Sanwar Ali: UK visa, 14 days quarantine and coronavirus

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Priti Patel, Home Secretary at Covid-19 Press Conference 22 May 2020

Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

By Sanwar Ali

The big news is that as expected there is a 14 day quarantine period for almost all arrivals into the UK from 8 June 2020.  This includes entry of British citizens.  Travellers from the Common Travel Area which includes the Republic of Ireland will be exempt from this requirement as will transport workers, medical specialists working in the fight against coronavirus and seasonal agricultural workers (will need to self isolate at place of work). 

You will need to provide an address to the authorities when you arrive in the UK.  Previously it was thought that perhaps the 14 day quarantine period would only apply to people arriving on flights into the UK.  It has now been confirmed that the quarantine period applies to those who enter both via airports and ports.  Anyone failing to comply could face a fine of £1,000 and potentially imprisonment in some cases.

Priti Patel the Home Secretary had the following to say:

“I fully expect the majority of people will do the right thing and abide by these measures. But we will take enforcement action against the minority of people who endanger the safety of others.”

Business Groups furious about 14 day quarantine requirement

It has been suggested that the Government should have taken a more targeted approach.  The lockdown has been a disaster financially for UK businesses and many businesses around the World.  It has also had an enormous effect on the employment situation in the UK. About a quarter of UK employees are currently under the UK Government furlough scheme that pays eighty percent of the salary while they are not working. 

There are many people who are unable to work from home.  People who are able to work from home are more likely to be in higher paid jobs.  Therefore in some respects lockdown has affected the lower paid more. The lockdown will likely lead to a recession and high unemployment.

There is reportedly a split in Government with many Cabinet ministers looking to relax the lockdown further.  There may potentially be an "air bridges" policy in future with agreements with countries that have low infection rates so that tourists and other travellers can enter without quarantining.

A spokesperson for ABTA that represents travel agents and tour operators had the following to say:

“Protecting public health is a priority and it’s vital to base decisions about travel on the best health and scientific advice. No one should be in any doubt, however, that a 14-day quarantine period for all travellers returning to the UK will unavoidably put many people off travelling abroad or visiting the UK, and will therefore have a hugely damaging impact on the UK inbound and outbound tourism industries – which support hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country and have already been severely affected by the pandemic."

This will cause even more problems for the travel industry.  The “lockdown” has meant that many businesses, especially those in the travel industry, have had to cease trading for the time being.  Some businesses will never reopen.  People are unlikely to wish to go on holiday outside the UK if they have to endure a fourteen day quarantine period when they come back.

Exemptions to the 14 day quarantine requirement from 8 June 2020

The following groups of people are exempt from the fourteen day quarantine and self-isolation requirement:

  • Road haulage and freight workers, so that the supply of goods is not affected.
  • Medical professionals travelling to help with the fight against coronavirus
  • Those moving within the Common Travel Area, which consists of the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man
  • Seasonal Agricultural Workers who will self-isolate on the property where they are working

UK visa applicants continue to be affected by lockdown

It is currently not possible to make applications at UK Visa Application centres from outside the UK, and it is uncertain when UK visa processing will resume.  The good news is that if you are in the UK and applying for a Tier 2 visa or Tier 5 visa within the UK you can start working for the employer even before you have an approved UK visa.  You need to have an assigned Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) and have submitted your UK visa application before your visa expires.   It is also currently not possible to attend UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) and Service and Support Centres (SSCs) as these are also temporarily closed because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Overseas nationals currently in the UK wishing to stay for shorter periods

The good news is that due to the emergency situation those people who are stranded in the UK can remain in the UK longer until 31 July 2020.  This covers people whose visas expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 and who are unable to leave due to travel restrictions or because they are self isolating. The period of stay was increased on 22 May 2020 so that people can stay until 31 July 2020 instead of 31 May 2020, which was previously the case.  You should apply for an extension using the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) online form.   If you have already had your visa extended to 31 May 2020 this will be automatically extended to 31 July 2020.

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If you need help with a Tier 2 visa, or a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence, including help with complying with your Tier 2 Sponsor Licence obligations, workpermit.com can help.

For more information and advice on Tier 2 Sponsor Licences, UK immigration law and UK visa applications please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or at london@workpermit.com