Human Resources

Immigration service delays and allowances related to Covid-19

Get advice on any delays to visa processing and allowances because of the pandemic.


This page was last updated on 6 December 2021.

You can check complete UK government guidance for visa applicants and temporary UK residents.

If you have questions about international recruitment and staff immigration within the University, and how this is affected by Coronavirus, email

Delays to visa services

The standard waiting time for a work visa pre-pandemic was no more than 12 weeks from the date of application. When Visa Application Centres (VACs) were closed over the summer of 2020, this created a huge backlog of applications which increased wait times significantly.

Most VACs are open again (subject to local restrictions) and the backlog has been largely cleared, however the need to maintain Covid-secure operations means they cannot process the same volume of applications as they could before the pandemic.

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) have not updated their standard waiting times to reflect the delays that are being experienced across the board, so we cannot give a timeframe for how long an application will take beyond the standard 12 weeks.

In some cases, these delays mean that by the time an application is reviewed, the Certificate of Sponsorship has expired or the employment start date has already passed. UKVI have confirmed that they are not automatically refusing such applications and will consider them on a case-by-case basis.


You may need to quarantine when you arrive in England.

See UK government advice on how to quarantine in England if you need to.

Special allowances currently in place

There are some allowances still in place.

Closed visa application centres (VACs)

Individuals whose local VAC is closed due to Covid restrictions are permitted submit their application and biometrics using a VAC in another country, provided they’re permitted to travel to that country. This allowance is in place until at least 31 December 2021.

Starting work before a visa is issued

Those who are applying for a Skilled Worker visa may be able to start work before a decision is made on their application, if they have a Certificate of Sponsorship that was assigned before 19 January 2021.

Exceptional assurance for individuals planning to leave the UK

If your visa expires before 31 January 2022 and you are intending to leave the UK, you can request additional time to stay (known as exceptional assurance) in the event your travel plans are disrupted. This must be done by email. Find out more about exceptional assurance.

Individuals stuck outside the UK whose visa has expired

Any individuals who held Indefinite Leave to Remain, which has since lapsed after being outside the UK for more than two years, must apply for a Returning Resident visa.

If an individual was unable to return due to travel restrictions, they may be entitled to a refund of the visa application fee.