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 4 March 2021.



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.

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

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 Student 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 by moving from a Masters level course to Bachelors level on an integrated course, and you cannot leave the UK, you will be able to apply for a Student visa inside the UK on an exceptional basis if you need more time in the UK to complete the new course and it starts before 27th September 2021.

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.

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 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's webpage states that the arrangement to replace expired 30 day vignettes for free ended on 31 December 2020.

Please note that if your initial vignette was valid for 90 days and not 30 days, you were not be able to replace this for free. You will need to apply for a vignette transfer and pay an application fee of £154.

The University may be able to reimburse the cost of your replacement vignette application through the Student COVID-19 Support Fund. If you wish to apply to the fund you will need to provide a copy of your expired vignette as well as the receipt you receive upon submission of the replacement vignette application.

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 & Distance Learning & Student Visas

In 2020/21, the University offered a blend of face-to-face teaching in small groups in Sheffield, where social distancing can be maintained, supported by digital delivery and it was possible to study in this way with a Student or Tier 4 visa.

UKVI have now confirmed that from 27 September 2021, the University will only be able to sponsor students under the Student Visa system if they are undertaking face to face teaching by this date.

 

Grace Period Until 31st August 2020 & Exceptional Assurance

If your visa expired between 24th January and 31st August 2020, you were able remain 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 cannot extend your permission in the UK and cannot leave the UK, UKVI state you will need to apply for 'exceptional assurance', and more information on this can be found here.

 

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

Leave of Absence

UKVI’s temporary guidance previously allowed the University not to report a leave of absence (LOA) to them if you took a LOA that was related to COVID-19. This concession was removed from the guidance on 22nd 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 apply for a Student Visa to cover the extended end date of your course, and it may be safer to submit this applciation outside the UK. Please see what we currently know about Academic Progression if you take a leave of absence related to COVID-19.

 

Police Registration

South Yorkshire Police have now started to offer a limited number of police registration appointments from April 2021.

They should have contacted you if you had an appointment booked with them in March 2020 that was cancelled, and they are prioritising appointments for those students affected by this.

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

You can find more details of this here.

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 do 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.

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 you fail to register, or if you 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 have re-introduced a concession where if you had a visa in a category that does not usually allow you to switch into the Student visa category (including Short-Term Student and Visitor), you may have been able to switch to a Student visa on an exceptional basis if your visa expires before 1st July 2021.
The concession also allows you to start studying the course if:

  • you have a pending Student visa application; and
  • you submit the application before your visa expires; and
  • the course start date on your CAS is on or before 30 June 2021; and
  • You have ATAS clearance for the course (if required)

The University must end Student visa sponsorship and teaching if the visa application is refused.

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 their 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

It is important to remember that if you are in the UK, but studying remotely, you are still considered to be in term-time and you will be restricted to the work hours stated on your visa.

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 contact International Student Support

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 until 30 September 2021:

• 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 are on a leave of absence from your course (that is not due to all study on the course being suspended) you cannot work full time during tem-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