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Guidance for foreign nationals affected by the coronavirus pandemic

Posted: 16/03/2020

The Home Office has published guidance for people in the UK whose immigration status is affected by the coronavirus outbreak. This guidance was first published on the 17 February 2020 in response to the outbreak in China. Below is a summary of the current Home Office guidance.

Due to the fact that the virus has escalated, further guidance is expected to be published. For those concerned about their status or implications on their business, please contact Pat Saini or Hazar El-Chamaa.

Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 Sponsors: Absences due to coronavirus

Some sponsored staff or sponsored international students may be prevented from attending employment or continue their studies due to illness or inability to travel back to the UK. Employers and education providers will not need to report absences related to coronavirus to the Home Office because such absences will be considered as ‘authorised absences’.

The Home Office recognises the current situation is exceptional and will not take any compliance action against students or employees who are unable to attend their studies or work due to the coronavirus outbreak. Neither will it take any action against sponsors who authorise absences and continue to sponsor students or employees despite absences for this reason.

Those that sponsor international staff and students should, however, keep their records up to date.

Chinese nationals in the UK whose visa has recently expired or is about to expire

The Home Office has stated that those with a visa expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020 and who have been compliant with the conditions of their visa prior to the coronavirus outbreak will automatically have their leave extended to 31 March 2020. No action is required to get this extension and the extended leave will be subject to the same immigration conditions as those attached to the individual's last visa.

Individuals in this situation will not automatically receive a new visa or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). Those who have already applied to extend their visa do not need to do anything and anyone intending to apply to extend their stay in the UK before 31 March 2020 should continue to do so.

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

Non-Chinese or non-EEA nationals currently in the UK but who normally reside in China and whose visa is due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020 will need to contact the coronavirus immigration helpline. The Home Office will be able to extend the visas of those individuals to 31 March 2020 if they can demonstrate that they are usually a resident in China.

Chinese or third country nationals whose passport is at a Visa Application Centre (VAC)

UK Visa Application Centres in China are currently closed. Where possible, the Home Office will return passports currently held in VACs via courier if requested when the visa application was submitted. As soon VACs can be re-opened, the Home Office will prioritise the return of all documents. Updates on when the VACs will re-open will be available on VFS’s website at

Coronavirus immigration helpline

For individuals who are not covered by the published guidance, the Home Office has set up a helpline to deal with immigration queries arising from the coronavirus outbreak. The helpline is staffed from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. The helpline number is 0800 678 1767 or it can be contacted by email:

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