The Home Office has eased UK visa restrictions for migrant entrepreneurs, NHS workers and overstayers amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It’s understood that penalties for overstaying a UK visa have been scrapped, while NHS workers currently in Britain on a visa can work anywhere without any limit on the number of hours they can work.
However, British nationals based overseas are still unable to apply for a passport if their local office has been closed. The relaxing of UK visa requirements by the Home Office is the first official update since March when allowances were made for people who had overstayed their UK visa, overseas NHS staff, international students and entrepreneurs.
A Home Office statement said: “There will be no future adverse immigration consequences for people whose visa or leave to remain expired between 24 January and 31 August 2020, and who did not apply to regularise their stay (legally extend it).”
Failure to apply to extend stay in UK
However, the government agency did say that although there will be no penalty if a person later applies for another UK visa, those who fail to apply to extend their current stay in the UK prior to their visa expiring ‘must make arrangements to leave the UK.’
For overseas nationals due to leave the UK in November, but have been unable to due to flight restrictions or testing positive for COVID-19, they can request additional time to remain in Britain.
For people whose visas expired any time after 31 October, an application can be made to renew or extend a visa from within the UK, rather than having to return to their home country as they would have to do under ‘normal circumstances.’
Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa
For those in the UK on a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa (now the Innovator Visa), the rules have been heavily relaxed amid the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the impact this has had on business.
The Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa scheme, which required a minimum investment of £200,000 to set up an enterprise in the UK, was replaced by the Innovator visa in March 2019. However, the Entrepreneur Visa is valid for three years, which means that many international entrepreneurs are still in the UK under this visa.
The government has dropped a requirement for business owners in the UK on an Entrepreneur visa to hire at least two people for 12 consecutive months. It’s understood that the 12 months can now be made up of multiple jobs and this does not have to be over consecutive months.
Furthermore, if employees were furloughed amid the pandemic, this does not count towards the 12 months. Under Home Office relaxations, people in the UK on an Entrepreneur visa who have been unable to hire staff for 12 months within their visa validity period, can apply to extend their visa, giving them time to meet the requirement.
Overseas NHS workers will now be permitted to work at any hospital during the coronavirus pandemic and serve in any healthcare job at any skill level. Meanwhile, restrictions on the number of hours they can work or volunteer has also been lifted.
New Home Office guidance states that international students can now start studying in the UK prior to their Tier 4 visa being issued, provided that they have confirmation of being accepted on a course of study at their place of education or an application has been made to renew their existing visa before it expires.
Tier 2 visa and Tier 5 visa
For foreign nationals who have applied for a Tier 2 (General) visa or a Tier 5 temporary work visa, have been given permission to start work prior to being issued with a visa. However, they will have to leave the UK if their application is refused.
British nationals overseas
Meanwhile, for British nationals based overseas looking to apply for a passport, the Home Office has said that an application can me made online.
However, if they are required to book an appointment at an overseas UK visa centre and it is closed due to coronavirus, the Home Office has stated that ‘people will be unable to apply for a UK passport until the centre reopens.’