Here you will find a list of the most recent updates from the Home Office or the VISA Team in relation to COVID-19.

This page is updated with news which the VISA Team has deemed to be relevant to international students. Please continue to check the following webpage for the most up to date information from the University regarding Coronavirus: Update on Coronavirus COVID-19 information and advice.  Please also check The NHS Inform website on a regular basis for further updates.

Home Office updates on COVID-19 concessions - July 2020

7th July 2020 - Biometric Reuse: 

 

What is Biometric Reuse?

 

Recent UKVI and UKVCAS guidance has confirmed a revised biometric enrolment process for some students applying for a visa in the UK. Due to significant demand and limited appointment availability (due to coronavirus) the UKVI have confirmed some students will not be required to attend a biometric enrolment appointment. UKVCAS will use your previous biometric data (excluding a facial image) to continue your application.

 

Who can use this service?

 

Not all individuals will be eligible for this process. This will apply to customers with a live application in the system for work, study, family and private life, citizenship and Windrush routes. Some customers will still need to attend a service point in person.

 

All students eligible for this service will be notified by UKVCAS via email.

 

What is the process?

 

UKVCAS will email you directly if you are identified as being eligible for Biometric Reuse. You will be informed you are not required to attend a biometric enrolment appointment due to limited availability.

 

You will be emailed with instructions on how to send the UKVI a suitable facial image as part of the identification verification process.

 

If your leave is granted, the UKVI will be able to produce your new biometric residence permit (BRP).

 

If you cannot send the information through the instructions given, you will be required to book an appointment. If you cannot attend an appointment because of coronavirus, this will not affect your immigration status.

 

What to do if you receive UKVCAS correspondence?

 

Please forward a copy of your email from UKVCAS to VISA@gcu.ac.uk. This will be added your student record as evidence that you are not required to attend a biometric enrolment appointment. Further advice regarding the next steps will be provided from UKVCAS and the VISA Team.

 

Please ensure all correspondence is forwarded to the VISA Team.

 

Please note, your immigration status will not be affected during this process.

Home Office updates on COVID-19 concessions - June 2020

Here you will find a list of the most recent updates from the Home Office or the VISA Team in relation to COVID-19.

This page is updated with news which the VISA Team has deemed to be relevant to international students. Please continue to check the following webpage for the most up to date information from the University regarding Coronavirus: Update on Coronavirus COVID-19 information and advice.  Please also check The NHS Inform website on a regular basis for further updates.

  • 19th June 2020 - UPDATES ON DISTANCE LEARNING: The Home Office have issued new guidance for sponsors such as GCU who are sponsoring those on Tier 2, 4 and 5 visas. The latest changes include:

    • New students may commence their studies by distance learning, provided they will transition to face-to-face learning as soon as possible.
    • The concession on applying in the UK for leave to remain under Tier 4 applies both to those extending their leave under Tier 4 and those switching into the route from another category.
  • 19th June 2020 - UPDATE ON GRADUATE ROUTE: In relation to the Graduate Route due to launch in summer 2021, students will normally be expected to undertake their studies in the UK to be eligible for the Graduate route. However, if students are required to either continue their current studies or commence a new course by distance or blended learning due to Covid-19, they will still be eligible to switch into the Graduate route on a concessionary basis if they spent some time studying outside the UK. Students will benefit from this concession if they enter the UK before 6 April 2021 and complete the final semester of their studies in the UK. Such students will still need to have extant leave as a Tier 4 student or Student when the new route launches in 2021 and meet other eligibility criteria to be eligible for the route.
  • 19th June 2020 - UPDATE ON VACS: The Home Office have announced the following: A limited number of VACs and UKVCAS locations reopened from 1 June and a further group of VACs are reopening on Monday 22 June.

A further of VACs will be reopening from 28/29 June (28 start date for those locations that follow a Sunday-Thursday working week). 

The reopening of these locations is subject to local conditions and the operating environment remaining conducive. VACs are only being opened when it is safe, and customers and staff are protected. This remains a fluid situation that the Home Office continue to keep under daily review. Therefore, to ensure you always have the most up to date information on which VACs are open, please check the relevant commercial partner website. 

