If you have a visa which is due to expire, and are fearful to return to China due to the Coronavirus… please read on.
It has been said by the Chief Medical Officer that COVID – 19 will more than likely be an epidemic in the UK. China, having been the first to contract the virus person to person, is now seeing the numbers of registered cases depleting.
But what should you do if you are a Chinese national living in the UK and you are concerned about travel back there? If you have a short-term visa, such as a visit visa, or if you are here on another non-permanent basis, and your visa will expire soon, what should you do?
In an uncharacteristic move by the Home Office, the UK government has stated that visas for Chinese nationals will be extended automatically, to assist in the global containment of this medical crisis. In the 20 years I have been giving immigration advice, I have only ever come across one other incident of this type of flexibility for certain categories of Syrian nationals, due to the beginning of the war there in 2011. This was unusual as it was not a temporary grant of any type of refugee status, but simply a temporary extension of permission to stay.
In relation to this extension, more specifically the government have stated:
If you are a Chinese national in the UK and have been compliant with the conditions of your visa prior to the coronavirus outbreak, your leave will be automatically extended to 31 March 2020 if your visa has an expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020.
You don’t need to do anything to get this extension.
You will be subject to the same immigration conditions as your last visa during the extension period.
You will not automatically receive a new visa or Biometric Residence Permit card.
Your new expiry date (31 March 2020) will be added to UK Visas and Immigration’s systems.
If you need a status letter confirming this extension, or a new Biometric Residence Permit with a revised expiry date, you should contact the coronavirus immigration helpline.
If you have already applied to extend your visa you don’t need to do anything.
If you are intending to apply to extend your stay in the UK before 31 March 2020 you should continue to do so.
It remains to be seen whether they will decide to issue a further extension, or if they will go further and issue extensions for other countries, or block removal flights to other countries. But for now, this gives Chinese nationals a little breathing space. Just clarity, you do not need to do anything to receive this extension, and it is not simply for one group of people or anyone who has in fact contracted the virus. So, for now, any Chinese nationals not wishing to return home in the category the government define above can breathe a sigh of relief… but watch this space for any further extensions, as they are not guaranteed.
If you are normally a resident, but not a national, of China, the advice is slightly more complicated, please do seek advice from our Immigration department at Williamsons Solicitors.