Visa holders in the United Kingdom who cannot return home due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to extend their visa.

The extension, announced by the Home Secretary Priti Patel, will apply to anyone whose leave expired after the 24 January and who cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation.

According to the government, the extension will last until 31 May, but will be kept under regular review in case further extensions are needed.

A dedicated COVID-19 immigration team has been set up within UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to make the process as straightforward as possible.

The government asks anyone in this situation, to contact this team via email – CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk – to let them know their visa has expired and they will be issued with an extension.

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.

UKVI will continue to process applications as quickly as possible, however, some applications may take longer than usual due to COVID-19 related operational pressures.

Many foreign nationals have found themselves unable to return home since the outbreak of COVID-19 due to flight cancellations and border restrictions.

According to the government, the extension has been put in place to give these individuals peace of mind that they will not be penalised for overstaying their visa when the situation is out of their control due to COVID-19.

Those who contact the Home Office for these visa extensions will be expected to return to their home countries as soon as possible once flight and border restrictions are lifted.

No immigration enforcement action will be undertaken during this time for those who email the Home Office.

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.

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