Impact of COVID-19 on our families
Families reunited – spousal applications and Appendix FM, Covid 19 related issues to consider
Reunite Families UK is the only support and campaign group that focuses solely on the impact of Spouse visa rules on families. We have an ever-growing membership and many case studies that highlight the brutal and cruel fallouts of these rules. These are honest, genuine and loving couples and families who, during this time of Covid, have now been plunged into even further uncertainty as they face an immigration system that is not giving them any clarity on where they stand within this. With so much at stake they want to ensure they are within the perimeters of their visas and that common sense concessions and a renewed look at the rules as they stand right now (and beyond) and put in place a plan that means they don’t fall foul of the Home Office further down the line when we are out of this.
We have made direct contact with the Home Office regarding the points below in the hope that we could create a constructive dialogue with them and ensure our families are safe and secure in the UK. We have received an interim response but awaiting a detailed response from them.
Spouses stranded overseas and unable to apply for a spousal visa
The closure of many visa application centres has prevented spouses from making visa applications, leaving parents separated, often creating single parent families just as schools are closed and the UK parent (often the mother) is working from home will caring for the children without support from grandparents etc.
1. Allowing non-visa national spouses to enter as a visitor for the foreseeable future and subsequently apply to switch to Appendix FM when in country applications are up and running. For those migrants who haven’t yet entered could present evidence of their relationship to the Immigration Officer, for instance a marriage certificate and copy of their passport. I fully appreciate that this will be more difficult for unmarried partners but some allowance, especially for those with children, would be invaluable.
2. Allowing visa and non-visa nationals to make Appendix FM applications outside of their country of residence, where necessary. If, for instance, a US or Indian national were to travel to a country accepting applications (and if possible given travel bans). We realise that very few VACs are open at present (we believe just Senegal and Zimbabwe) but hope that others will begin to open as we move forward. Jakarta are offering a visa waiver scheme to deal with the issue of family visas. Is an expansion on this under the circumstances a consideration?
3. Ensuring that families who have finally received the spouse visa are not at risk of losing their entry clearance due to not getting to the UK within the specified time frame. I would like to ensure those visas are honoured with no issues.
Inability to access crucial visa services
7. Families are now unable to access language and medical test centres. Where appropriate can these families show other means of language proficiency or lifting of this requirement for this period with a later date for the test to be taken. Medical tests in the current climate is a tricky one. I am not sure what to suggest on medical tests as I can see they will be more important than ever but anything to make things easier would be great.
4. Some applicants will fail to meet the earnings requirements in Appendix FM as a consequence of Covid-19. Would you consider granting Appendix FM visa, switching and extension applications where a permission would have been granted, but for circumstances relating to Covid-19 and out of the applicant’s control?
5. Similarly, the impact of Covid-19 on jobs means that some applicants will find it harder pay for the visa application and IHS for their families. There are also British citizens who had leave the UK due to MIR restrictions have now been blocked even further from entering the UK as borders are closed and work opportunities have been severely restricted. Again, would you be willing to waive all or part of these fees? I appreciate the challenges here, but it would be wrong of me not to raise the issue.
6. Families are being plunged into poverty and the No Recourse to Public Funds is causing more hardship. Could this be lifted this for this period of time without changing the route to ILR from 5 years to 10 years? I realise this may be more for DWP but wanted to raise it.
Operational Considerations yet to be clarified:
A) Will they bring in a temporary change until end of year regarding financials eg same as maternity where 6 months wage slips up to furlough or sick leave kicks in?
B) Will there be an exemption for those who can’t provide English test before online submission due to centres being closed
C) Banks aren’t stamping them in branch/ bank statements due to limited staff and working at home - can you use online pdf statements?
D) Tb Test centres are closed abroad so can people be tested at airports on arrival?
E) Are documents still ok to be submitted up to online application eg submission April 10 but no appointment until May 30 if furloughed or ssp
F) What happens if due to company closing you cannot obtain an employer’s letter as HR are closed
G) What happens to fiancés here on visit visa that haven’t cohabited before their visit and decide to switch to fiancé visa or FLR M but cannot Marry before they submit online due to not being able to marry before online submission as registry office booking keeps getting cancelled?
H) Can people who have been furloughed or hours reduced etc have employers write on letter that they are in this situation due to Covid 19 and that be accepted
I) If a visa is granted and travel vignette expires due to no flights available or cannot collect passport us to centre closures will applicants be able to get a new travel vignette free and not pay the £200 for a new one?
Case Studies relating to NHS/Care workers
— Case Study 1