UKVI temporary guidance during COVID-19 – what this means for you

UKVI published temporary guidance on 17 April 2020 which includes changes to their existing guidance which may affect the usual advice you would be given. We have summarised what these changes mean in the different subject areas below. This was updated most recently on 1 December 2021.

On

28 day rule

The Student Visa rules state that in order to apply for a Student Visa inside the UK, your new course cannot be more than 28 days after the day your current visa expires.

UKVI have now stated that they will show discretion in cases where:

  • You already have Student or Tier 4 visa; and
  • The course start date given on the CAS for your new course is no later than 27 September 2021

You must still submit your visa application before your current visa expires.


Academic progression

Continuing students

The concession that allowed you to apply for a Student visa inside the UK if you could not complete your course before your current visa expires for a reason related to COVID-19 (for, example due to a leave of absence taken for COVID-19 related reasons) was removed from UKVIs guidance on 1 December 2021.

If you are a continuing student, it may still be possible for you to submit a successful Student visa application inside the UK if:

  • You are studying below PhD level; and
  • You do not meet any of the usual exemptions to the academic progression rules (e.g repeating a module or continuing on the PhD course you have been studying); and
  • You cannot complete your course within your current visa; and
  • The start date of your course was before 27 September 2021

Please note that the visa application will rely on UKVI accepting the evidence of why you cannot leave the UK in order to be successful under this concession.

If you were changing to a course at a lower level by moving from a Masters level course to a Bachelors level on an integrated course, and you cannot leave the UK, you were able to apply for a Student visa inside the UK on an exceptional basis if the 'new course' started before 27 September 2021. However, there have been changes to other parts of the rules and guidance that help you if you are downgrading from Masters level to Bachelors level on an integrated Masters course of the same title (eg MEng Civil Engineering to BEng Civil Engineering). Please see our change of programme information for more on this:

If you are changing to a new course at the same level and need to apply for a new visa before you can change course, we would still advise you to apply for your visa from outside the UK where possible. If you cannot leave the UK to do this, please contact International Student Support (student login required).

Please note this guidance is only temporary, and it is not clear how long it will apply for. So we do not know if it will help you if you submit your visa application after the end date of this guidance. If you are outside the UK, you may wish to apply for a new visa instead of using your existing visa to return to the UK.


Applying for a Visa outside the UK

Most Visa Application Centres (VACs) overseas are now resuming services where local restrictions allow, whilst others remain closed and unable to issue visas for travel to the UK. You can check the service where you live:

  • If you’re in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East, check: TLS contact 
  • For all other countries, check: VFS global 

UKVI confirmed that if you had already been issued with a 30 day entry clearance visa overseas, and this has now expired, you could apply for a replacement (with new validity dates) free of charge.

UKVI state that the arrangement to replace expired 30 day vignettes for free ended on 31 December 2020, see their website for further information:

Please note that if your 90-day travel vignette for the UK has expired, you will need to apply for a vignette transfer and pay an application fee of £154.

You won’t be penalised for being unable to collect your BRP in the UK while coronavirus measures are in place.

For more guidance about your BRP card please see the following webpage: 


ATAS

The Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) has started to accept applications for ATAS clearance with effect from 01 June 2020.

Where you require ATAS clearance in order to study a new course you should now apply for this as normal following the instructions given on your offer letter.

Where you are a continuing student, you will be advised if you need to apply for a new ATAS certificate, for example due to a change of status.


Remote Learning & Student Visas

Please see here for information on the University's current position on face-to-face teaching, remote learning and situations where remote study may be permitted by the University.

If you have been permitted to study remotely, and you have a Tier 4 or Student visa, you will be able to continue to do so whilst holding this visa until 6 April 2022. This is the date that UKVI expect you to start face-to-face teaching.

If you have been permitted to study remotely but do not have your visa yet, the University may still be able to issue a CAS for you to apply for a Student visa, but only if you will arrive in the UK by 6 April 2022 to commence face to face study.


