The announcement, dated 24 March, explains that the rule will apply to anyone impacted because of self-isolation or due to travel bans preventing them from returning home who has been unable to leave since January 24.

Despite the well documented sudden travel of international students as many prefer to be at home during the most severe period of the pandemic – learning online – many others have decided to stay in the UK because of the cost of returning home at short notice, travel bans or self-isolation.

The news also means students can apply to switch routes, such as from Tier 4 to Tier 2

A dedicated COVID-19 immigration team has been set up within UKVI to make the process as straightforward as possible. Anyone in this situation just needs to contact the UKVI team, via an email address, to let them know their visa has expired and they will be issued with an extension.

Home Secretary, Priti Patel, 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.”

Threads on student social media forums reveal a lot of concern in the student community – many are worried about what to do with their belongings if they return home.

Professor Steve Smith,  vice-chancellor and chief executive of the University of Exeter, confirmed in a webinar organised by UniversitiesUK International that this was keeping staff at his institution busy at present.

The news also means students can apply to switch routes, such as from Tier 4 (student) to Tier 2 (General Worker), whilst remaining in the UK.

UKVI will continue to process applications as quickly as possible, however some applications may take longer than usual due to COVID-19 related operational pressures, stated the government.

Those who contact the Home Office for these visa extensions will be expected to return to their home countries as soon as possible once flight and border restrictions are lifted. No immigration enforcement action will be undertaken during this time for those who email the Home Office as outlined above.

In light of the current advice on self-isolation and social distancing, the Home Office is also waiving a number of requirements on visa sponsors, such as allowing non-EU nationals here under work or study routes to undertake their work or study from home.

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