The UK Home Office has announced it will extend the visas of people unable to return to their home countries due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Foreign nationals whose UK visas expire anytime after 24 January and who cannot leave the country because of travel bans or self-isolation are being urged to inform the Home Office if they wish to extend their stay.
The extensions will last until 31 May, but ministers said the situation would be kept under regular review in case further extensions are needed, according to The Independent.
Immigration lawyers have been mounting pressure on the department to update its immigration guidance in order to ensure that foreign nationals who cannot return to their home countries are not treated as immigration offenders.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said those who contact the department for a visa extension will be expected to return to their home countries as soon as possible once flight and border restrictions are lifted, but that no immigration enforcement action would be undertaken during this time for those who contact the Home Office.
She said: “The UK continues to put the health and wellbeing of people first and nobody will be punished for circumstances outside of their control. By extending people’s visas, we are giving people peace of mind and also ensuring that those in vital services can continue their work.”
A dedicated Covid-19 immigration team has been set up within the Home Office to make the process as “straightforward as possible” for visa holders.
Anyone in this situation can contact [email protected] to let them know their visa has expired.