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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 visa expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 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).

Additionally, if you had a visa which expired between 24 January and 31 August 2020, including those who received an extension between this period, you were able to take advantage of a grace period between 1 August to 31 August 2020. The conditions of your stay in the UK were the same as the conditions of your leave. If conditions allowed you to work, study or rent accommodation you were able to continue doing so during August 2020.

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 intend to leave the UK but have not been able to do so and you have a visa that expires between 1 September and 31 October 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. We have been advised by UKVI that 'Exceptional Assurance' grants you additional time in which to make arrangements to leave the UK and should not be used in order to extend your stay and apply for a new visa inside the UK. 

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 2020 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 expired 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, if your visa has expired and you wish to make a new application from inside the UK, you will need to contact the Student Immigration Advice Team who will assess if this is possible.  Please note that if you submit a new visa application inside the UK as an overstayer, you will not be permitted to continue with your studies from inside the UK until you receive your new visa.  As such it may be that you will need to either defer your studies to next year or return home and conduct your studies from outside 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/Student visa holder, what happens if I am not able to study because of Covid-19?

Students will have to self-isolate if they experience COVID-19 symptoms. We have many resources to support you, including health advice and practical recommendations, and support and guidance.

Please follow our guidance on what to do if you need to self-isolate

Remote study and absences - undergraduate and postgraduate taught

UCL will continue to sponsor Student visas for students who are continuing to study remotely. 

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 Student visas where a student is absent due to the coronavirus in line with UKVI concessions stated on their webpage.  UKVI have confirmed that sponsors are permitted to continue sponsorship of Student 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 Student 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 Student 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 Student 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. 

UCL plans to deliver all core teaching and assessment online for Terms 2 and 3.  How does this affect my Tier 4 or Student visa? 

Whilst we are confident that our campus, teaching spaces and facilities are safe, it is likely that teaching in Terms Two and Three will be similar to Term One: all core teaching and assessment online, a limited amount of educational activity on campus, and alternative activity for students not on campus.  

Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, UK Visas and Immigration have confirmed that Tier 4 and Student visa holders can continue to study their programme online and as such your Student visa remains unaffected.  This means that whether you are in the UK or still in your home country, you will still retain your Tier 4 or Student visa.  Please note that UKVI polices are subject to change, therefore we will be closely monitoring this concession and will update this website with any further information which may impact your visa. 

Please do note however, that in order to retain your Tier 4 or Student visa, you must ensure that you continue to engage with your programme remotely and meet UCL's Student visa engagement requirements

If you are studying from your home country and have been given a CAS but decide not to apply for a Student visa, please let the Student Immigration Compliance Team know. 

I wish to take an interruption of study and return to UCL next year, what will happen to my Student 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 Student 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 Student visa allow me to work for the NHS?

Due to the exceptional circumstances during the COVID-19 crisis, the work restrictions on Student visa holders studying medicine have been relaxed.  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.

How do I collect by BRP?

Information about collecting your BRP can be found on our BRP webpage

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 Student  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 Student visa 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 Student visa sponsorship, you will be able to request a new CAS. 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 Student visa as the processing times can vary in different countries:

  • 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 Student visa as soon as possible
  • 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 Student 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/Student visa?

UCL continues to sponsor enrolled students on their Tier 4/Student 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 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?

Most UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) have resumed services where local restrictions allow.

Priority and Super Priority services are only available in some locations. If available, you’ll be able to purchase these services when booking your appointment.

For more information, and for updates to the status of VACs, including opening times 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

Ongoing global restrictions mean some UKVI services will remain closed. Where services are resuming, existing customers will be contacted.

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

The Graduate Route will be launched on 1st July 2021. It 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/Student visa at the time of application.

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 who started their course in the 19/20 or 20/21 academic years and who have not previously entered the UK to study that course will be eligible to access the graduate immigration route as long as they are in the UK by 21st June 2021 and complete their studies from inside the UK. Anyone who has already travelled to the UK during thier current period of Tier 4/Student permission, will be able to make a Graduate application as long as they are present in the UK before the end date of their course.

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

 

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 Student visa holders via distance learning during the COVID-19 crisis.  We are therefore not required to report student absences if you are continuing to study remotely. 

Can I decide to apply for my Student visa later and arrive in the UK in the Spring (i.e. March/April)?

Yes, you will still be permitted to use your CAS to apply for a Student visa.  Please note however that CASs are only valid for 6 months after which time they will expire and you will not be able to use them to apply for a Student visa.  As such, should you wish to arrive in the UK this academic year you will need to use your CAS to submit your Student visa application before it expires. For example, if your CAS was assigned on 1 August 2020, you will need to submit your Student visa application before 1 February 2021, if your CAS was assigned on 1 October 2020, you will need to submit your application before 1 April 2021.

Therefore, even if you do not plan to come to the UK immediately, you should submit your Student visa application while your CAS is still valid.

Please note that students starting & finishing in the 2020/21 academic will be eligible to access the graduate immigration route as long as they are in the UK by 21st June 2021 and complete their studies in the UK.

I wish to change from remote learning to in-person learning or vice-versa.  How do I keep UCL informed of my study location?

If you wish to change from in-person to remote learning you can let us know via Portico.  Instructions on how to update your study intentions in Portico can be found on our website.  You must also ensure that your term-time address is up-to-date.  If you need to make any changes, these can be made in Portico also. 

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