19 March 2020
There have been growing concerns that with the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) the UKVI partner, marriage and fiancée visa processing times may be affected. If more people (including UK immigration officers) are isolated, staff shortages and/or local visa office closures are likely to have a substantial impact on the UKVI operations worldwide.
The UK government may take additional measures to ensure maximum public safety and consider closing the border, if the situation worsens – same as Australia and New Zealand did a few weeks ago, when they started banning passengers from certain countries affected by the virus. Effective today, New Zealand has further strengthened travel restrictions banning most foreign travellers. Last week the US temporarily banned visitors from Europe for 30 days. The European Union closed its borders this week. It would be unethical to speculate whether or not the same can happen in the UK, but we must be mindful that as of today, there are more than 35,000 cases in Italy at the moment and the numbers keep rising rapidly. As a result, the local UK visa application centre in Milan has been closed temporarily, as a precautionary measure. They are no longer accepting UK visa applications. The UK visa application centers in China have been closed since February.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) spread may negatively affect UK visa applicants in the US as the main UK application support centre/scanning hub is based in New York City (which is where applicants in the US normally must send their original passport and supporting documents for scanning as part of the application process). The New York state has recently declared a state of emergency due to the rapid spread of coronavirus. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week that he was deploying the National Guard to help contain the spread of the virus in New Rochelle, New York. As New York City residents prepare for a potential lockdown, there are concerns that the UK visa application support centre in New York may suspend operations amidst coronavirus outbreak.
Furthermore, the World Health Organization formally declared the current outbreak a “pandemic” last week. Therefore, we are currently advising our existing clients to submit their visa applications as soon as possible, as there is a very real risk that more countries and local UK visa application centres/scanning hubs may be affected by the outbreak.
Applicants in the UK have also been affected by the outbreak, as some UKVCAS biometric and scanning facilities located at local libraries are cancelling existing appointments in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Sopra Steria UKVCAS and Local Library Authorities are continuously following advice from the Government to ensure public safety. This may potentially affect those applying for further leave to remain (FLR), indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or British Citizenship. Scanning appointments are currently available at larger UKVCAS service centers, including Core and Premium Lounge Service Points.
As the situation surrounding COVID‑19 continues to evolve, we want to assure our clients that we are doing everything we can to provide normal services. We are here to support you during these unprecedented and uncertain times. We are available, online or by phone during our normal business hours. We are closely monitoring the changing situation, and complying with public health guidance. Our advisers, receptionists and legal assistants currently work from home, therefore we are able to offer continuous service, even in areas where lockdown or self-isolation may be required. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
On behalf of the entire UKmarriageVisa.com team, please stay safe.