Please note, UKVI will not initially be offering priority or super priority services. 

There are changes at the border because of coronavirus (COVID-19) and all individuals should check what they need to do before they travel. 

Please find below the list of VACs that are due to reopen from 28 / 29 June.  As per above, please refer to the commercial partner websites for final details.

 

Abu Dhabi

Addis Ababa

Al Khobar

Almaty

Amsterdam

Antalya

Antananarivo

Athens

Beirut

Bucharest

Budapest

Copenhagen

Dar es Salaam

Doha

Dubai

Dublin

Ekaterinburg

Gaborone

Harare

Jeddah

Jerusalem

Kampala

Kigali

Kuwait City

Lilongwe

Luanda

Lusaka

Manama                

Maputo

Mombasa

Moscow

Muscat

Nairobi

Nicosia (South)

Novosibirsk

Nur Sultan

Oslo

Podgorica

 

Prague

Pristina

Rabat

Reykjavik

Riyadh

Rome

Rostov

Sarajevo

Skopje

Sofia

St Petersburg

Stockholm

Tbilisi

Tel Aviv

Tirana

Vienna

Warsaw

Windhoek

Yerevan

 

  • 9th June 2020  UPDATE ON ATAS: Applications can now be made to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for a new ATAS certificate. Current rules on the requirement to obtain an ATAS certificate continue to apply. Between 6 April and 1 June, it was not possible to apply for clearance, and you were advised to contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre if you needed a certificate in order to start a new course. The Home Office advised some Tier 4 sponsors that you could apply without a certificate and your application would be processed when you could supply one. The ATAS team resumed work on 1 June 2020 so it is very important that you now submit your application for a certificate if this was previously impossible for you, and let the VISA Team know. 
  • 1 June 2020 - UPDATE ON UKVCAS CENTRES: Some UKVCAS centres have now reopened, but not yet in Scotland. The VISA Team will update further once more information is available.
Home Office updates on COVID-19 concessions - May 2020

Here you will find a list of the most recent updates from the Home Office or the VISA Team in relation to COVID-19.

This page is updated with news which the VISA Team has deemed to be relevant to international students. Please continue to check the following webpage for the most up to date information from the University regarding Coronavirus: Update on Coronavirus COVID-19 information and advice.  Please also check The NHS Inform website on a regular basis for further updates.

  • 26 May 2020 - The Home Office have updated the Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for UK Visa applicants and temporary visa residents with includes the following key changes:
  • Some UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) will reopen for existing customers on 1 June 2020. You can check which UKVCAS centres are open.
  • Some UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) are resuming services, where local restrictions allow. For updates to the status of VACs in your country, contact TLS contact if you’re in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East and VFS global for all other countries.
  • Ongoing global restrictions mean some UKVI services will remain closed. Contact your local VAC to find out the latest status. Where services are resuming, existing customers will be contacted.
  • Some English Testing Centres are also resuming services. Visit the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)’s website, the Pearson Test of English website or the LanguageCert website or contact your test centre for more information on where we are reopening and how you can book your Secure English Language Test.
  • The link to cancel (withdraw) an application for a visa, visa extension or citizenship has been updated. Please see the process for this here. If you wish to do this, please contact a VISA Advisor firstly for assistance on visa@gcu.ac.uk.

Some frontline health workers and their families will get their visas automatically extended because of coronavirus. There are also changes to the conditions of visas for some frontline health workers. These changes will apply to customers if they work for the NHS or independent health and care providers as a:

o biochemist
o biological scientist
o dental practitioner
o health professional
o medical practitioner
o medical radiographer
o midwife
o nurse
o occupational therapist
o ophthalmologist
o paramedic
o pharmacist
o physiotherapist
o podiatrist
o psychologist
o social worker
o speech and language therapist

Individual’s should check with their employer if they are not sure whether they work in an eligible profession. Individuals can work at any NHS hospital during the coronavirus outbreak if their sponsor (GCU) can maintain their sponsorship duties.
The individual’s sponsor (GCU) will not need to notify UKVI of the change in their place of work.

