HMRC have now updated their residence guidance in respect of COVID-19, recognising that the pandemic may impact individuals’ ability to move freely to and from the UK, or require individuals to remain unexpectedly in the UK.
There have been two main changes: for overseas individuals coming to the UK to work in connection with coronavirus-related activities, and for individuals who have remained in the UK for longer than they had initially expected.
Individuals present in the UK to work on COVID-19 related activities
On 9 April 2020 in a letter to the Chair of the Treasury Committee, the Chancellor confirmed that any periods spent in the UK between 1 March and 1 June 2020 by individuals working on COVID-19-related activities will not count towards the residence tests. Therefore, non-UK resident individuals may be able to spend longer in the UK without jeopardising their residence position.
‘Disregarded days due to exceptional circumstances’
The SRT has always appreciated that there may be occasions when individuals are inadvertently present in the UK for longer than expected, but these circumstances are strict and do not usually cover travel problems. Exceptional circumstances normally apply where the individual has no choice about the time they spend in the UK, or in coming back to the UK, and where the situation is completely beyond their control.
New guidance has been issued specifically for COVID-19. Where any of the following apply:
- You are quarantined or advised by a health professional to self-isolate in the UK as a result of the virus
- You find yourself in a ‘lockdown’ situation as a result of the virus
- You are unable to leave the UK due to the closure of international borders
- You are asked by your employer to return to the UK temporarily as a result of the virus
HMRC consider the circumstances are ‘exceptional’, and up to 60 days of those spent in the UK as a result of the exceptional circumstances can be disregarded.
Whilst this won’t be at the forefront of most people’s minds right now, for some people this provides some certainty during this very uncertain time.