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Advice and Counselling Service

Immigration and Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

This information is for Queen Mary students and applicants and explains the affect of the current situation on your immigration permission. If you have further questions after reading through this information, you can contact us. Please also look after your wellbeing during these difficult times. Please see the Queen Mary FAQs about the coronavirus.

*This page was most recently updated on 17 November 2020*

Information for current Queen Mary students with Tier 4 immigration or Student immigration permission

Information for prospective and current students outside the UK

Students due to undertake a work placement/study abroad next year

Information for students with another immigration status (not Tier 4)

Information for current Queen Mary students with Tier 4 immigration permission

If you have left/want to leave the UK

There are national restrictions in England from 5 November to 2 December 2020. These may be extended. Please check the UK government web pages which explain under which circumstances you are permitted to travel during this period. 

International students currently in the UK can return home, subject to any restrictions in place at their destination. Being outside of one’s home for the purposes of outbound travel to one’s country of nationality/residence can be considered a ‘reasonable excuse’ under the regulations. However, it is not considered that leaving home for the purposes of outbound travel for a holiday would amount to a reasonable excuse.

If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss national, check how absences from the UK might affect your Pre-settled or Settled Status, or eligibility in the future. See ‘What happens if I spend some time outside the UK?’ on our guidance for EU, EEA and Swiss students.

You should inform Residential Services if you live in University-owned accommodation: residences@qmul.ac.uk

If your School authorise your absence, this would not be reported to the Home Office because there are special rules in place in relation to Covid-19. Your Tier 4 or Student visa should not be affected in this situation.

If your School makes arrangements for you to study remotely, you should continue to engage with your studies, and this should also not count as an absence so would not be reported to the Home Office. Your Tier 4 or Student visa should not be affected in this situation.

Check with your School if you need to make a formal claim for Extenuating Circumstances.

If your School cannot authorise your absence or facilitate you studying remotely, or if you choose to take time out of your studies, you can request an Interruption of Study from your School. The interruption application form and guidance is available online. 

Leaving the UK and returning to the UK later

If you leave the UK, you can later return to the UK before the end date of your current Tier 4 or Student visa. Check what you should carry in your hand luggage according to the timing of your return to the UK. If you are travelling during term-time whilst classes are online, you can provide evidence of this e.g. an email from your Academic School or a print out from your timetable showing that your classes are online. 

As we understand that the graduation ceremonies will not take place physically on campus this year, if you are returning to the UK after your course, carry evidence in your hand luggage of the reasons you are returning to the UK, or be prepared to explain to a Border Force Officer. For example, you might be returning to the UK to pack up your belongings, close your bank account, receive your results etc. Or you might be returning to make an application for Tier 2, to work in the UK, or Student immigration permission, for further study, in which case you can carry evidence that you meet the requirements of the relevant category. 

Not attending classes in person and your Tier 4 or Student immigration permission

If your School authorise your absence, this would not be reported to the Home Office because there are special rules in place in relation to Covid-19. Your Tier 4 or Student visa should not be affected in this situation.

If your School makes arrangements for you to study remotely, you should continue to engage with your studies, and this should also not count as an absence so would not be reported to the Home Office. Your Tier 4 or Student visa should not be affected in this situation.

Check with your School if you need to make a formal claim for Extenuating Circumstances.

If your School cannot authorise your absence or facilitate you studying remotely, or if you choose to take time out of your studies, you can request an Interruption of Study from your School. The interruption application form and guidance is available online 

Returning to the UK after the start of the first Semester

You might have returned to your home country as a result of the pandemic, and you do not wish to return to campus yet, but are worried that not returning at the start of the semester might affect your Tier 4 or Student visa.

You can continue to study online at this time and this will not affect your Tier 4 or Student visa. This is because there are special concessions in place from UK Visas and Immigration as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Please check with your Academic School as to when you would need to be back physically in the UK. As long as you can continue to study remotely during Semester 1, and this is permitted by your School, it will not affect your Tier 4 or Student visa.

You can find out the latest information from Queen Mary about the current situation: www.qmul.ac.uk/coronavirus/students/

PhD students

If you are a PhD student, please contact your Supervisor to confirm that you can continue to study remotely. You can leave the UK if your Supervisor confirms you can continue on your PhD from outside the UK. You should continue to engage with your research and maintain contact with your Supervisor whilst you are overseas. Your Tier 4 or Student visa will not be affected in this situation.

If your School cannot authorise your absence or facilitate you studying remotely, or if you choose to take time out of your studies, you can request an Interruption of Study from your School. See the guidance for research students.

If you want to leave the UK but are waiting for a new/replacement/corrected BRP card 

You can leave the UK without a BRP card, although it is recommend that you keep evidence of your situation in case you are later questioned. When you return to your home country, you can report that the BRP card is lost.If you later return to the UK, you will need to apply for a single entry replacement visa in order to be able to return, and then apply to replace your BRP card once you are back in the UK.

