Please note, while we address some country-specific updates related to the COVID-19 outbreak, the below is a list of global restrictions and closures as they stand today. Given the constantly changing nature of this situation, we highly recommend reviewing any global mobility inquiries on a case-by-case basis, including any consulate-specific or immigration authority resources in real-time before traveling internationally. Please reach out to our Global Mobility Team in advance of any international travel.
Australia – New Travel Restrictions Announced
Effective March 20, 2020, only Australian citizens, residents, and their immediate family members may travel to Australia. Additionally, all travelers arriving in Australia will be required to undertake a mandatory 14-day quarantine in their port of arrival. Travelers will be transported directly to designated facilities after appropriate immigration, customs, and enhanced health checks. The immigration authorities have also announced that due to reductions in personnel, the processing of new and pending visa applications will be delayed. Curently, applications are still being processed and accepted, though closures and guidelines continue to be updated and are subject to change. Please see the Australia Immigration Authorities designated website for additional COVID-19 information.
Canada – Travel Suspended for Certain Foreign Nationals
Travel to Canada is suspended for all foreign nationals with the exception of U.S. Citizens, Canadian Permanent Residents, and Temporary Foreign Workers (with other limited exceptions) as a result of COVID-19. The Canadian government has announced travelers to Canada by air will be required to pass a health check before being allowed to board their flight. Travelers who show symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to enter Canada by air. Moreover, travelers will not be permitted to board a plane to Canada if they have been outside of Canada or the United States in the last 14 days, unless they are a Canadian Citizen, Canadian Permanent Resident, a Temporary Foreign Worker, or in transit to a third country. Anyone entering Canada will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Only individuals who provide essential services, and truck drivers who regularly cross the border to maintain the flow of goods, are exempt from the isolation requirements. The application process of applying for a work permit or other immigration benefit remains unchanged. Additionally, Canadian consulates and in-land offices remain open and applications currently in progress will continue to be processed, but may experience delays. Applicants will be given additional time to complete their biometrics, immigration medical exams, or to submit any other support material.
China – Suspension of Entry for Valid Visa and Residence Permit Holders
Effective March 28, 2020 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China temporarily suspends entry into China by foreign nationals holding valid visas, residence permits, or APEC Cards. Visa-free entry and port visa policies have also been suspended. Entry with diplomatic, service, courtesy or C visas will not be affected. These measures are implemented in addition to previous travel restrictions suspending entry for all visitors except citizens and residents. Any visitors may be subject to medical checks and mandatory quarantine upon arrival.
Colombia – Continuance of Visa Applications Filing
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will accept visa applications for processing and electronic approval, and will not issue visa stamps for the passport from March 25 to April 13, 2020.
European Union – Travel Advice by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of EU Countries
Please refer to the below link to the site of the European Union Commission, which provides the list of all EU member state’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ sites with country-specific travel alerts:
Hong Kong – Entry Suspended for Non-Residents of Hong Kong
As of March 25, 2020 the Hong Kong immigration authorities (IMMD) have suspended entry for all visitors who are not citizens or Hong Kong residents. The initial publication stated this suspension period would be for 14 days, though this is subject to change. The IMMD considers employment visa and ID card holders to be residents in the context of this policy. Additionally, any visitors who are permitted to enter Hong Kong will be subject to medical checks and a mandatory 14-day quarantine period upon arrival. Since March 8, 2020 all incoming travelers have been required to submit a health declaration form, which may be done online. Social distancing measures and closures of non-essential business remain in place locally for everyone residing in Hong Kong. For additional details regarding the restrictive measures and travel restrictions in Hong Kong please see the IMMD’s dedicated COVID-19 website.
India – Authorities Implement New Travel Restrictions and Visa Cancellations, and Suspend Arrival of All International Flights
Indian consulates and visa centers are not accepting applications until after April 15, 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions and concerns. The Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. has also announced it will be closed until April 6, 2020. Additionally, travel for current Indian visa and OCI Card holders has been suspended until April 15, 2020. Further, all scheduled Indian and International air transportation to and from India has been suspended as of March 22, 2020. As of now, the immigration authorities in India are continuing to process applications for in-country extensions through the online system, though processing times are significantly delayed. Shelter-in-place orders have been issued for much of India restricting movements for residents and mandating self-isolation. There are several published guidelines for travel and immigration related information available through the Embassy (see here).
Israel – Two-Month Automatic Extension for Expert B-1 Work Visas
The Ministry of Interior has announced that in accordance with the new Emergency Regulations for the COVID-19 outbreak, an automatic two-month extension will be granted to all foreign nationals holding Foreign Expert B-1 work visas with an expiration date prior to May 10, 2020.
