Coronavirus and the UK immigration system (as of 23 March 2020)
Visa extensions and other concessions
Particularly pressing is the situation for people who are in the UK on an expiring visa and unable to leave because of travel restrictions. Government guidance on this on currently focuses on Chinese citizens and residents of China stuck in the UK, as they were most affected at the time that guidance was first published, in mid-February 2020.
At time of writing, that guidance had not been updated to cover other nationalities. Senior Home Office officials told the Home Affairs committee of MPs on 18 March that it soon would be, on the general principle of “no disadvantage to individuals”.
UK visa application centres
Within the UK
There are reports that UKVCAS have started cancelling appointments at the last minute due to staff shortages. Fees will be refunded, but it will take around ten working days.
However, in general visa application centres inside the country continue working normally.
Outside the UK
UK visa application centres in China are closed. VFS Global, which runs the centres, says that it is returning passports held in those visa application centres to customers by courier where requested. Those who want to ask for their passport back can “contact VFS Global directly by emailing [email protected] to discuss available options. Please include your GWF number and the city where you made your application in your email”.
Immigration tribunal hearings
First-tier Tribunal hearings going remote
On 21 March, President of the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration & Asylum Chambers) Michael Clements wrote to the Immigration Law Practitioners Association to say that hearings are to go remote from Wednesday.
From Wednesday, 25th March onwards, there will be no face to face hearings listed in any centre. Applications for bail and emergency work will continue to be given priority but, save in exceptional circumstances, applications and hearings will be conducted remotely.
Citizenship ceremonies cancelled
Local authorities are, perhaps unsurprisingly, calling off citizenship ceremonies. The Home Office has also stopped issuing naturalisation and registration certificates, at least according to Hackney Council.
The process of becoming a British citizen is not legally complete until the person has attended a citizenship ceremony: section 42 of the British Nationality Act 1981. It therefore appears that the citizenship process has effectively ground to a halt.
Posted on Mar 23, 2020.