidance on Changes to the minimum income and adequate maintenance requirement. It says:

If you’ve experienced a loss of income due to coronavirus up to 31 May 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 31 May 2021 will usually be disregarded, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications.

This concession initially applied only for loss of income up to 31 August 2020, but was extended to 1 January 2021 and then to 31 May 2021. 

NHS coronavirus tests and vaccines

Regulations have been passed adding “Wuhan novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)” to the list of diseases for which no charge is to be made for NHS treatment, regardless of the patient’s immigration status. This change is most significant for short term visitors and for migrants without lawful status, who normally have to pay for NHS care. Those lawfully resident are already entitled to use the NHS.

Posted on Feb 11, 2021.

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