Applying for a Spouse or Partner Visa from the UK
The previous Home Office coronavirus policy permitted those with visas expiring between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 to apply for long term visas from the UK, even where ordinarily these types of applications would require an applicant to apply from outside the UK.
The Home Office Family Policy stated that a caseworker could exercise discretion to allow a person to:
‘start, stay on, or complete a route to settlement despite them being in the UK as a visitor or with leave of six-months or less, in-country or overseas for a short period without leave, where it is shown that they were not able to travel or apply due to COVID-19 between March and 31 August 2020’
The current policy permits people in the UK with valid leave due to expire after 31 October 2020 who wish to remain in the UK, to make an application for leave to remain from within the UK even where ‘[they] would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country’. However it requires applicants to show that the application is ‘urgent’.
Examples are given: to start a new job or course of study. These are non-exhaustive examples and other reasons for urgency may be relied on. The applicant should provide full details of the reasons they should be permitted to apply from the UK rather than from elsewhere, in a covering letter with the application.
The Home Office Family Policy states:
‘Any visitor whose period of leave expires beyond 31 August 2020, is still allowed to make their application from within the UK where they would usually need to apply for a visa from their home country on a limited, case by case basis. We will expect applicants to prove that their application is urgent and for them to provide a valid reason why they cannot apply from outside the UK as a result of COVID-19.’
The policy has therefore become stricter: it is no longer sufficient to merely show that Covid-19 has affected an applicant’s ability to travel or apply outside the UK, but applicants must also show that their application is ‘urgent’.
The Home Office expectation appears to be that those whose applications are not urgent, should apply for exceptional assurance ‘as a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after your leave has expired.’ This is aimed at those who have been unable to leave the UK, with visas expiring between 1 November and 30 November 2020. If their application is not urgent, they should then leave the UK when they are able to, and apply for entry clearance from outside the UK in the normal way.
There is little clarity over what other situations may be deemed sufficiently ‘urgent’ to warrant an in-country switch, as this is considered on a case-by-case basis. It is telling that the examples given by the Home Office for urgency are work and study-related (despite the fact that many people are effectively using ‘modern means of communication’ to work and study remotely) with no recognition of the difficulties many couples and families may face in being separated for the duration of an Entry Clearance application, particularly during a global pandemic.