THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
The Home Office has confirmed that it will not issue further automatic extensions to visas due to the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown. In April, the Government announced that visas could be extended to May 31st. This was later extended to July 31st. The extensions took into account the difficulty in international travel at the time, with most countries of the world restricting entry, and plane and ferry services severely impacted.
Now that the UK's lockdown is easing, the Home Office has issued an update explaining that "If you had a visa that expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 you were able to request an extension if you were not able to return home because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19)." Explaining why the visa extensions will now end, the Home Office say that "Now travel restrictions are lifting globally you will no longer be able to extend your visa automatically on this basis and you are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so or apply to regularise your stay in the UK."
If your visa expired after January 24 or before August 31, 2020, you can choose to apply for further leave to remain, or you can opt to leave the UK. The Home Office has confirmed that August will act as a grace period, meaning that your current visa terms will remain active until August 31, 2020.
If you'd prefer to stay in the UK, you'll need to apply for leave to remain. The Home Office say that forms for visas you'd usually submit from your home country can instead be submitted within the UK. Requirements for each visa route continue to apply, and you'll need to pay the relevant UK application fee. It appears you can apply for a new visa during the grace period in August, but the earlier the better given possible delays in processing applications.
You don't need to tell the Home Office of your decision to leave during the grace period, which ends August 31, 2020. However, if you find that you're not able to leave before August 31 but still intend to do so, you may be eligible for a short extension which the Home Office is referring to as 'exceptional indemnity'. To apply for 'exceptional indemnity', you should contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team, by e-mailing CIH@homeoffice.go.uk.
The Home Office say that if your visa or leave to remain expired between January 24 and August 31 2020, but you didn't advise the Home Office of your continued stay, there will be "no future adverse immigration consequences if you didn’t make an application to regularise your stay during this period. However, you must now do so by 31 August 2020 or make arrangements to leave the UK."
The regularly updated Home Office web page on visas in light of Covid-19 can be found at www.gov.uk. If you need further assistance, check out The American's A-List Directory of experts who can help overseas Americans.