SCANDAL: The Home Office has been blasted for threatening  migrants with deportation

UK offers grace period for visa extensions until end August

The UK government on Thursday (30) issued fresh guidance offering a one-month grace period for all expiring or expired visas of foreign nationals unable to return to their home countries due to the coronavirus pandemic, until August 31.

The extension, initially announced until May 31 and then extended to July 31, has been extended by another month and will apply to anyone whose leave to remain in the UK expired after January 24 and they are still unable to leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation.

“As global travel restrictions have started to lift, it is right this generous, but temporary concession, be brought to a close with a month grace period until 31 August to make the necessary arrangements to return home,” a UK Home Office spokesperson said.

“Right across the immigration system, this government has introduced measures to help those who have been impacted by global travel and health restrictions throughout this pandemic.

“This has included providing over 40,000 visa extensions for those whose visas had expired between January 24, 2020, and July 31, 2020, and relaxing the rules on switching in the UK,” the spokesperson said.

The Home Office said that it will also keep in place the relaxation of the visa switching rules to enable those who wish to stay in the UK to submit an application to enable them to do so during the grace period. It pointed out that anyone wanting to remain in the UK long-term should use the grace period to apply for the necessary leave to remain in the UK.

“We recognise that during this period individuals may have overstayed their leave due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” a Home Office guidance notes.

“Therefore, for individuals whose visa or leave expired between January 24, 2020, and July 31, 2020, there will be no future adverse immigration consequences solely on the basis of any periods of overstaying leave that took place between January 24, 2020, and August 31, 2020. We will formalise this specific commitment within the Immigration Rules,” the guidance notes.

It added that a “compassionate and pragmatic approach” will be taken with requests for an indemnity to allow someone to leave the UK on a later date than August 31, if they are still unable to fly out in time.

UK home secretary Priti Patel has previously said that the visa extensions are a means of giving people “peace of mind” during the coronavirus lockdown across the world.

Many foreign nationals found themselves unable to return home since the outbreak of coronavirus due to flight cancellations and border restrictions.

The latest grace period extension until August-end comes as the fifth phase of the Vande Bharat mission to repatriate Indians stranded abroad gets underway, including flights scheduled from London’s Heathrow airport back to various Indian cities over the next few weeks.