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Immigration advice for current students during COVID-19

Frequently asked questions, advice and support for current students during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak

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My Tier 4 visa is about to expire, but I am unable to leave the UK, what shall I do?

If you have finished your programme at UCL and your visa is about to expire but travel restrictions prevent you from leaving the UK, please read the UK government coronavirus immigration advice

If you’re in the UK and your leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020

If you had a visa that expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 you were able to request an extension if you were not able to return home because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Now travel restrictions are lifting globally you will no longer be able to extend your visa automatically on this basis and you are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so or apply to regularise your stay in the UK.

If you decide to leave the UK

To allow time to make the necessary arrangements to leave the UK, if you have a visa or leave that was due to expire between the 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020, you’ll be able to stay within the UK to 31 August 2020.

From 1 to 31 August 2020, the conditions of your stay in the UK will be the same as the conditions of your leave. So, if your conditions alowed you to work, study or rent accommodation you may continue to do so during August 2020 ahead of your departure.

You do not need to contact the Home Office to tell us you are able to leave the UK during the grace period up until the 31 August.

If you intend to leave the UK but are not able to do so by 31 August 2020, you may request additional time to stay, also known as ‘exceptional indemnity’, by contacting the coronavirus immigration team (CIT).

The indemnity does not grant you leave but will act as a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after your leave has expired.

The Coronavirus Immigration Team will provide you with further advice on what you need to do to request an indemnity. This will include providing details of the reason why you are unable to leave the UK and supporting evidence, for example, a confirmed flight ticket with a date after 31 August or confirmation of a positive coronavirus test result.

If you intend to stay in the UK

If you decide to stay in the UK, you should apply for the necessary leave to remain in the UK. You’ll also be able to submit an application form from within the UK where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country.

You’ll need to meet the requirements of the route you’re applying for and pay the UK application fee. This includes those whose leave expires before 31 August 2020.

The terms of your leave will remain the same until your application is decided. If you are switching into work or study routes you may be able to commence work or study whilst your application is under consideration .

If you have overstayed your leave

If your visa expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 there will be no future adverse immigration consequences if you didn’t make an application to regularise your stay during this period. However, you must now do so by 31 August 2020 or make arrangements to leave the UK.

If you have immigration queries related to coronavirus, please email the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre.  Email: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk.  Your email must be in English.  Please also let the Student Immigration Advice Team know via askUCL should you request a visa extension from UKVI so that we may better support you. 

If you still unsure about what to do or need further information, please call the coronavirus immigration helpline.

Please note that if you are continuing your studies at UCL and require a visa extension, you will need to contact the Student Immigration Compliance Team via askUCL and request a new CAS so you can submit a Tier 4 visa application. 

I’m a Tier 4 visa holder, what happens if I am not able to study because of Covid-19?

Remote study and absences - undergraduate and postgraduate taught

UCL has confirmed that face-to-face teaching is suspended for the remainder of this academic year and as such the university is adopting online alternatives for teaching and assessments wherever possible.  UKVI has confirmed that sponsors are permitted to teach Tier 4 students via distance learning during the COVID-19 crisis.  If you are on a Tier 4 visa and you are continuing to engage with your studies remotely, UCL will continue to sponsor your visa.

If you are not able to study remotely, please contact your department to discuss what you are able to do during this time.

UCL will not withdraw sponsorship of Tier 4 visas where a student is absent due to the coronavirus in line with new UKVI concessions stated on their webpage.  UKVI have confirmed that sponsors are permitted to continue sponsorship of Tier 4 visas where a student is absent for more than 60 days, however please note this concession will be kept under review and so may change at short notice. We will update this webpage when further guidance is provided. 

Remote study and absences - postgraduate research

Research students are encouraged to follow the advice and guidance on the UCL Doctoral School webpage.   UCL will continue to sponsor Tier 4 visas for students who are continuing to study remotely. 

If you are not able to study remotely due to the COVID-19 crisis, please contact your supervisor to discuss what you are able to do at this time. 

UCL will not withdraw sponsorship of Tier 4 visas where a student is absent due to the coronavirus in line with new UKVI concessions stated on their webpage.  UKVI have confirmed that sponsors are permitted to continue sponsorship of Tier 4 visas where a student is absent for more than 60 days, however please note this concession will be kept under review and so may change at short notice. We will update this webpage when further guidance is provided. 

I’m intending to leave or have left the UK, do I need to tell anyone?

Should you wish to return home, you must inform UCL of your intention to leave the UK by completing the Coronavirus Return Home notification in the ‘Visas and Immigration’ category of askUCL.
 
UKVI has confirmed that sponsors are permitted to teach Tier 4 students via distance learning during the COVID-19 crisis.  We are therefore not required to report student absences if you are continuing to study remotely. 

I wish to take an interruption of study and return to UCL next year, what will happen to my Tier 4 visa?

An interruption of study (where the absence is not as a result of Covid-19) of more than 60 days is likely to result in sponsorship being withdraw of your Tier 4 visa.  This means you will need to apply for a new visa in order to return to your studies at UCL.  If you wish to interrupt, you should follow the usual interruption of study instructions on the UCL student status website.  

Does my Tier 4 visa allow me to work for the NHS?

