How is the coronavirus affecting the UK immigration system?

Chinese nationals

For Chinese nationals who are already in the UK they are automatically entitled to have their leave extended until 31st March 2020 if their current visa is due to expire between 24 January-30 March 2020, provided that they have complied with all of their visa conditions. They will still be subject to the same immigration conditions as the previous visa and will not automatically receive a new visa or biometric permit residence card. This is in accordance with the policy announcement from UK Visas and Immigration on 17th February 2020.

Non-Chinese non-EEA nationals in the UK who normally live in China

For non-Chinese non-EEA nationals in the UK who usually reside in China, if their UK visa expires between 24 January and 30 March 2020 they can call the special coronavirus hotline to give details of their situation and seek an extension of leave to 31 March 2020,. This only applies if they can demonstrate that they are normally resident in China.

Switching from Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) to Tier 2 (General)

The Home Office has also announced a concession to allow Chinese nationals currently on a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa to switch in-country to a Tier 2 (General) visa. This is instead of having to make a fresh application for entry clearance from abroad.

Sponsor duties

Sponsors will not have to report any absences from students or employees who are in the UK under Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 where the absences are due to the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. Where students have not been to attend college for over 60 days or where employees have been absent from work for more than 4 weeks without pay sponsors will not have to withdraw sponsorship.

UK Visa Application centres in China

All UK Visa Application centres in China are closed and there is currently a complete pause on the return of UK visa applicants’ documentation, including their passports. The Home Office is advising anyone with an urgent travel need to contact the Chinese authorities (or if not Chinese, their embassy in China) about getting a travel document. 


There is a special coronavirus immigration helpline which has been set up by the Home Office and details are as follows:

Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) – calls are free of charge


Free NHS coronavirus testing

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 is particularly significant for people who are in the UK as short term visitors and for migrants without lawful status, who normally have to pay for NHS care. The test will be free regardless of whether the outcome is positive or negative.

Visa appointments in the UK

Sopra Steria has published the following messages on its website:

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) UPDATE 1 If you have Coronavirus symptoms and should be self-isolating, or if you have Coronavirus, you must not attend for your appointment. Please email with ‘COVID-19’ and your UAN in the subject to say that you cannot attend. We will refund your fee and will tell the Home Office.

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) UPDATE 2 If after your visit to us, you develop symptoms, or have Coronavirus, please email with ‘COVID-19’ and your UAN in the subject and details of your appointment.


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