  • There is no longer a limit on the number of hours an individual can work or volunteer each week if they work for the NHS as a doctor, nurse of paramedic and they are a:

o Tier 4 student
o Tier 2 worker and their NHS job is a second job
o visiting academic researcher
o holder of a short-term visa and are permitted to volunteer

• If an individual is a pre-registration nurse currently in the UK, the deadline for them to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been extended to 31 December 2020.
• If individuals do not pass on the first attempt they will have until 31 May 2021 to pass the exam.

  • GCU do not need to report student or employee absences related to coronavirus or withdraw sponsorship if a student is unable to attend for more than 60 days an employee is absent from work without pay for more than 4 weeks due to COVID-19.

Tier 4 - Distance learning:
• GCU can continue to sponsor existing Tier 4 students who are continuing their studies through distance learning, whether they are in the UK or another country.
• If a student has permanently withdrawn from their studies, or deferred their studies for reasons which are not related to COVID-19, GCU must report this to the Home Office as usual.
• GCU do not need to withdraw sponsorship for new students who have been issued a Tier 4 visa but are distance learning because they have been unable
to travel to the UK.
• New international students who have not yet applied for a visa but want to start a course by distance learning do not require sponsorship under Tier 4. This is because they do not need to travel to the UK.
• GCU do not need to tell the Home Office when students have moved to distance learning.
• These arrangements will apply until 31 July, when they will be reviewed.

  • For those who have been issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) or a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) and have  not yet applied for a visa: The employee or student will still be able to apply for a visa. The start date for the course or employment stated on the CoS or CAS may have changed. The Home Office will not automatically refuse such cases. For example, they may accept a CoS or CAS if they have become invalid because the employee or student was unable to travel as a result of coronavirus. The Home Office will consider this on a case by case basis.
  • Students who are waiting for their Tier 4 visa application to be decided may start their studies in certain circumstances prior to receiving a decision on their visa application. Please contact the VISA Team for further information on this.
  • If an individual’s 30 day visa to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired, or is about to expire, individuals can request a replacement visa with revised validity dates free of charge until the end of this year. To make a request, individual’s should contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team and include their name, nationality, date of birth and their GWF reference number with ‘REPLACEMENT 30 DAY VISA’ in the subject line. If they have already contacted the team about this, please let the team know in the email. Individuals will be contacted when our VACs reopen to arrange for a replacement visa to be endorsed in their passport. Individuals will not be penalised for being unable collect their BRP while coronavirus measures are in place. This process will be in place until the end of 2020.
  • UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has set up a dedicated team for customers with immigration queries related to coronavirus, including questions about urgent, compelling, compassionate cases. For more information visit: Gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents. You can keep up to date on any changes here
  • 22 May 2020 - The Home Office have updated the Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for UK Visa applicants and temporary visa residents advising that visa extensions for those unable to leave the UK because of coronavirus have been extended to 31 July 2020. Please note, you must request an extension by updating your records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) if your visa is expiring and you cannot leave the UK at present but are not planning to stay in the UK in the long term
Home Office updates on COVID-19 concessions - Apr/May 2020
  • 21 May 2020 - The VISA Team are asking all international students or workers on the following visa types to keep the VISA Team updated with any travel plans outside of UK during the COVID-19 outbreak. This is following the recent government announcement that anyone arriving in UK will now likely be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The VISA Team are working closely with all Schools across GCU to help minimise impact to our students during this time. If you are currently here at GCU on a Tier 1, Tier 4, Tier 2, Tier 5, or Short-Term Study visa, please complete this form, before sending the completed form via email to visa@gcu.ac.uk. 
  • 15 May 2020 -The Home Office now send out an automated email to some applicants upon submission of a valid visa application from within the UK. This email from the Home Office assures applicants who have submitted a valid visa application prior to their current grant of leave expiring that they do not need to be concerned about their immigration status whilst their visa application is in progress and whilst the Biometric Enrolment Centres remain closed due to COVID-19. This advice only applies to those who receive it via email, and eligible applicants must submit their valid visa extension applications prior to their visa expiry date if they are extending your visa in the UK. Please email visa@gcu.ac.uk if you have any questions. 
  • 14 May 2020 - The Home Office have begun to email some in-country visa applicants who have recently submitted visa applications, to request their visa documents are sent via email instead of being uploaded to UKVCAS. If this applies to you and you have received this email, please contact us on visa@gcu.ac.uk for assistance. 
  • 10th May 2020 -  The government announced on Sunday 10th May that people arriving into the UK from overseas will soon need to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The VISA Team understands that some international students have already travelled back home in light of COVID-19, and some are in UK but intend to travel home soon. GCU-sponsored international students who intend on travelling during this time must inform the VISA Team to receive relevant support by completing this form and sending this to visa@gcu.ac.uk - COVID-19 International Student Travel Form
  • 22 April 2020 - News update RE ATAS Clearance: The Home Office have advised it is not currently possible to directly apply to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for a new ATAS certificate due to current circumstances. Read more here.
  • 3rd April 2020 -  The Home Office and UKVI published new guidance in relation to Coronavirus (COVID-19) for Tier 2, 4 and 5 visa sponsors on 27th March 2020 (updated on 3rd April 2020). The VISA Team have reviewed this guidance to understand how the changes will impact GCU-sponsored Tier 4 students, Tier 2 employees, and Tier 5 temporary workers. The VISA Team and GCU are working hard to ensure all international students and employees are supported throughout this challenging time. Information on the changes is available on our landing pages for each visa type. 
  • 1st April 2020 - RE BRP deliveries: In order to improve social distancing measures for TNT delivery drivers the Home Office have agreed to implement the following new measures in response to Covid-19 with immediate effect.
    1. Where possible the BRP package will be posted through the front door of the appropriate address, or delivered to the appropriate post room for that business or organisation;
    2. Suspended the requirement of a signature and provision of identification on delivery;
    3. A photograph of the front door or location of delivery will be taken. 

