Coronavirus (COVID-19) immigration advice for current and prospective students

We will continue to update this page when we receive more information.

 

UKVI and External Guidance

Last updated 12 January 2021

The current UKVI guidance was updated on the 12 January 2021:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents

Sponsor specific guidance ( published 24 December 2020) can be found at:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for Tier 2, 4 and 5 sponsors

You can also find detailed guidance on the UKCISA web pages:

UKCISA 

Details of the Test to Release scheme can be found on the following web page:

Test to Release

 

My visa is due to expire in January 2021 and I don't have any other immigration options to switch into.  Are there any concessions in place allowing me to stay longer?

Added 6 January 2021

If your visa is due to expire, the UKVI are expecting you to make reasonable steps to leave the UK. However, they do state the following:

If you intend to leave the UK but have not been able to do so and you have a visa or leave that expires between 1 December 2020 and 31 January 2021 you may request additional time to stay, known as ‘exceptional assurance’.

Please submit your request for an exceptional assurance by emailing cihassuranceteam@homeoffice.gov.uk with the following details:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • nationality
  • Home Office, GWF or any other reference number
  • type of visa
  • expiry date of visa
  • reason for request
  • evidence of flight or evidence showing reason you can’t leave

The subject header of your email should read “Request for an assurance”.

In your email you should attach evidence to show why you cannot leave the UK. For example, if you can’t leave the UK because you can’t find a flight before your leave/visa expires, you’ll need to submit a copy of a confirmed flight ticket. If you can’t leave the UK because you have coronavirus, you’ll need to submit confirmation of your positive coronavirus test result.

If you’ve previously completed the online form to request exceptional assurance and you’re waiting on the outcome and your flight is imminent, please email the above address with the requested details. We are considering all requests and we will contact you to let you know the outcome as soon as we can. During this time, you will not be treated as an overstayer or suffer any detriment in any future immigration applications for this consideration period.

During the time in which your request for ‘exceptional assurance’ is pending you will continue on the conditions as per your current or most recently expired visa.

If you are granted ‘exceptional assurance’ it will act as a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after your leave has expired. If conditions allowed you to work, study or rent accommodation you may continue to do so during the period of your exceptional assurance. Exceptional assurance does not grant you leave. It is a means to protect those who are unable to leave the UK due to COVID-19 restrictions and not to facilitate travel, other than to return home.

UKVI: COVID-19 Guidance

The key point is that whilst the conditions of your visa continue, exceptional assurance is not a grant of leave. This means that it is not a visa and if you choose to benefit from this scheme, we strongly advise that you keep a record of this and the number of days you remained in the UK beyond the original expiry date of your visa to provide in future immigration applications.

I will need to collect my BRP within 10 days of arrival in the UK, but I need to quarantine. Can I break quarantine to go to collect my BRP?

Last updated 6 January 2020

Visa decision letters will still state that you must collect your BRP within 10 days of arriving in the UK because their letters have not been updated. However, the UKVI have confirmed that Student visa holders required to collect their BRP from the Post Office, were able to do this until the end of 2020. We are currently checking on arrangements for BRP collection given the current environment.

You should attempt to collect it as soon as your quarantine has ended, but you must not attempt to collect it if you are subject to quarantine restrictions.

The list of countries exempt from quarantine can be found on the the UK government web pages:

Exempt countries and territories

This list can change overnight, so it is important to check it before travelling. 

I've been told that I need to register with the Police within 7 days of my arrival in the UK.  Should I break quarantine to try to register?

Last updated 8 January 2021

Some nationalities need to register with the Police within 7 days of their arrival in the UK.  This is either shown on your 30 day vignette or your visa application decision letter. You can also refer to the official list:

Countries required to register with the Police 

You must not attempt to register if you are required to complete quarantine. The UKVI have confirmed that you should check with the local Police on whether they are open for registrations.  If they are not you must complete it once social distancing measures have been removed.

Following the recent government announcement, OVRO is currenly closed for appointments until further notice.  Those people with appointments booked will be sent a cancellation notice.  OVRO assures us that there will be no penalty for late registration under the current circumstances.

Find out more about registering with the Police in London on the following web page:

When you have your visa

My Student visa has been granted but my plans have changed and the sticker in my passport expires before I intend to travel.  Do I need to apply for a new Student visa?

Last updated 6 January 2021

If your Tier 4/Student visa has been successfully granted, you will be issued with a 90 day sticker in your passport.  This will enable you to travel to the UK to collect your BRP which is then your immigration permission.

 I applied for my Tier 4/Student visa but my plans changed and my 90 day sticker was issued for September to December.  What do I need to do?

In this case, you will need to apply for a replacement vignette at a cost. You will be granted a new 90 day vignette.

