Just like many countries, the UK has implemented lockdown measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. Residents are allowed to leave their homes only to buy essential items like medicine and food, or seek medical care.
The change has devastated the lives of many international students. Many of them and other foreign nationals are stuck in the UK, unable to go back to their home countries due to flight cancellations, travel bans, and border closures.
To help alleviate the impact of the pandemic on these students and other non-British residents, the government has announced that international workers and students can extend their UK visas until May 31. Those whose visas have expired or those who cannot return to their home countries may switch their visas to a different category during the crisis.
“The UK continues to put the health and wellbeing of people first and nobody will be punished for circumstances outside of their control. By extending people’s visas, we are giving people peace of mind and also ensuring that those in vital services can continue their work,” Home Secretary Priti Patel announced.
The temporary expansion of visa switching provisions is particularly helpful to international students. For example, they can apply to switch from Tier 4 (student) to Tier 2 (skilled worker) while staying in the UK so that they may get some work even during the lockdown. But the process may take longer than usual because of the limited hours of operation in the UK Visa and Immigration department.
The accommodations provided during this trying time are indeed welcome news for foreign students and workers. The extensions, in particular, can put them at ease that they will not be penalized even if they overstay their visas.
Once the crisis is over, the regulations will return to normal and those whose visas have expired are expected to return home once flights are available and border restrictions have been removed.
For now, the UK government seems to be doing its best to allow international students to continue their programs in the country. This shows that the country acknowledges the value of its international students.