The Boris Johnson government on Tuesday evening granted visa extension until May 31 of Indian citizens currently in the UK who are unable to travel to their destinations in India and elsewhere due to travel bans in various countries.
The extension comes as some relief to Indians whose visas were about to expire in the near future but were stranded due to the inability to travel out of the UK. These include some Indians who were transiting through the UK to India. Many had booked tickets on flights that were cancelled.
The extension will apply to anyone whose leave expired after January 24 and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation; it lasts until May 31 but will be kept under regular review in case further extensions are needed, the Home Office said.
Several Indians had approached the Indian high commission to resolve the impasse in recent days. Some Indian students also demonstrated in the mission, while officials arranged their accommodation in hotels and worked with British officials to ensure that such individuals are not penalised and the visas extended.
India has similarly extended the visas of UK and other foreign nationals currently in India for tourism and other purposes but are unable to leave the country due to airlines stopping flights out of India.
The Home Office said a dedicated Covid-19 immigration team has been set up for the purpose, and asked anyone with expired or expiring visas to contact it, via email CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk. They will then be issued with the extension, it added.
To help those who want to apply for visas to stay in the UK long-term, the Home Office is also temporarily expanding the in-country switching provisions. This will mean people can apply to switch routes, such as from Tier 4 (student) to Tier 2 (General Worker), whilst remaining in the UK.
Home secretary Priti Patel said: “The UK continues to put the health and well-being of people first and nobody will be punished for circumstances outside of their control. By extending people’s visas, we are giving people peace of mind and also ensuring that those in vital services can continue their work”.
Those who contact the Home Office for the visa extensions will be expected to return to their home countries as soon as possible once flight and border restrictions are lifted. No action will be taken during this time for those who email the Home Office for the extension.
In light of the current advice on self-isolation and social distancing, the Home Office is also waiving a number of requirements on visa sponsors, such as allowing non-EU nationals here under work or study routes to undertake their work or study from home.