You should not leave applying for the replacement vignette until too late or there may be a backlog of applications. When applying it may help to give further information on your new intended date of travel, as you have to evidence that the sticker will expire before you travel.

The latest information from the Home Office is as follows:

If your 30 day or 90 day visa vignette to work, study or join family has expired

If your 90 day vignette has expired, you will need to apply for a replacement by completing the online form. The cost of replacing an expired 90 day vignette is £154 and you will need to make an appointment to resubmit your biometric information.

We strongly advise that you only apply for a new visa, or apply to replace an expired vignette, when you are confident you can travel to the UK. The new vignette will be valid for a period of 90 days. If you cannot travel during this time, you may need to apply again to update your vignette.

If you have submitted an application for a replacement vignette, and are still awaiting a decision, but now no longer intend to travel, you should submit a withdrawal request at the Visa Application Centre that you applied from in order for your passport to be released back to you.

We will continue to replace 30 day vignettes free of charge for eligible customers until 31 December 2020.

To request a replacement 30 day visa you can either:

  • contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre
  • arrange to return your passport to your VAC if it has re-opened

Contacting the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre:

You’ll need to include your name, nationality, date of birth and your GWF reference number with ‘REPLACEMENT 30 DAY VISA’ in the subject line. If you’ve already contacted us about this, please let us know in your email.

Details of the processes can be found on the following web pages :

UKCISA - Coronavirus information

UKCISA - Applying for a replacement vignette

 

I'm an EU/EEA/Swiss student joining LSE in the 2020/21 academic year.  Will I need a visa?

Last updated 6 January 2021

The UK left the EU fully on the 31 December 2020. If you did not arrive in the UK before this date and become resident, you will not be eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme and you will need to apply for a visa to  be able to study in the UK. If you do not plan to arrive until after the 31 December 2020 and you are not already resident in the UK, you will need to contact ISVAT for advice because you will need to apply for a Student Route visa to join LSE in the Lent Term.

The EU Settlement Scheme would give you similar rights to those you would have benefitted from under free movement meaning there would be no restriction on the work you can do.  The application is also free.  If you arrive in the UK for the first time after the 1 January 2021, you would need to apply for a Student visa at a cost and with the same working restrictions that other international students face.

Further details can be found on our pages for EU/EEA nationals:

EU/EEA nationals 

I was already studying at the School in-person and have now moved to online will my visa be affected?

Last Updated 6 January 2021

The UKVI have confirmed that those people who already hold a Tier 4 visa and had started their studies in-person, will be able to continue online.  You will be able to continue to study online.

The UKVI state the following:

Sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship for new students who have been issued permission under the Student or Child Student routes but are undertaking distance learning because they have been unable to travel to the UK, or are in the UK but have not yet been able to attend their studies in person due to Covid-19. If a student stops engaging with their distance learning for more than 30 days, whether overseas or in the UK, their sponsor must withdraw sponsorship.

UKVI: COVID 19 Guidance

If you have yet to apply for your visa and do not intend to come to the UK for any of your studies because you will study completely online, you should not plan to apply for a Student visa.

The UKVI state the following:

New international students who have not yet applied for permission on the Student or Child Student routes but want to start a course which will wholly be studied overseas by distance learning, do not require sponsorship under the Student or Child Student routes. This is because they do not need to travel to the UK.

UKVI: COVID 19 Guidance

I'm a PhD student and my research has been affected.  Will my visa be affected?

Last updated 6 January 2021

Important: The UKVI have a concession which allows any time spent doing online learning to count towards eligiblity for the Graduate Route (which will replace DES) but the student must return to the UK and resume their studies by the 6 April 2021 and complete your final terms in the UK.  If you plan to apply for the route but are currently studying online, we strongly recommend that you plan to return to the UK by the 6 April 2021. This does not affect students whose studies go beyond this academic year.

The options for PhD students can be complex and will depend on:

  • What point you are at in your PhD;
  • Whether you require an extension of your Tier 4/Student visa;
  • Whether you are planning to interrupt your studies.

Advice for PhD students is very much based on your individual circumstances and we would like to encourage you to get in touch with the team. ISVAT are the specialists in immigration advice at LSE and we are happy to help you on your individual options. We strongly recommend that you contact our team to allay any concerns you may have, rather than seek non-specialist advice from other sources.

If you plan to study online for Michaelmas Term and Lent Term, your visa will not be affected if you are planning to return to the UK to complete your studies.  However, you will need to speak to your supervisor and the PhD Academy team to ensure this is recorded correctly depending on your circumstances.

The UKVI COVID concessions no longer permit students requesting a break in studies of longer than 60 days to remain sponsored.  This will now be classified as an interruption of studies and sponsorship would need to be removed.

ISVAT Enquiry Form

I'm an EU/EEA student already registered at LSE and have returned home.  Will my residency be affected for the EU Settlement Scheme?