Alternatively, if you have already enrolled your biometrics, a friend who is in the UK could receive your BRP card on your behalf and send it to you overseas. If you decide to do this, you will need to leave a signed letter of authorisation to allow the card to be delivered to your friend instead of you. If your friend lives at a different address, contact us to ask UKVI to change the address for your application. 

If you are in the UK legally but unable to leave or apply for new permission before your visa expiry

If you are in the UK legally, but unable to leave the UK, or make an application for new permission in a relevant category before your visa expiry date, please see the information from UKVI. UKVI confirmed that if you couldn't leave because of travel restrictions related to COVID-19, you would not suffer any detriment in the future.

Until 31 July 2020, students were required to contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre if they were unable to leave the UK, and the Coronavirus Immigration Health Centre sent a written confirmation that the leave had been extended to 31 July 2020. From 31 July 2020 until 31 August 2020, UK Visas and Immigration stated that you did not need to contact the Home Office to tell them that you were unable to leave up to 31 August 2020. 

Further information is on the UK government website, including what you can so if your visa expired between 1 September 2020 and 31 October 2020 and you have been unable to leave the UK. 

If you were unable to register with the Police, or update any relevant changes with the Police

Please check our guidance if you were unable to register with the Police, or update any relevant changes with the Police.

Extending your Tier 4 or Student immigration permission at this time

You can submit your application online still. If you submit, and pay for, your application online, you are considered to have made your application, so please ensure that you do this before your visa expiry, if you are eligible. 

After you have paid for your application, you should register an account on the UKVCAS website. You can upload your documents. 

Exceptionally, we understand that some students are being informed that they not required to attend an appointment, as they have enrolled their biometrics previously. You will receive an email if this is the case for you. 

For those who are submitting a new Student application now, we understand it is not currently possible to make a new appointment at the same time as you submit your application. Don't worry, this will not affect your pending application. You should be contacted once appointments are available, or you will be informed if you do not need to attend an appointment.

If there are more than 28 days between your visa expiring and new course starting

Students would not normally be allowed to apply for Tier 4 permission from within the UK if there are more than 28 days between their visa expiring and new course starting. UKVI will exercise discretion on this requirement if the start date of the new course named on the CAS is no later than 31 December 2020. The guidance confirms that this concession applies to students who already hold permission on the Student or Child Student routes (including Tier 4).

Working additional hours for the NHS

UKVI have published the following information with regards to working additional hours for the NHS with Tier 4 or Student immigration permission. Between 3 April and 30 April 2020, Tier 4 students could only work additional hours for the NHS in the capacity of a doctor, nurse or paramedic. On 1st May 2020 the list of occupations was expanded. Please see the UKVI web page for a list of the relevant occupations in which students with Tier 4 or Student immigration permission can work more than 20 hours during term-time. 

Other students can work full-time during the official vacation periods. You can find out about the term-dates online. PhD students usually have 6 weeks vacation per year, in agreement with their Supervisor and academic school.

If you need ATAS clearance

The ATAS team have been accepting applications since 1 June. We understand there are some delays in ATAS processing at the moment. 

Undergraduate (MEng/MSci) and all Postgraduate Taught students on programmes requiring ATAS can enrol to start studies remotely before evidence of ATAS clearance has been obtained. ATAS clearance will still be necessary to issue the CAS. Postgraduate Research students are not permitted to enrol until they have received ATAS clearance. If your ATAS expires before you make a Student visa application, you will need to reapply for the ATAS clearance. 

Information for prospective and current students outside the UK

Travelling to England whilst national restrictions are in place

There are national restrictions in England from 5 November to 2 December 2020. These may be extended. The national restrictions are explained on the UK government web pages. We understand that you can still enter England during this period, if your flight will go ahead as scheduled.

Review the latest government guidance before you travel. This changes frequently and sometimes at short notice. You must self-isolate unless you are travelling from a country which is exempt from the requirement.

Everyone must complete the Passenger Locator Form, up to 48 hours before you arrive in England. You must complete this form even if you don’t have to self-isolate. You do not need to fill in the form if you are travelling from the Common Travel Area (Ireland, Isle of Man and Channel Islands)

If you have not yet applied for a Student visa

For updates to the status of VACs, contact: 

  • TLS Contact if you’re in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East

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

If you are unable to travel within your visa vignette validity

Visa vignettes are currently being issued for 90 days. If you are unable to travel within the 90 day validity, then you can apply to replace your visa vignette. The cost to replace your vignette is £154. You do not need to apply for Student immigration permission again, just to replace the vignette. 

The UK government web pages confirm that a 30 day visa vignette can be replaced for free until the end of 2020. We asked our Licence Manager at UKVI if this would also be the case with visa vignettes issued for 90 days, and received the following response:

The expectation is that the applicant would travel while the 90 day vignette is valid. If they couldn't then they would not automatically qualify for a free replacement. Any request for a free replacement would be considered case by case based on personal circumstances. The expectation is that the applicant would travel while the 90 day vignette is valid. If they couldn't then they would not automatically qualify for a free replacement. Any request for a free replacement would be considered case by case based on personal circumstances.

