January 14, 2021

U.K. Covid-19 Visa Concession Scheme

The U.K. Home Office recently published a “Covid Visa Concession Scheme (CVCS),” for those individuals who are overseas and have been unable to return to the U.K. to extend their immigration status, due to the virus and related travel restrictions.

The details provided in the concession scheme apply to those who left the U.K. before March 17, 2020, when the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel guidance changed in response to the Covid outbreak.

Many individuals with valid leave to enter or remain in the U.K. were traveling outside of the country when the initial outbreak of Covid-19 occurred, and, given various levels of lockdowns and travel restrictions since, have been unable to return before their leave to remain (LTR) or indefinite leave to remain (ILR) credentials expired. For some, the current conditions may have resulted in a break of continuous leave requirements, rendering them unable to qualify for indefinite leave to remain. The U.K. government’s stance is that individuals should not be penalized for circumstances beyond their control. As such, the Appendix Continuous Residence in the CVCS states that absence from the U.K. due to a pandemic, such as Covid-19, will not count as a break in continuous residence.

The U.K. Border Force has the authority to allow those who are considered eligible to travel without a visa under the concession scheme. If the Border Force Office is satisfied that the eligibility criteria are met under the CVCS (following necessary identity and security checks), the applicant will be allowed to travel to the U.K. and granted a single entry with a three-month clearance to submit a leave to remain (LTR) or indefinite leave to remain (ILR) application.

The U.K. Visas and Immigration (UKVI), a department of the Home Office, will contact all individuals who consulted the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre (CIH) about the expiration of their leave while they are outside of the U.K., and will provide guidance about what is needed to qualify to return to the country and apply for a renewal. Those who have not previously contacted CIH can obtain concession information through the GOV.UK website.

For applicants to be considered eligible for the concession scheme, they must meet the following criteria:

    • A departure from the U.K. before March 17, 2020
    • An expired leave status, along with an inability to return to the U.K. before the expiration date due to Covid-19 travel restrictions
    • An intention to return to the U.K., once eligibility is confirmed by UKVI, with not less than 21 calendar days’ notice of their date of travel, unless either:
      • they cannot travel because travel restrictions remain in place, or
      • they choose not to travel due to a Covid-19 risk to themselves or their family, for example, showing symptoms, a requirement to self-isolate or being high-risk and unable to travel

Visitors are not eligible under this concession. However, there is an exceptional circumstances section of the Home Office guidance which provides examples in which consideration under the scheme may be possible, even if the individual does not meet the eligibility criteria listed above.

For further information on the Covid Visa Concession Scheme, please contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team.

Leanne Cottrell

Leanne Cottrell

As Head of Immigration with Sterling Lexicon, Leanne leads a team of specialists who are responsible for ensuring the entire immigration process is smooth and stress-free for clients, assignees and their accompanying family members. She brings over ten years of experience in strategic immigration management, planning and consultation to her role, and has cultivated invaluable knowledge and experience in processing countless global migration applications. As a trusted partner, she consults with clients on everything from policy considerations and cost or efficiency improvements, to the impact of opening offices in new locations. Leanne is a frequent presenter and author on global immigration topics and trends.

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