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McGill & Co is a Scottish immigration law firm specialising in UK immigration, nationality and refugee law.

COVID-19 and foreign national family members

18 March 2020 Amna Ashraf Blog

As the pandemic of coronavirus (COVID-19) sweeps across the world, dramatic changes have emerged across country borders, visa application centres and airline operations to slow the spread of the virus.

In the UK, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised all British people against all non-essential travel worldwide. Issued on 18 March, the advice applied with immediate effect for an initial period of 30 days. Those who deem travel as necessary are still able to leave the UK but advised of increased risk in this fast moving situation. If the country they go to adopts a border closure with little or no notice, their return to the UK will be unavailable until the policy changes. This will undoubtedly impact the decision making of a British citizen when considering visiting their family member outside of the UK.

Some countries have already imposed border restrictions and temporarily closed visa application centres. This is of particular relevant to those with families abroad who were intending to apply for a UK visa.

In China, all visa application centres are closed. This means that presently it is not possible to apply for a visit or any other type of visa from China. Those who have already applied and submitted their passports will have their passports returned via courier if this service was purchased; if not, they need to contact VFS Global.

Similarly in Iran, all visa application centres are also closed. It is not possible to apply for a visa at present. Those who have already applied and attended their appointments, can either request return of their passports or wait until the services are back in operation. Those who had appointments already scheduled will be cancelled. 

In the United States of America, from 18 March 2020 to at least 1 April 2020, all application support centres will suspend in person services. This means that US citizens who wish to apply for a partner visa for entry to the UK will need to wait until the suspension is removed. Their partner in the UK is also unable to visit with a travel ban imposed on 16 March 2020.  

Some countries have imposed travel bans to those coming from the UK, but at the time of writing, still had functioning visa application centres. This means that their partner abroad can still apply for a spouse or partner visa to join their loved one in the UK. Some examples are India, Indonesia, Qatar, Malaysia (except Kuala Lumpur), United Arab Emirates, Argentina, and South Africa. The situation of course needs to be monitored considering the visa decision timescales are usually 30 working days or more.

The team at McGill & Co are at hand to advise those who have applied or were intending to apply for their loved ones to join them to the UK. Given the developing situation, a lot of the information will be forthcoming at little or no notice and having someone to double check the processes with may make your journey a little easier.


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