Grace period until 31st August & exceptional assurance

If your visa expired between 24th January and 31st August 2020, this meant that you were able stay in the UK under the same conditions of your most recent visa until 31st August.

UKVI state that "If your visa or leave 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".

If you can’t extend your permission in the UK and can’t leave the UK, UKVI state that you will need to apply for 'exceptional assurance', and more information on this can be found here:

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


Graduate Immigration Route

If you are completing your course in 2021:

UKVI have confirmed that where you have studied some of your course through blended learning or distance learning in 2020/21 due to COVID-19, you will still be able to apply for a visa under the Graduate Immigration Route.

If you started your course in 2020, please see the 'eligibility' section of our Graduate Immigration Route webpage for a list of the deadlines for arriving in the UK if you are interested in applying for a Graduate Visa.

If you are completing your course after 2021:

UKVI have confirmed that you will not be penalised when applying for the Graduate Visa if:

  • your course is more than one year in length, and
  • you completed some of or all of the 2020/21 academic year by distance learning

We understand that any period of distance learning between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 will not count against you.

Please note that until the immigration rules and guidance for the Graduate Immigration Route are published, this information is subject to change.

Detailed information on COVID-19 concessions UKVI have introduced for the Graduate visa can be found at our Graduate visa page:


Leave of absence

UKVI’s temporary guidance previously allowed the University not to report a leave of absence (LOA) to them if you took an LOA that was related to COVID-19. This concession was removed from the guidance on 22 December 2020.

Normal leave of absence procedures now apply to all students. 

There is also no change if you are withdrawing from your studies, this will still be reported to UKVI.

LOA for Taught Students

Reporting the LOA may benefit some students who are concerned about breaching their time limit on study at degree level under their Student or Tier 4 visa.

Also, the leave of absence is likely to mean that you will need to apply for a Student visa to cover the extended end date of your course, and it may be safer to submit this application outside the UK. Please see what we currently know about academic progression (student login required) if you take a leave of absence related to COVID-19.


 Police registration

Police forces, including South Yorkshire Police have currently suspended all police registration appointments until further notice.

If you have applied for your visa or had your change of circumstances, we would advise you to do the following:

If you need to register with the police for the first time:

You can still create an online account on the South Yorkshire Police Website.

You will not be able to book an appointment when your account has been created, but the police consider the day your online account has been created to be the day you registered with them.

The police have asked that after you create an online account that you email them to confirm the following information:

  • Your full name
  • Your date of birth
  • The email address you used to create your online account
  • The username for your online account

This is because the police aren’t prompted when you create an online account, unless you book an appointment with them. It’s not currently possible to book an appointment. If you give the police this information they will make a note to contact you to invite you to book an appointment with them when they start up again.

You must attend an appointment to complete the registration and fulfil the police registration condition of your visa, but you can only do this once appointments are available again. You will not be penalised for there being a long gap between your online registration and your appointment.

If you already have a police registration certificate:

You can log back into your online account and update your details online. The police can then update the details on your police registration certificate when they are able to see you.

If you need to submit a visa application but your certificate has not been updated because you have not been able to book and attend an appointment since you registered your changes online, you should still submit the certificate with the visa application.

If you have registered online but do not have a certificate:

If you have registered online, but have not been given your police registration certificate yet, you will not be able to log into your online account. Instead, you can contact the police via email.

They can then then include both the new and old details on your certificate when they are able to see you. In the email, please include your:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Username for your online account with South Yorkshire Police

 If you are registered with another police force because you do not live in Sheffield, please contact the police force you are registered with for instructions on what you should do.

South Yorkshire Police have now started to offer a limited number of police registration appointments from April 2021.
You should continue to register with the police online as normal.

What you need to do depends on whether you are

  • registering for the first time
  • changing your details, or
  • transferring from a different police force

The police have confirmed that appointments will be limited, and that you may not be able to find an available appointment straight away after registering online. They have advised that you should check again for available appointments at the end of each month.