If you are awaiting delivery of your BRP please contact VISA on visa@gcu.ac.uk. 

  • 24 March 2020 - The government have released advice for visa customers and applicants in the UK, visa customers outside of the UK and British nationals overseas who need to apply for a passport affected by travel restrictions associated with coronavirus. You can view this guidance here. UKCISA have also produced helpful guidance for international students in UK in relation to COVID-19
COVID-19 information for Tier 4 students

In March 2020, the government released new guidance for Tier 4 sponsors (including GCU) in light of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The VISA Team have reviewed this guidance and have provided information below on how the changes may impact you. If you have any questions, please contact visa@gcu.ac.uk.

These arrangements are based on Home Office Guidance, and will apply until 31 July 2020, when they will be reviewed by the Home Office. This guidance will be updated accordingly.

 

Tier 4 - Information for Tier 4 sponsored students - (COVID-19) 

  • Tier 4 Student absences:

If you are a Tier 4 sponsored student by GCU, you should already have been in touch with the VISA Team to complete the Tier 4 checkpoint table sent via email on 18th March, to confirm if you are remaining in UK during this time or if you plan to exit UK. If there are any changes to your travel plans, please ensure you keep the VISA Team informed, by emailing visa@gcu.ac.uk.

Exiting UK or taking an absence from remote-learning for reasons relating to Coronavirus will not result in you being reported to the Home Office, even if you are unable to attend for more than 60 days. However, it is important you keep the VISA Team, and your Programme, informed of any absence or changes to your travel plans.

Regardless of whether you are in UK or outside UK, it is important you keep in touch with your Programme, and fully engage in remote-learning activities. Doing so will ensure your attendance is recorded on the attendance monitoring system.

If you need to take absence from remote studying due to illness or another reason, please inform your Programme as soon as possible as per the standard absence policy.

Although you will not be reported to the Home Office as a Tier 4 sponsor student for absences due to coronavirus, it is important that your Programme are aware of any absence from remote-learning and that the VISA team have your current address and contact details.

The Home Office will keep this under review and this guidance will be updated with any changes.

