UNITED KINGDOM: Updates for Visa Holders Affected by COVID-19

December 23, 2020

During the outbreak of the pandemic at the start of 2020, the Home Office allowed individuals who could not leave the UK and whose visas were due to expire to apply for ‘exceptional assurance’. If then granted, this extended the applicant’s current leave to allow them time to either apply for another UK visa or leave the UK once able. 

As a result, following recent pandemic developments, the Home Office has since confirmed that visa holders who intend to leave the UK but have not been able to do so and have a visa, or have leave that expires between 1 December 2020 and 31 January 2021, may request additional time to stay, known as ‘exceptional assurance’.

Visa holders can do this by submitting their request via email confirming their personal details and evidence of a planned flight or evidence providing a reason why they cannot leave the UK before their visa expires.

When the request for ‘exceptional assurance’ is pending, the applicant will continue on the conditions as per their current or most recently expired visa. If then granted ‘exceptional assurance,’ this will act as short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences should their leave expire. 

The Home Office has further confirmed that if the applicant holding ‘exceptional assurance’ is to apply for further leave from 1 January 2021, they will need to meet the rules of the route they are applying for. Therefore, they can only apply for visas which they were able to apply for on their recently expired leave. For example, if they were in the UK as a visitor, they will not normally be able to switch into another UK visa route.

Our Advice

Applicants are encouraged to take advantage of the ‘exceptional assurance’ scheme to regularise their stay should they be affected by current pandemic travel bans.

For general advice and information on immigration and business travel to the UK, please contact us.