They have reiterated that you will not be penalised for there being a long gap between your online registration and your appointment. However, you do need to ensure that you attend an appointment and get your police registration certificate in order to complete the process and ensure you continue to meet the conditions of your visa.


Short-term Student & Visitor Visas

There was temporarily a concession which allowed those in the UK on a Short-Term Student or Visitor Visa for 6 months to apply to switch to a Tier 4 visa inside the UK, if you had arrived in the UK before 31 July 2020.

This concession was reviewed by UKVI and is no longer available.

There is no way to extend a Short-Term Student visa inside the UK.


Student attendance monitoring

Whilst the temporary guidance applies, the University is now not required to report the following to UKVI:

  • Students who are no longer attending classroom based learning and have moved to remote teaching
  • Absences or missed contact points due to Covid-19 related illness or travel 

The University will maintain its sponsorship of students' Student or Tier 4 visas during this period of online learning, on the provision that they remain engaged with their studies.

Therefore it is important that you continue to study by accessing online learning materials, submitting your assessments, and responding to correspondence from your department.

You must keep your department informed of any issues preventing you from studying so they can record this and advise you appropriately.

If you have a Student or Tier 4 visa, but are studying remotely and you stop engaging on your course for more than 30 days, the University must withdraw sponsorship. We would then expect that UKVI will cancel your existing Student or Tier 4 visa.


Switching from other visa categories

UKVI did introduce a concession where if you had a visa in a category other than Tier 4, you may have been able to switch to a Tier 4 visa on an exceptional basis if you arrived in the UK before or on 31 July 2020.

This was reviewed by UKVI and is no longer available.

However, under the rules for the Student Visa route introduced on 5 October 2020, you can now apply to switch into the Student Visa category from any category except:

  • Visitor
  • Short-term Student
  • Parent of a Child Student
  • Seasonal Worker
  • Domestic Worker in a Private Household
  • Outside the Immigration Rules

You would also need to meet all other requirements for the Student Visa category.

There is no longer any COVID-19 concession that allows you to switch into a Student visa from categories where switching is not normally allowed under the immigration rules.

However, under the rules for the Student visa route introduced on 5 October 2020, you can now apply to switch into the Student visa category from any category except:

  • Visitor
  • Short-term student
  • Parent of a child student
  • Seasonal worker
  • Domestic worker in a private household
  • Outside the immigration rules

You would also need to meet all other requirements for the Student visa category.


Time limits on Tier 4 study

UKVI have confirmed there will be no extensions to the normal time limits for study on a Student or Tier 4 visa. However, if you have had a leave of absence period of leave due to Covid-19 that will cause you to exceed your time limit, UKVI have indicated that they may apply discretion in the future.

If your next visa application would cause you to go over your time limit, you should contact International Student Support for advice.


 Working in the UK

Other than the vacation periods outlined by our Working in the UK on a Student visa page, you will only be considered to be outside of term-time if all study on your course has been suspended. If you are unsure about this, please:

If you have a Student or Tier 4 visa which allows you to do some work (i.e 10 or 20 hours per week in term time) and if you are employed by an NHS trust within any of the professions listed below, you will not be restricted to 20 hours work per week during term time and you may work without limit on the number of hours:

  • Biochemist
  • Biological scientist
  • Dental practitioner
  • Health professional
  • Medical practitioner
  • Medical radiographer
  • Midwife
  • Nurse
  • Occupational therapist
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Paramedic
  • Pharmacist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Podiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Social worker
  • Speech and language therapist
  • Therapy professional

Please note that you must still be studying in order to be eligible to do this. For example, if you’re on a leave of absence from your course (that is not due to all study on the course being suspended) you can’t work full time during term-time, even in one of the occupations listed above.


See also:

UKVI Temporary Guidance on COVID-19 (PDF, 275KB)

UKVI Advice For Visa Applicants & Temporary UK Residents

COVID-19 FAQs For Current Students