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 16 June 2020.

28 Day Rule

The Tier 4 rules state that in order to apply for a Tier 4 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:

  • Your visa expires before, or on 31 July 2020; and
  • You submit your visa applcation before your visa expires; and
  • The course start date on the CAS for your new course is before, or on 01 October 2020

This applies where you have a Tier 4 visa, and also where you are switching to Tier 4 from a different visa category.

Academic Progression

Continuing Students

If you cannot 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), the guidance states that you will be able to apply to extend your Tier 4 visa inside the UK. This applies even if you do not meet the exemptions to academic progression such as repeating a module, repeating an exam or continuing on the PhD course you have been studying.

If you are changing to a course at a lower level (for example moving from a Masters level course to a Bachelors level course) the concession to academic progression will still not apply in your case.

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

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

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

VFS global for all other countries

UKVI have confirmed that if you have already been issued with a 30 day entry clearance visa overseas, and this has now expired, you can apply for a replacement (with new validity dates) free of charge. You will be able to apply for this until the end of 2020. 

You will need to email UKVI with ‘REPLACEMENT 30 DAY VISA’ in the subject line.

In the email, you will need to include:

  • your name
  • nationality
  • date of birth
  • your GWF reference number (you can find this on your visa application form)

They will then contact you when their VACs reopen to arrange for a replacement visa to be endorsed in your passport. The replacement will be valid for travel to the UK for 90 days.

You will not be penalised for being unable collect your BRP in the UK while coronavirus measures are in place.

For more guidance about your BRP card please see the Covid-19 FAQs for students at the bottom of this webpage and our webpages here.

ATAS

The Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) have 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.

Blended Learning & Tier 4

The University's FAQs confirm that in 2020/21, we are currently planning to offer a blend of face-to-face teaching in small groups in Sheffield, where social distancing can be maintained, supported by digital delivery.

For the 2020/21 academic year, you will be able to study in this way with a Tier 4 visa. If you need a new Tier 4 visa to study your course, for example if you are a new student studying your first course in Sheffield, the University can issue a CAS for you to apply for a Tier 4 visa for courses delivered in this way.

UKVI will review this and will expect that students with a Tier 4 visa will transaition back to face-to-face teaching as soon as the situation allows.

Graduate Immigration Route

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.

You must enter the UK before 06 April 2021, complete the final semester of your course in the UK and meet all other requirements for this visa category.

Leave of Absence

Under UKVI’s temporary guidance, if you take a leave of absence of any length, and it is related COVID-19 the University are not required to report the LOA to UK Visas and Immigration.

If the temporary guidance changes, International Student Support will contact you if you are still on a leave of absence and ask you to confirm if you wish to return to study earlier than the end date on the leave of absence request, or continue with the leave of absence (with reporting to UKVI).

The University will also give you the option of having your leave of absence reported to UKVI. This may benefit some students who are concerned about breaching their time limit on study at degree level under Tier 4. If you have left the UK, or you are intending to leave the UK once restrictions are lifted you may wish to consider this. You can contact International Student Support if you are not sure about this.

Please also see what we currently know about Academic Progression if you take a leave of absence related to COVID-19.

If your leave of absence is not related to COVID-19 normal leave of absence procedures will still apply.

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

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. 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 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 at overseas.visitors@southyorks.pnn.police.uk. They can then then include both the new and old details on your certificate when they are able to see you.

Short-Term Student & Visitor Visas

If you are in the UK on a Short-Term Student or Visitor Visa for 6 months you can temporarily apply to switch to a Tier 4 visa inside the UK. To do this, you must meet all the requirements for a Tier 4 visa other than the requirement that only allows you to switch from other Tier 4 categories and Tier 2.

The guidance says that this will only be permitted up until 31 July 2020, and it will then be reviewed.

You will be able to register on your course if you provide evidence of your Tier 4 application being submitted before 31 July 2020, but if the course needs ATAS you will need to obtain the ATAS certificate before you can start the course (please see ATAS above).

If your Short-Term Student or Visitor visa expires after 31 July 2020, you should contact International Student Support for advice.

If you have applied to extend your visa to 31 July 2020 instead, and you have successfully received the extension, you will be permitted to study a course different to the one you entered the UK to study, but you must leave the UK before your visa expires.

If your Short-Term Student visa expires after 31 July 2020, you will also be able to study a further course but only if:

  • you are unable to continue the original course that you entered the UK to study by distance learning; or
  • you have completed your original course

If you are unable to leave the UK due to travel restrictions caused by COVID-19, UKVI state the normal requirement for Short-Term Students to leave within 30 days of the end of study will not be applied.

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' 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.

Switching From Other Visa Categories

If you have a visa in a category other than Tier 4, you may be able to switch to a Tier 4 visa on an exceptional basis. To do this, you must meet all the requirements for a Tier 4 visa other than the requirement that only allows you to switch from other Tier 4 categories and Tier 2, unless the requirement you cannot meet is covered by another concession in this tempoary guidance.

If you are unsure if this will apply in your case, please contact International Student Support for advice.

This will be reviewed on 31 July 2020.

Time Limits on Tier 4 Study

UKVI have confirmed there will be no extensions to their normal time limits for study on a 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.

Visa Expires Before 31 July 2020

UKVI's current concessions allow for an extension of your visa to 31 July 2020 if your visa expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020, and switching visa categories that would not usually be permitted.

You should not rely on this UKVI concession being extended, and should try to leave the UK or make a new visa application (if you are eligible) before your amended visa expiry date. If you cannot do this please contact International Student Support with details of your individual circumstances so we can advise you further.

The Home Office has also set-up a helpline for international higher education staff and students if they have immigration queries related to coronavirus, including questions about urgent, compelling, compassionate cases where an international student or other visa national based abroad needs to travel to the UK. The helpline can only speak to the visa holder or applicant about individual cases. If a third party wishes to speak on their behalf, they must have the visa holder’s permission. Call 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, calls free of charge) or email CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk.

Working in the UK

If you have a 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

See Also

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

UKVI Advice For Visa Applicants & Temporary UK Residents

COVID-19 FAQs For Current Students