Today, 17 October 2012, UKBA issued a statement about a temporary concession for citizens of Syria. In summary, the concession allows Syrians whose leave to remain is about to expire, or has expired in the last 28 days, to apply to extend their leave to remain or to switch into a different (non-settlement) category. The concession applies only until 15 March 2012.
The full text of UKBA’s statement, which has also been copied below for ease of reference, can be found here.
17 October 2012
From 15 October 2012 Syrian nationals with temporary permission to stay in the UK will have more ways to extend their stay in the UK.
If you are a Syrian national and your permission to stay in the UK (leave to remain) is about to expire, or has expired in the last 28 days, and you wish to stay in the UK there are now some new options available to you. This concession applies only until 15 March 2013.
Extend your visa
If you are here on a visa for a limited period you can ask for this to be extended for the same length of time as you were originally granted. For example, if you have a 6 month visit visa you may be given permission to stay for a further 6 months.
Switch to a different visa category in the UK
Normally you would be required to leave the UK to switch to another visa category. Under this concession you may apply to switch categories from inside the UK.
There are restrictions on which categories you can apply to switch into. You cannot switch into any settlement routes.
You must apply whilst your current visa is valid or within 28 days of it expiring and pay the correct fee applicable for that route. You must meet the requirements of the category which you are applying under.
If there are any documents which you would normally be expected to provide, but you cannot because of the conflict in Syria, then you should explain why in your application.
Syrian nationals are also advised to continue to monitor the travel advice to Syria, and make arrangements to return only when it is safe to do so.
Further information about the concession and exceptions can be found in our staff guidance.
So what does this mean for you?
First of all, in order to apply under this concession, you need to be a citizen of Syria, who is normally resident in Syria, but who is currently in the UK. In order to be able to apply, you must show that you are legally in the UK and have limited leave to enter or remain (this means leave to enter or remain in a temporary visa category, for example, as a visitor or student) in the UK on 15 October 2012, or your your leave has expired but you are applying within 28 days of your current visa expiring.
As you are aware, limited leave to enter/remain visa categories (e.g. visitors and students) may normally only remain in the UK for a limited time only. The maximum time that you may remain in the UK is laid down in the Immigration Rules for your visa category. Under this concession, these maximum time limits are –temporarily- removed as follows.
If you meet the conditions above,
- The 6-month limit that applies to general visitors and child visitors has (temporarily) been removed.
- The 12-month limit that applies to someone who is accompanying an academic visitor as a general visitor or as a child visitor has (temporarily) been removed.
- the 3 year limit that applies to Tier 4 students studying below degree level has –temporarily- been removed.
- the 3-year limit that applies to Tier 4 applicants who have previously been granted leave as a Postgraduate Doctor or Dentist, or as a Tier 4 (General) student to undertake a course as a postgraduate doctor or dentist has –temporarily- been removed.
- the 5- year limit that applies to Tier 4 students studying at or above degree level has –temporarily- been removed.
The concession also allows applicants to ‘switch’ into a different immigration category from inside the UK (i.e. you do not need to leave the UK and apply overseas to change immigration categories). For example, if you wish to switch to a visit category, you do not already have to have leave as a visitor now. What you cannot, however, do is switch into a settlement category. In other words, you may switch from your current limited leave visa category into another limited leave visa category only.
You can switch into the following categories: Tier 1 Exceptional Talent, Entrepreneur or Investor; Tier 2 General, Minister of Religion or Sportsperson, Tier 4 General (Student), Tier 5 Temporary Worker, or Visitor.
If you entered the UK in one of the following categories: Business Visitor, Sports Visitor. Entertainment Visitor, Parent of a child at school, Visitor seeking entry for marriage or civil partnership, Student Visitor, Prospective Entrepreneur, Visitor undertaking Permitted Paid Engagements, individuals undertaking the PLAB test, or individuals undertaking a dental or clinical attachment, you can only apply for Further Leave to Remain as a General Visitor (paragraph 44 of the Rules) or under one of the Points Based System categories listed in the previous paragraph:
Family members can switch in line with the main applicant as long as the visa category that the main applicant is switching into allows them to have family members (e.g. a Tier 4 General Student is permitted to have his/her dependants in the UK on dependant Tier 4 migrant student visas). Also, those who are currently in the UK as the dependants of people with limited leave to enter or remain can switch to become a main applicant. Naturally, they would need to meet the requirements for the other visa category. Example: your wife entered the UK on a Tier 4 student visa and you entered as her dependant. Your wife’s studies (and therefore her, and your, limited leave to remain) are about to finish. Under the concession, should you wish to study yourself, you could “switch”, i.e. you become the main applicant; your wife becomes your dependant. Naturally, any applicant that wants to switch will need to demonstrate that he or she meets the requirements of the new visa category.
As you are aware, every visa category requires that supporting documents be submitted. Should you be unable to provide any of the documents with your application as a result of the current situation in Syria, you should include a covering letter to explain this.
How long will you be permitted to remain in the UK?
If UKBA approves your application for further leave to remain, they will give you the length of time that is normally allowed under that category. Please note that this varies from category to category, so you would need to check the guidance for the category of your choice on the UKBA website.
Where can I get further advice?
The UKBA immigration enquiry bureau can provide information about the Immigration Rules’ requirements for permission to stay in the UK.
0870 606 7766
0800 389 8289 (the contact centre also accepts calls by text relay and other similar services)
UK Border Agency, Lunar House, 40 Wellesley Road, Croydon, Surrey CR9 2BY
Monday to Thursday 09:00 to 16:45, Friday 09:00 to 16:30 (excluding public holidays).
Please note that this concession applies only until 15 March 2013! Your application for further leave to remain therefore needs to be submitted before that date!
Please check the UKBA website for further updates concerning this concession. If you wish to apply for further leave to remain under this concession, please contact UKBA for further advice.