Newland Chase | UNITED KINGDOM: COVID-19 Concession Scheme

January 12, 2021

The UK Home Office has published guidance on a new Concession scheme for individuals whose leave has expired whilst the applicant was outside the UK and unable to return due to the ongoing pandemic.

This guidance is aimed to individuals applying for further leave or indefinite leave to remain, where their visas have expired whilst they were unable to travel back to the UK due to COVID-19.

To be eligible for the concession the individual must have:

  • left the UK before 17 March 2020
  • their leave expired and they were unable to return to the UK before its expiry due to COVID-19 travel restrictions
  • they intend to return to the UK not less than 21 calendar days’ from their intended date of travel, unless either:
    • they cannot travel because travel restrictions remain in place
    • 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

Once granted, authority for the passenger to travel without a visa will be processed by Border Force to allow travel under the concession scheme. They will be granted leave outside of the Immigration Rules (LOTR) on arrival for three months with the same conditions as their previous grant of leave. A migrant will not be able to leave the UK and return under the same concession.

The routes eligible for this concession are all those where, if the person was in the UK with their previous leave, would have been able to apply for leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain in the route they now want to apply for. Those who were in the UK as Visitors are not eligible for this concession.

All those affected are told to complete a SMART Form (on GOV.UK) to commence the process. They will not be required to attend a Visa Application Centre overseas as they are not making an application for entry clearance.

It is worth noting that acceptance to use the scheme is not a guarantee that any application for leave or indefinite leave will be successful, nor is it a guarantee that permission to enter the UK will be granted on arrival. It will be the responsibility of the person concerned to check the exit requirements of the country they are currently in.

Where a person indicates they have already made an application for entry clearance solely to facilitate their return to the UK, they will be issued Leave Outside the Rules (LOTR) for three months with the same conditions as their previous grant of leave. This will avoid the application having to be withdrawn and save the migrant from having to reapply into the CVCS process and prevent additional delays.

The Home Office can also consider those who left the UK after 17 March 2020 as eligible if they had good reason for leaving the UK, on a case by case basis; for example they left for compelling or compassionate reasons which include, but are not limited to:

  • serious illness or death of a close relative overseas
  • travel for the purpose of receiving medical treatment

It is also worth noting that absences from the UK as a result of a pandemic, such as COVID-19, will not count as a break in continuous residence for the purposes of indefinite leave to remain.

Anyone who does not qualify under this concession will need to apply to come to the UK in the normal way under the relevant Immigration Rules.

Our Advice

If you think you meet the requirements for the concession or have questions regarding your absences from the UK due to the ongoing pandemic please reach out to Newland Chase for clarification.

For general advice and information on immigration and business travel to the UK, please contact us.