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 5 October 2020.
- 28 Day Rule
- Academic Progression
- Applying For a Visa Outside the UK
- Blended Learning & Student Visas
- 'Grace Period' until 31st August & Exceptional Assurance
- Graduate Immigration Route
- Leave of Absence
- Police Registration
- Short Term Student Visas
- Student Attendance Monitoring
- Switching From Other Visa Categories
- Time Limits on Study With a Student Visa
- Working in the UK
- See Also
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 before or on 31st December 2020
You must still submit your visa application before your current visa expires.
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 the 'new course' starts before 31st December 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 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
- date of birth
- your GWF reference number (you can find this on your visa application form)
They will then contact you 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.
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 & Student Visas
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 Student or Tier 4 visa. If you need a new Student 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 Student visa for courses delivered in this way.
UKVI will review this and will expect that students with a Student or Tier 4 visa will transition back to face-to-face teaching as soon as the situation allows.
Grace Period Until 31st August & 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
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 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.
Taught Students: If you are already outside the UK or planning to leave the UK:
If you have a Student or Tier 4 visa, the University will report your leave of absence to UK Visas and Immigration as normal. We expect UKVI to curtail (cancel) your current visa and you will need to obtain a new Student Visa before you return to the UK.
This 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 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.
PhD Students & Taught Students that confirm to International Student Support that they cannot leave the UK:
We can then consider using the above guidance and not report your leave of absence to UKVI if your LOA is COVID-19 related.
If the temporary guidance changes, we 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).
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 need to submit a visa application but your certificate has not been updated because you have not been able to book and attend and 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 at email@example.com. 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
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:
- 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:
• biological scientist
• dental practitioner
• health professional
• medical practitioner
• medical radiographer
• occupational therapist
• social worker
• speech and language therapist
• therapy professional