To be considered for a free replacement, please follow the instructions on the UK government website. Please note we have heard there are some delays in issuing replacement vignettes at this time. 

Receiving a CAS if you are starting your course online

You can be issued with a CAS even if you are starting your course online or through blended learning, provided that you intend to transition to face-to-face learning as soon as circumstances allow. See our guidance about requesting a CAS

If you start your course online

You do not need a visa whilst you are studying online in your home country. 

If you cannot get to the UK by the start date of your course, there are alternative provisions in place to arrange enrolment remotely and you can travel to the UK when it is permitted, possible and safe to do so. More information is on the Guidance for applicants webpage.

The latest date you can arrive in the UK will be listed on your CAS.  

Eligibility for the new Graduate ('Post Study Work') route if you start your course outside the UK.

The Graduate Route is due to be introduced for those students with Tier 4 or Student immigration permission completing a degree level course at Queen Mary from Summer 2021. 

UKVI have confirmed that students will normally be expected to undertake their studies in the UK to be eligible for the Graduate route. However, if students are required to either continue their current studies or commence a new course by distance or blended learning due to Covid-19, they will still be eligible to switch into the Graduate route on a concessionary basis if they spent some time studying outside the UK. Students will benefit from this concession if they enter the UK before 6 April 2021 and complete the final semester of their studies in the UK. Students would need to meet all other requirements of the route.

How to answer question on your visa application form about your intended date of travel

You do not need to apply for immigration permission whilst you are studying in your home country.

Think carefully about the timing of submitting your application for Student immigration permission, based on when you will be able to come to the UK. Your intended date of travel to the UK should be the date you actually intend to arrive in the UK. If the date you travel to the UK changes because of the Coronavirus situation after you have received your visa, then this should not negatively affect you. 

Self-isolation on arrival in England

The government has published guidance about the requirements to self-isolate on arrival in England, including the list of countries from which you can travel without the requirement to self-isolate on arrival. The guidance and exempt countries are being updated frequently, so you would be advised to keep checking this information. 

Here are some other useful UK government web pages with more details about the requirements:

If you are staying in Queen Mary accommodation, Queen Mary Residential Services have prepared a useful guide about living safely and self-isolation

The earliest that someone with Tier 4 or Student immigration permission will be able to come to the UK is one month before the start date listed on their CAS or 7 days before the intended date of travel, whichever is later. 

Collecting your BRP card

When you arrive in the UK you will not be penalised for being unable to collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) with 10 days, while coronavirus measures are in place. 
If you have to self-isolate, you should collect your BRP card as soon as possible after you have finished your period of self-isolation. We understand that the Post Offices will be keeping the BRP cards for longer, so it should be still be available to collect after your period of self-isolation. 

Students due to undertake a work placement/study abroad next year

If you were due to undertake a placement next year as part of your course

If you are unable to undertake the placement, and instead are awarded the degree without Industrial Experience, then you can expect your Tier 4 visa to be curtailed after you have completed your course, in line with the information under 'What happens if I successfully complete my course early' on our web page Tier 4 reporting and curtailment.

If you were due to study abroad next year but now wish to complete your course without study abroad

If you decide to cancel the study abroad year, and instead are awarded your degee early without study abroad, then this change of circumstance with be reported to UKVI and you can expect your Tier 4 visa to be curtailed (cancelled) after you have completed your course. Please read the information 'What happens if I successfully complete my course early' on our web page Immigration reporting and curtailment.

Immigration implications if you defer your course for a year in order to undertake your study abroad/work placement next year

If you interrupt your studies for more than 60 days, because you would like to undertake your study abroad/work placement next year, then you can expect your Tier 4 visa to be curtailed (cancelled) in line with the information on our web page Immigration reporting and curtailment. You would be advised to leave the UK within 60 days. You would not be permitted to work during this period.

Returning to the UK following study abroad in your 4th year

You can return to the UK after your study abroad year provided that you still have valid Tier 4 immigration permission. Please see the section Leaving the UK and returning to the UK later for information about what you should carry in your hand luggage when you re-enter.

If you wish to apply for Tier 2 or the Skilled Worker Route in the UK, check the requirements for switching

If you hope to apply for the proposed Graduate route, check the details about the requirements. This page will be updated when we receive further details about the route.  

Information for students with another immigration status (not Tier 4 or Student)

If you are an EU national and want to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme

You can still apply for Settled/Pre-settled status. The deadline for applying for those resident in the UK before 31.12.2020 is 30 June 2021. Please see our detailed information and guidance about how to stay in the UK. Applications may take longer to be processed than usual due to the current situation. 

Please consider how any absences from the UK might affect an application for Settled Status later. We have detailed information and examples on our web page with guidance for EU/EEA students

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