As countries around the world buckle down, ground their flights and close their borders, many people living in Britain under UK visa law are concerned about what the future might mean for them as the migrant partner of a British national.
Spouse Visa Extensions and Coronavirus: What you need to know
Almost a month ago, the UK government – along with many of its neighbours – imposed a nationwide lockdown on all residents. In practice, this has meant that those living in the country have been restricted. Events across the board have been cancelled, including graduations, holidays, and weddings.
Everyone is understandably concerned. Amongst immediate fears about the threat COVID-19 poses to the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our loved ones, there are also concerns about business and job losses, as well as the concerns which come along with not being able to see friends and family for such a long period.
For those without a permanent immigration status in the UK, these fears are made even worse. This is especially true when we consider the UK’s stringent immigration rules, many of which haven’t been relaxed or have only been partially relaxed since social distancing policies were officially put in place.
Broad visa extensions
On 24th March, the UKVI announced that those whose leave to remain expired/was due to expire between 24th January and the 31st May can have their visas extended to 31st May without charge.
To do this, those affected must contact the special coronavirus immigration team, and explain their situation, and why they are unable to return to their home country (for example, if there are no flights running).
This means that, if you are living in the UK with a visa and your leave to remain has expired/is expiring before this date, then your leave to remain will be extended until the end of May.
However, the regulations for people living in the UK as a married partner, long-term unmarried partner or fiancé of a British citizen are still in place, aside from this. This means that those looking to extend their visa in the long term (or join their partner in the UK with a fresh Partner Visa) will need to meet the same requirements to be eligible. This includes having met/lived with their partner (depending on the type of Partner Visa they’re applying for, the cohabitation requirement and the minimum income requirements.
There is still much uncertainty surrounding what exceptions will be allowed for those who are no longer able to meet these requirements as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. For example, this could include those on a Fiance Visa whose wedding has been cancelled, and Spouse Visa holders who have lost their jobs and no longer meet the minimum income requirements.
Coronavirus and Spouse Visas — exceptions
In some circumstances, the UKVI will grant exceptions and extensions to people if they judge their case to be ‘exceptional’. The pandemic has made most things abnormal and exceptional, however, so it is unclear what the Home Office will and will not grant allowances for.
For those whose wedding has been cancelled under unforeseeable circumstances which are out of their control (such as because of social distancing policies).
Visa holders can submit requests for exceptions to the UKVI, and they will decide whether to grant a six-month extension based on this.
Along with their blanket visa extension, the government also announced on the 24th March that they would allow visa holders who were previously ineligible to do so to switch in-country.
This can be helpful for anyone who may have curtailed their Spouse Visa. For example, those who have sought a divorce, or separated from their partner. Usually, people in this scenario must leave the country and make a fresh application for another type of UK visa (e.g a Work or Study Visa) if they want to return on these grounds. However, with coronavirus travel restrictions in place, people in this scenario will be able to make the application and switch from within the UK.
Minimum income requirement
With job loss and business closure becoming the new norms in Britain, many people are concerned about meeting the requirements of their visas.
As the partner of a British citizen, under Spouse and Partner Visa guidelines, both partners are required to meet a combined minimum income requirement. This amount to £18,600 per year. If either partner loses their income as a result of coronavirus precautions (which has sadly become a common occurrence in the world we currently live in.
As it currently stands, the rules have not been alleviated or clarified to offer support for those who no longer meet the minimum income requirement as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Breaching immigration laws can have serious impacts; not just immediately but for future applications. If leeway is not given to those who no longer meet the rules of their visa, this could jepardise a current or future Spouse Visa extension or Indefinite Leave to Remain application.
Advice from immigration lawyers on Coronavirus and Spouse Visas
The UKVI’s new visa extension policy is set to be reviewed around 31st May. Until then, lawyers are actively monitoring all updates and changes to legislation.
If you are worried about how your Spouse Visa and coronavirus policies, get in touch with us by calling 0203 411 1966. We host a whole team of lawyers who are each ready to help you.
We have expanded all our services as well as our capacity. This is so that we can offer more assistance and reach more people to those who need immigration advice and support during this difficult time. We are offering our full range of remote services (including over the phone and via Skype) and we have extended our opening hours to 7:30 to 22:00 GBT, 7 days a week.
You can also read more about how to cope with coronavirus measures if you are living in the UK with another type of visa or immigration status.
Read our guide to coronavirus and Tier 2 Visas
Read our guide to coronavirus and Tier 4 Visas
Read our guide to coronavirus and British citizenship applications