  • If GCU are sponsoring you as a distance learning student:

If you are a Tier 4 student who is continuing their studies through distance learning, GCU will continue to sponsor you whether you are in UK, or another country.

If you have been permanently withdrawn from your studies or have deferred your studies for reasons unrelated to coronavirus, The University will report this as usual.

If you have been issued a Tier 4 visa but you are distance learning because you are unable to travel to UK, GCU will not report this to the Home Office.

If you are a new international student who has not yet applied for a visa but want to start a course by distance-learning, you do not require sponsorship under Tier 4 at this time. This is because you do not need to travel to the UK. However, it is important you secure a visa to use when you are able to travel. Please contact visa@gcu.ac.uk if you are in this situation, for further guidance.

GCU do not need to tell the Home Office when students have moved to distance learning.

  • If you have been issued a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) but have not yet applied for a visa:

You will still be able to apply for a visa.

The start date for the course stated on the CAS may have changed. The Home Office will not automatically refuse such cases.

For example, The Home Office may accept a CAS if it has become invalid because you were unable to travel as a result of coronavirus. The Home Office will consider this on a case by case basis. Please contact visa@gcu.ac.uk if you are in this situation, for further guidance.

 These arrangements are based on Home Office Guidance, and will apply until 31 July 2020, when they will be reviewed by the Home Office. This guidance will be updated accordingly.

COVID-19 information for Start-up visa entrepreneurs

In March 2020, the government released new guidance for endorsing bodies under the Tier 1 Start-up route in light of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The VISA Team have reviewed this guidance and are on hand to answer any questions you may have. These arrangements will apply until 31 July, when they will be reviewed.

Due to travel restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic, some individuals may be unable to arrange visa appointments or travel to the UK. Due to the economic impacts, some individuals may experience difficulties fulfilling their business plans and maintaining contact with their endorsing body (GCU). The VISA Team is here to support both students going through the endorsement application process, and endorsed individuals throughout this time. 

In line with the new guidance, GCU will continue to accept endorsement applications, but a VISA Advisor will discuss your circumstances and ability to travel and/or work on your business, based on the current global situation at the time of your application.

If you are an endorsed individual and have any questions relating to your Tier 1 Start-up checkpoint, business progression, or visa issues relating to Coronavirus (COVID-19) please contact visa@gcu.ac.uk and an Advisor will be happy to assist. 

Introduction:

In March 2020, the government released new guidance for endorsing bodies under the Tier 1 Start-up route in light of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The VISA Team have reviewed this guidance and have provided information below on how the changes may impact you, depending on the stage of your endorsement application. If you have any questions, please contact visa@gcu.ac.uk

Tier 1: Information for applicants and endorsed individuals:

Due to travel restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic, GCU understands some of our applicants and endorsed individuals may be unable to arrange visa appointments or travel to the UK. Due to the economic impacts, you may also experience difficulties fulfilling your business plans and maintaining contact with us, if you are already endorsed by GCU.

  • Individuals who have not yet been endorsed:

GCU may still issue endorsements, but the VISA Team will be in touch with you if you have an application in progress to discuss whether you are able to make a visa application, and to consider current travel restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The VISA Team will also discuss with you whether you are likely to be able to start developing your business in the UK under the current situation. If not, The VISA Team will delay your endorsement until a later date as required.

  • Individuals who have been endorsed but have not yet applied for a visa:

Endorsement letters are valid for 3 months. If you have been endorsed but are unable to make a visa application within this timeframe, please contact The VISA Team who will issue you with a new endorsement (using a new secure reference number) before you apply.

Individuals who have applied for a visa but are unable to travel:

Please contact the VISA Team if you are in this situation, who will contact the Home Office directly to inform them of your case, and refer to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) immigration guidance on gov.uk for the latest information.

  • Individuals who are due to have a checkpoint with their endorsing body:

GCU will maintain contact checkpoints with endorsed individuals wherever possible. It is not necessary for these to be face-to face and we will arrange checkpoints via telephone or video conference. Please ensure you are maintaining contact with your Tier 1 mentor. If you have concerns regarding this, please contact visa@gcu.ac.uk.

