Immigration Law Update: Visa Extensions and Covid-19

This article provides an update for those making immigration applications from the UK and specifically those concerned about meeting the financial requirement.

On 29th April 2020 the Home Secretary Priti Patel, alongside two senior Home Office officials, gave evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) relating to the Home Office’s preparedness for Covid-19 and including the impact of the lockdown on immigration status.

HASC is a cross party committee designed to scrutinise the policy decisions of the Home Office (which is government department responsible for decisions relating to immigration, security and law and order).

Under the current immigration rules, those in the UK on a spouse visa and on the 5 year route to settlement are required to evidence, at the point of applying for an extension after 30 months of leave, that they continue to meet the financial requirement of £18,600.

Where this evidence cannot be provided, the visa extension on the 5 year route will not be granted, but if a genuine and subsisting family life can be evidenced, an applicant can be eligible for leave to remain under the 10 year route to settlement.

This 10 year route is a more costly, and potentially a more stressful route for any visa applicant due to the high Home Office fees that need to be paid at the point of each visa renewal, but also because recourse to public funds is only available to an applicant after they achieve indefinite leave to remain status (‘settlement’).

Inevitably a number of applicants will now struggle to meet the financial requirement following the impact of the lockdown on their work and income either because they have been furloughed, lost their job, or because they have experienced a reduction in their self-employment income.

The Home Office has yet to provide any formal guidance on this issue, but did however give an indication yesterday of their position when questioned on this point by the HASC.

Senior Home Official Shona Dunn confirmed:  “I can absolutely confirm that the Home Office will work with those individuals to make sure that we are supporting them through that process. There are a number of different ways in which people can meet that requirement beyond their salary. But also beyond that, and recognising the point that it’s important we don’t disadvantage people for things they cannot control, we will absolutely work flexibly with people in those circumstances”.

We look forward to the Home Office providing further clarity on how the financial requirement will be applied and particularly whether those who can no longer meet the financial requirement due to the lockdown measures will be permitted to remain on the 5 year route to settlement. We will keep you updated as soon as more information is forthcoming.

Additionally, Shona Dunn also confirmed to HASC that the Home Office casework team were prioritising and processing applications that were urgent, exceptional, on compassionate grounds and which related to the most vulnerable. Accordingly, if you believe that you fall within one of these categories you should submit your application at the earliest opportunity explaining your circumstances, rather than waiting for visa application centres to be re-open.

Finally, the Home Secretary maintained that the deadline for applications under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) would not be extended. It is therefore imperative that EEA nationals, including those who hold EEA permanent residence, who wish to lawfully remain in the UK after the UK leaves the EU make an application under the EUSS by 30th June 2021.

The Home Secretary’s evidence before HASC can be viewed here

If you need advice on any immigration issue, contact Vina on 01254 31 12 82 or complete our online enquiry form and one of our experts will contact you

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