The UK government has provided some light for those currently in the country on a visa that is due to expire in the near future. As the coronavirus pandemic has recently worsened, the government has allowed temporary UK residents to request an extension on their stay in the country known as ‘exceptional assurance’.
A request for exceptional assurance may be made where one’s visa is due to expire between 01 January 2021 and 28 February 2021. However, it is expected that all reasonable steps must be taken to leave the country or to make an application to regularise one’s stay in the United Kingdom.
When making a request for exceptional assurance, evidence must be produced to show the reason one is unable to leave. Given the national coronavirus restrictions, a common reason for being unable to leave prior to the expiration of the visa is that there are no available outbound flights. Moreover, another reason would be a positive Covid-19 test as it prevents one from leaving the country as they must self-isolate until they have tested negative for the virus.
The process of requesting exceptional assurance is a very informal one which requires the applicant to send an email to the Home Office. The contents of the email should include the applicant’s personal information, information regarding their current visa, and the reason for the request with evidence of why it is not possible to leave the country within the expiry of their visa.
Once a request for exceptional assurance has been submitted, the applicant will be considered as complying with the Immigration Rules and will not be penalised for overstaying their visa. This cover will continue the Home Office have decided the applicant’s request for exceptional assurance.
If a request for exceptional assurance is granted, this does not equate to a grant of leave for the applicant. Instead, it provides protection for those overstaying their visa. The length of the protection is dependant on the individual circumstances of the applicant. If exceptional assurance is granted, however, expires before the applicant is able to leave the country, one can reapply for exceptional assurance with fresh supporting evidence.
For those whose visas expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020, automatic protection was given to those who failed to regularise their stay during this period and thus were not classed as an ‘overstayer’. If this applies to you, and you have not currently regularised your stay in the United Kingdom, you must either make a request for exceptional assurance or leave the country.
As aforementioned, a grant of exceptional assurance is not a grant of leave, therefore, one must make a separation application on the applicable visa route in order to regularise their stay in the United Kingdom in the long-term. The criteria to make a successful application to permanently reside in the United Kingdom is more complex than satisfying an application for exceptional assurance.
If you require assistance with making an application or with any Immigration matter, please contact John Szepietowski or Kay Stewart at Audley Chaucer Solicitors on 01372 303444 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Linkedin page.