Due to the exceptional circumstances during the COVID-19 crisis, the work restrictions on Tier 4 students studying medicine have been relaxed.  Tier 4 medical students are therefore now permitted to work in excess of 20 hours per week, where they are working for the NHS as a doctor, nurse or paramedic to assist in the response to the COVID-19 crisis.  This new provision will be kept under review and is in place until further notice and does not include those who wish to work in the NHS in any other capacity.  

Please ensure you keep up to date with changing immigration advice about working in the UK here on the UKVI website.

I have arranged for my BRP to be sent to UCL but the office is closed, what should I do?

Please note that is currently not possible for BRPs to be delivered to the UCL campus. Please do not use UCL's ACL code in your visa application.  If you are applying for a visa from outside the UK, please ask for your BRP to be delivered to the Post Office.  If you are applying for a visa from inside the UK, please enter your UK address in the application form.

If you have already entered UCL’s ACL code in your application form, please contact the visa compliance team on askUCL who can advise you further.

I am intending to return from interruption, how can I re-enrol?

You will be able to re-enrol on Portico without attending in person.  Once you do so you will have full access to UCL’s on-line facilities.  You will also be able to pay your fees on-line.

You will be able to enrol from the date you are due to resume your studies.

Please see the other FAQs on the UCL COVID-19 webpage for more information about support with online learning and assessment.

If you need a visa to study at UCL we will allow you to re-enrol from outside the UK.  Please note that you will need to apply for the correct visa to return to UK when you are able to do so, and you will need to provide evidence of this upon your return to UCL. If you require a Tier 4 visa in order to complete your studies, you will need to request our CAS number. Please refer to our guidance about CAS numbers.

If you have any queries about your record, please do this by logging in to askUCL, our student enquiry system.

Current students who require further Tier 4 sponsorship, including those returning from interruption:

If you are currently overseas and need to extend your visa or need to apply for a new visa to return from a period of interruption and you are eligible to receive Tier 4 sponsorship. This includes where you start your studies online in Term 1, and travel to the UK to continue face-to-face study as soon as it is safe to do so. 

You will need to complete UCL’s CAS Request Form, and have it signed off by your academic department in the usual way.  Once this has been done please return this form to the Student Immigration Compliance Team via AskUCL.

Please note that in addition to the usual checks that we are required to undertake whilst preparing your CAS statement, we will also need to know whether you are currently overseas, and when you expect to travel to the UK.  We will then account for this when assigning your CAS.

It is important that you take into consideration how long it will take for you to obtain a Tier 4 visa as the processing times can vary in different countries:

  • Tier 4 students who intend to arrive in the UK in September or as soon as possible in Term 1 should use their CAS to apply for a Tier 4 visa as soon as possible
  • Tier 4 students who intend to travel to the UK in time to start in January should use their CAS to apply for a visa at least 6 weeks before they intend to travel to the UK

Once your Tier 4 visa is granted, you will receive a 90 day Travel Vignette which will start 1 month before the course starts or 7 days before the intended date of travel(as stated in your visa application), whichever is later.

I am currently outside the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Once it is safe to do so, will I be able to return to the UK on my current Tier 4 visa?

UCL continues to sponsor enrolled students on their Tier 4 visas and so students who left the UK will be able to use their visas to return as soon as circumstances allow provided their visas have not expired.  These students will continue to be able to re-enrol online as in previous years.

I am a current student who needs to extend their visa in order to complete their studies and I am currently in the UK.  Are there any changes to the visa application process that I need to be aware of?

The visa application process itself is the same.  You will need to complete UCL’s CAS Request Form, have it signed off by your academic department and submit your new visa application before your current visa expires.  Once your CAS has been signed off, please return this form to the Student Immigration Compliance Team via AskUCL.

I need to apply for a visa, which Visa Application Centres are open?

Some UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) are resuming services where local restrictions allow.

Services will reopen in phases.  For updates to the status of VACs in your country check with:

  • TLS contact if you’re in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East
  • VFS global for all other countries

UCL continues to monitor Visa Application Centre closures and travel restrictions closely and will provide updates once they become available.

What is the update on the Graduate Immigration Route? Will it definitely be available from summer 2021?

The Graduate Route will be available to international students who have successfully completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance and who have a valid Tier 4 visa at the time of application.

The new route is due to launch in the summer of 2021, meaning that any eligible student who graduates in the summer of 2021 or after will be able to apply for the route. This includes students who have already started their programme and therefore includes students starting in the 2020/21 academic year. 

Students will normally be expected to undertake their studies in the UK to be eligible for the Graduate route.  However, if you are required to either continue your current studies or start a new programme by distance or blended learning due to Covid-19, you will still be eligible to switch into the Graduate route on a concessionary basis if you have spent some time studying outside the UK.  Students starting in the 2020/21 academic will be eligible to access the graduate immigration route as long as they are in the UK by 6 April 2021 and complete the final semester of their studies in the UK.

Please see UKCISA’s website for further information on what we currently know about the Graduate Route.

 

Where can I find further information?

UKCISA guidance: Coronavirus (Covid-19): info for international students

UKVI guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents

UKVI guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for Tier 4 sponsors

UCL guidance: Advice for staff and students who may have concerns about the outbreak of coronavirus

NHS guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for everyone