If you are an international student and your visa has expired or is about to expire this article covers your rights to stay due to travel restrictions or because you are self-isolating.
Here we have answered frequently asked questions by international students that find themselves stranded in the UK due to the Coronavirus.
Can international students leave the UK whilst the Coronavirus pandemic is going on?
The UK Government has banned all but essential travel domestically and internationally. These restrictions currently do not have an end date. Furthermore, many countries are closing their borders and cancelling international flights, such as America and Malaysia, and many more countries are imposing strict health checks and quarantines.
Countries are closing their borders and updating their policies on who can leave and enter the country with little or no notice, so it is important to check the travel restrictions on a daily basis
Can I stay in the UK if my student visa has expired but I cannot travel due to travel restrictions or because I am self-isolating?
As of March 24 2020 the UK Government has announced that international students can stay in the country if their visa has expired or is about to expire until 31 May 202, if you are unable to leave the UK due to travel restrictions or because you are self-isolating.
You must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) to update your records if your visa is expiring.
You should provide:
- your full name (include any middle names)
- date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
- your previous visa reference number
- The reason you can’t go back to your home country, for example if the border has closed
The team will then get in touch with you to let you know when your request is received and when your visa has been extended.
Can international students receive free NHS treatment if they contract Coronavirus?
If you have paid the immigration health surcharge and you have a valid student visa you are entitled to free NHS treatment. If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you can use it to receive free NHS treatment, at least until 31 December 2020.
Regulations have also been passed by the UK Government that enables everyone to get tested and treated for Coronavirus free of charge regardless of their visa status.
This new regulation applies to the diagnosis of the condition and subsequent treatment, even if the final diagnosis is negative.
Whilst this exemption covers the NHS in England, it would be surprising if Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, doesn’t adopt the same position.
Can I stay in my accommodation beyond my tenancy agreement?
The UK Government has issued guidance stating that students living in a hall of residence should be allowed to remain, if possible, or that your accommodation provider should work with its local authority and letting agents to help you find alternative accommodation.
It states that no students should be made homeless and makes special reference to international students. Accommodation provided by education providers is also exempt from immigration checks.
If you live in private accommodation and your tenancy agreement is about to expire talk to your landlord about what options and concessions are available. And get in touch with your education provider as a matter of urgency if you are worried about becoming homeless.
Remember that they are dealing with a lot of people, so get in touch as early as possible if you are in danger of losing your accommodation, and also remember people are working remotely so check what is the best way to contact the right department for help.
Your local authority may be able to provide information but if you are subject to the condition “No recourse to public funds” as part of your visa unfortunately that means that you cannot take local authority accommodation.
What should I do if I am running out of money?
If you are facing financial difficulties reach out to your university and Students Union for assistance and guidance. Many universities have implemented measures to help students financially such as not charging for accommodation if students need to stay for a longer period. You might also be able to apply for a hardship fund.
If you are in private accommodation do talk to your landlord. Legally they are not allowed to evict you from the property.
You can also contact local charities and food banks to see what assistance you can get. Click here to find your local food bank and contact them to find out what days of the week they are open and how they are operating in the current situation due to social distancing, and whether they can help you if you are self-isolating.
How do I contact the Governments Coronavirus Immigration helpline?
To get specific advice on your immigration status you can call the Governments Coronavirus Immigration helpline on 0800 678 1767, open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm and calls are free of charge. Or email CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk.