Across the world governments are implementing travel restrictions to try to limit the spread of COVID-19. These include - in some instances - a complete ban on travellers heading to or from the UK. This worldwide response has had an operational impact on UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
We have summarised the key points below (these are accurate as of 17 March and subject to change:
- Many Visa Application Centres (VACs) are currently closed (including, for example, all those in Western Europe and all those in China) and we anticipate more closing
- Others are open, but offering limited services. Customers should check the website of the relevant commercial partner of UKVI - VFS Global or TLS Contact - for the most up to date information on the local service
- Due to closed airspace / border restrictions the consignment logistics of commercial partners are being impacted. This means we cannot print and send visa vignettes across certain borders / routes
- UKVI staff in China were drawn down last month as part of the initial crisis. UKVI staff in the Overseas Network more broadly are having to follow local government restrictions, and FCO advice. In some cases this means they are not able to access the office. Where FCO draw down takes place, this will include UKVI staff
- Communications are going up on all commercial partner sites so customers are aware which VACs are closed due to COVID-19
- Where customers have an appointment, and the VAC is now closed, commercial partners are contacting customers to advise them the appointment is not going ahead
- If customers have paid for courier return, commercial partners are sending passports back (where courier routes remain open to allow them to do so). If concerned about their passport, customers can contact the Coronavirus Immigration Helpline for advice on this
- The UK Government are updating the central gov.uk page to reflect these wider changes
- There is also guidance from the Isle of Man Government
COVID-19 contact details for customers
UKVI have set up a dedicated email account for customers who have made an entry clearance application and who have immigration queries related to COVID-19, including questions about urgent, compelling, compassionate cases.
Compassionate and compelling cases
In locations where it is not possible for customers to submit entry clearance applications, where there are urgent compelling or compassionate circumstances, it may be suitable for a visa waiver to be authorised to allow travel to the Isle of Man. Please note the threshold for urgent, compelling and compassionate cases will be high.
Policy for foreign nationals in the Isle of Man
We are acutely aware of the issues facing foreign nationals in the Isle of Man whose visas are due to expire but are currently unable to leave due to the impacts of COVID-19.
The UK Home Office is working urgently on guidance for individuals so they are clear on their position. The Isle of Man Immigration Service will adopt the same approach wherever possible.
In the short term, individuals do not need to be overly concerned about their immigration status. UKVI will be implementing proportionate measures that reflect this is an unprecedented situation outside of customer control.
Those who have made or intend to make an application for entry clearance to the Isle of Man should continue to check the website of the relevant commercial partner - VFS Global or TLS Contact - for the most up to date information on the local service. Applications made to the Isle of Man Immigration Office will be processed as normal.
Information in relation to the visa application centres in China can be found on VFS's website.
Bookings for Secure English Language Testing (SELT)
Access to approved Secure English Language Testing (SELT) facilities across China is also currently restricted in line with national requirements, and tests scheduled for March 2020 have been cancelled. These dates are being kept under review as the situation develops.
Test takers who have already taken their test will receive their Test Report Form (TRF) by mail.
For all the latest information, please visit the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)'s website or contact your test centre directly by email.