All Tier 1 Start-up applicants and endorsed individuals have GCU’s full support throughout this time, and we will make allowances for the current situation when considering your progress against your business plans, and, where possible, discuss future contingencies. GCU must notify The Home Office if you miss a checkpoint without prior agreement, so it is important you let your mentor and the VISA Team know as soon as possible if you cannot make a checkpoint for any reason.

  • Individuals who need to apply to extend their stay:

GCU will continue to issue endorsements as normal to individuals who are in the UK, whose visas are expiring, and who wishes to apply to switch into the Start-up category. Please contact visa@gcu.ac.uk if this applies to you.  You should also refer to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) immigration guidance on gov.uk for the latest information.

COVID-19 information for Tier 2 employees

In March 2020, the government released new guidance for Tier 2 sponsors (including GCU) in light of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The VISA Team have reviewed this guidance and have provided information below on how the changes may impact you. If you have any questions, please contact visa@gcu.ac.uk. These arrangements are based on Home Office Guidance, and will apply until 31 July 2020, when they will be reviewed by the Home Office. This guidance will be updated accordingly.

Tier 2: Information for GCU-sponsored Tier 2 employees:

  • Absence:

GCU will continue to sponsor employees who have taken absence(s) due to coronavirus and are not required to report employee absences related to coronavirus to the Home Office.

This can include absences due to illness, a need to isolate, or inability to travel due to travel restrictions.

GCU will not withdraw sponsorship if, because of coronavirus, you are absent from work without pay for more than 4 weeks.

  • If you are working from home:

GCU do not have to notify the Home Office if you are working from home due to coronavirus.

Other changes to your working arrangements will still be reported as usual.

  • If GCU have issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) and you have not yet applied for a visa:

You will still be able to apply for a visa.

The start date for the employment stated on the CoS may have changed. The Home Office will not automatically refuse such cases.

For example, The Home Office may accept a CoS if it has become invalid because you were unable to travel as a result of coronavirus. The Home Office will consider this on a case by case basis.

If you are a GCU sponsored Tier 2 employee impacted by Coronavirus, please contact the VISA Team on visa@gcu.ac.uk

COVID-19 information for Tier 5 workers

In March 2020, the government released new guidance for Tier 5 sponsors (including GCU) in light of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The VISA Team have reviewed this guidance and have provided information below on how the changes may impact you. If you have any questions, please contact visa@gcu.ac.ukThese arrangements are based on Home Office Guidance, and will apply until 31 July 2020, when they will be reviewed by the Home Office. This guidance will be updated accordingly.

Ø  Absence:

GCU will continue to sponsor temporary workers who have taken absence(s) due to coronavirus and are not required to report temporary worker absences related to coronavirus to the Home Office.

This can include absences due to illness, a need to isolate, or inability to travel due to travel restrictions.

GCU will not withdraw sponsorship if, because of coronavirus, you are absent from work without pay for more than 4 weeks.

Ø  If you are working from home:

GCU do not have to notify the Home Office if you are working from home due to coronavirus.

Other changes to your working arrangements will still be reported as usual.

Ø  If GCU have issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) and you have not yet applied for a visa:

You will still be able to apply for a visa.

The start date for the employment stated on the CoS may have changed. The Home Office will not automatically refuse such cases.

For example, The Home Office may accept a CoS if it has become invalid because you were unable to travel as a result of coronavirus. The Home Office will consider this on a case by case basis.

If you are a GCU sponsored Tier 5 temporary worker impacted by Coronavirus, please contact the VISA Team on visa@gcu.ac.uk.

 

International student travel during COVID-19

The VISA Team are asking all international students or workers on the following visa types to keep the VISA Team updated with any travel plans outside of UK during the COVID-19 outbreak. This is following the recent government announcement that anyone arriving in UK will now likely be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The VISA Team are working closely with all Schools across GCU to help minimise impact to our students during this time. If you are currently here at GCU on a Tier 1, Tier 4, Tier 2, Tier 5, or Short-Term Study visa, please complete this form, before sending the completed form via email to visa@gcu.ac.uk.