Last updated 6 January 2021

It is still possible to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme both in the UK and overseas.  However, the EU Settlement Scheme guidance has always allowed for absences up to a maximum of 6 months (12 months in some permitted circumstances) and more information can be found in the Qualifying Residence section of the following guide:

EU Settlement Scheme Guidance

We have been advised that an absence of 12 months is permitted under the current circumstances if it is related to COVID-19. Further details can be founbd on the UKCISA web pages:

UKCISA: Coronavirus guidance for students

Any period in excess of 12 months including time abroad for field work and due to COVID is likely to affect your period of time in the UK and when you will become eligible for Settled Status.

You may also wish to refer to the following Free Movement articles:

How do Covid-related absences from the UK affect EU settled status?

Lengthy absences from the UK can put EU settled status at risk

If you have any concerns about your ability to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, please contact ISVAT for advice.

If you are applying for Settled Status or Citizenship, we may refer you for external advice.  ISVAT does not advise students on settlement routes regardless of their nationality or immigration status (EU Settlement Scheme is an immigration status).

New EU/EEA/Swiss students who have yet to reside in the UK, must have arrived by the 31 December 2020 to be eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme.  

Is there any more news on the Graduate Route and who will be eligible for it?

Last updated 6 December 2020

The current UKVI concession (published 24 December 2020) on the Graduate Route

There has been no change in the concessions from the UKVI on the date that students must return to the UK to be eligible for the Graduate Route:

3.21 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.

3.22 Students who are completing their course in summer 2021, including those who commenced a one-year Masters programme in September 2020, will benefit from this concession if they enter the UK on or before 6 April 2021 and complete the final semester of their studies in the UK.

UKVI: COVID-19 Guidance for Students

Representative bodies are querying if there will be any changes to the concession given the move to wholly online by some institutions, including LSE, and the current climate in the UK. We will update this page and our COVID-19 page if there are any changes. 

Students should note that this would be a change to government immigration policy and would affect the whole Higher Education sector. Detailed consideration will go into any changes requested as it is immigration law affecting many.   If there are no changes you may need to decide whether to plan to travel to the UK by the 6 April 2021 if you wish to benefit from the scheme. Participation in the scheme is personal choice, but you will need to ensure that you meet the eligiblity requirements when the rules are published.

Students who are studying courses lasting longer than a year in length, which are not due to be completed in 2021, and who have studied all or part of the 2020/21 academic year via distance learning will not have any period of distance learning during the 2020/21 academic year held against them in relation to the Graduate route.

The immigration rules for the Graduate Route will not be published until Spring 2021 (potentially to be in place for April 2021).

On the 13 July 2020, the Home Office released a document with further detail on the future points based system:

The UK's future points based immigration system: further details

The currently publicised detail is as follows:

  • You must be awarded an undergraduate degree or above from a Higher Education provider;

  • The degree must have been completed wholly in the UK with some exceptions e.g. study abroad.  There will be no minmum length of programme to be eligible.

  • The degree you have been awarded must be the one that was stated on your CAS - you will need to take this into consideration when considering a programme transfer. For example, if you were issued a visa for the MSc Economics and transfer to the MSc Finance, you will not be successfully awarded the programme stated on your CAS.

    However, your academic decision to transfer should not solely be based on a work visa, if transferring is the best option for your studies.

  • You must have a valid Tier 4/Student visa at the point of application;

  • You must have completed the whole of your degree in the UK (with some exceptions);

  • You cannot previously have been awarded leave under the Graduate Route;

  • You must apply in the UK for the visa;

  • If you were fully, financially sponsored for your studies you will need permission from you scholarship provider to apply e.g. Chevening or Commonwealth Scholarship Commission;

  • Undergraduate and Masters degree level students will be granted a visa for two years

  • PhD students will be granted a visa for three years;

  • You will only be eligible to have your dependants with you if they are already in the UK on a depedant visa.  You cannot obtain the Graduate visa and then bring your dependants to the UK.

  • There will be no maintenance requirements and the English language requirement will be met by you being awarded your degree.

To confirm these are not the immigration rules and the details are still subject to change, especially as we will need clarification on eligiblity for those students who have transferred programmes or completed a work placement/fieldwork overseas. We cannot guarantee eligiblity for any student until the rules are released.

In the updated guidance provided by the UKVI, a concession is in place for students that start their programme online due to COVID-19.  This period will count towards the required amount of study in the UK to be eligible for the visa, although the actual period has yet to be defined.  To benefit from this concession, the UKVI state that you must be in the UK prior to the 6 April 2021 and complete your final terms in the UK. 

UKVI: COVID 19 guidance 

You can find the information we have on the Graduate Route in the working after your studies section of the following web page:

When you have your visa

 

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