The UK government has recently announced that the 28-day grace period that previously allowed non-EEA nationals to extend or switch their existing visa shortly after it had expired will no longer apply to further leave to remain applications (FLR) made on or after November 24, 2016. For all immigrants and those hoping to extend their visa in the UK, including partners and spouses of British citizens and permanent residents (and their dependent children under 18), it is important to know that this grace period has been changed and understand how it affects them.
What is the 28-day grace period?
When someone stays in the UK after their visa has expired, they automatically become what is known as an overstayer. Once a foreign national is an overstayer they are subject to regulations that might force them to leave the UK. An amendment called “section 3C leave” was made to the Immigration Act in 1971 to help immigrants apply for visa extensions. Under this amendment, if someone submits a valid extension application to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), they are not considered to be an overstayer even if their current visa runs out while their application is being processed and before they receive their extension. This is the case as long as they make the application before their current visa runs out, and providing certain other requirements are met.
In 2012 this rule was amended with the addition of a 28-day grace period that all visa applicants could benefit from if they submit their extension application within 28 days of the expiry of their current visa. The 28-day grace period applied to all immigrants including non-EEA nationals in the country on an unmarried partner or spouse visa sponsored by a British citizen or UK permanent resident under the partner route. Essentially, this rule was designed to make sure that visa holders were not penalised in the event that they could not apply for a visa extension on time due to circumstances beyond their control. The 28-day grace period ensured that a late application would not be automatically rejected if it was a few days or even a few weeks late.
What changes have been made?
For all visa extension applications made on or after November 24, 2016 the 28-day grace period will no longer apply. The grace period has been removed from the Immigration Rules entirely, because the government wants to encourage visa applicants to comply with the rules. According to the Minister for Immigration, Robert Goodwill, this change will insure greater compliance with the immigration rules. However, while the 28-day grace period has been removed, there will still be a 14-day grace period that applies under similar circumstances. This is provided to support people who are making late applications but who have exceptional circumstances that prevented them from submitting an application in a timely manner.
According to the new regulations, applications made within the 14-day grace period will be considered as long as there is a good reason why the application was not made in time. This likely refers to situations in which there are circumstances the applicant cannot control that prevented them submitting an in-time application. Despite the grace period, it has always been the case that visa extension applications should be submitted before the current visa expires. It is always better to get applications in as early as possible to avoid any possible problems and complications.