Specifically, the regulations state that if the Foreign Expert B-1 work visa has expired or will expire during the relevant period, the visa will be automatically extended for two months from the original expiry date. The extension will be registered with the Ministry of Interior. For example, if a permit expires on April 30, 2020, it will be automatically extended until June 30, 2020, within the government database. This extension applies to all sub-categories of working visas for experts including a one-year visa and Hi-Tech 365 visas. The automatic extension also applies to work visas that are normally classified as non-extendable including 90 days (STEP), Hi-Tech 90 days (HIT 90), and the 45 days (SEA). As such, foreign nationals holding these visas, with expiry date within the relevant period, can remain in the country for an additional two-months period at this stage. It should be noted that where a foreign worker changes employers, it will be necessary to apply for a work permit under the normal procedures, with an application to transfer the employee to the new employer.
Japan – New Entry Restrictions for Foreign Nationals
As of April 2, 2020 the Japanese authorities have instituted additional measures restricting the entry of foreign travelers visiting Japan. Visitors entering Japan from any of the designated countries and regions may be denied entry or quarantined for 14 days. Exceptions may be made in the case of Japanese Permanent or Long-Term Residents, or Spouses or Children of Japanese Citizens who departed Japan on or before April 2, 2020. Travelers who fall into these categories may still be permitted to enter at the discretion of the authorities and border control officers. These restrictions are in addition to initially implemented COVID-19 measures and may continue to be changed.
New Zealand – Authorities Institute State of Emergency and Automatic Visa Extension Process
According to a recent announcement on March 31, 2020 the New Zealand authorities have declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a Level 4 State of Emergency. According to updates published by the immigration authorities (INZ), all residents are required to self-isolate and restrict movement, and all non-essential business have been ordered to close. Travel to New Zealand has also been restricted based on the recent State of Emergency order. Only New Zealand citizens and residents are permitted to enter New Zealand from abroad, and any incoming travelers may be subject to a quarantine period on arrival.
Additionally, all Immigration New Zealand offices are closed for the foreseeable future as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only some essential staff members will be working, and the processing of immigration applications will be delayed. Only applications for positions considered “key roles” will be prioritized at this time. In an effort to support foreign nationals who are unable to return to their home countries, the INZ will automatically extend any visas expiring between April 2, 2020 and July 9, 2020. The visas will be extended until late September, 2020 through the online system.
Russia – Mandatory Quarantine Requirements and Travel Restrictions Implemented
As of March 30, 2020 the Russian authorities have implemented a mandatory quarantine in the city of Moscow requiring all residents to self-isolate and avoid leaving places of their residence or stay. Exceptions to the order include obtaining emergency medical attention, buying essential goods (such as groceries), and travel to and from employment for essential workers.
Additionally, the immigration authorities have suspended entry for all visitors to Russia until May 1, 2020 according to guidelines published on March 18, 2020. Some exceptions can be made for emergency circumstances, and anyone entering Russia from abroad is required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Some airlines have suspended flights from the U.S. to Russia and vice-versa due to the current crisis.
Singapore – Employment Pass Updates from Ministry of Manpower (MOM)
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has announced employers are obligated to monitor the health conditions of their workers closely by ensuring workers take their temperature daily. If any workers fall sick (e.g. having mild flu-like conditions) they must ensure that the employees see a doctor and receive treatment. Further, the MOM has increased the monitoring of foreign work pass holders who entered Singapore between March 14 and March 20, 2020 and were not issued a Stay-Home Notice. If such workers are still in Singapore, employers are required to submit a daily health declaration form for them to the MOM until the 14th day after their arrival. Submission of the form is not required on days when the company is not operating. The form is available electronically and may be completed online (see here for more information).
South Africa – Travel Restrictions and Lock Down
South Africa is on a 21-day lock down from March 26 to April 16, 2020. During this time South African citizens who arrive in the country must undergo a 14-day quarantine period. International travelers arriving from high-risk counties, which also includes Switzerland now, will be denied entry.
Switzerland – Local Immigration Office Closures and Travel Restriction Updates
As of March 25, 2020, Switzerland will extend the entry restrictions to all foreign nationals except citizens of the Principality of Liechtenstein. Only Swiss citizens, persons with a valid Swiss residence or cross-border permit, or those who are in a situation of absolute necessity (death of a family member, continuation of urgent medical treatments, etc.) are allowed to enter Switzerland. Persons who have to travel to Switzerland for professional reasons and are in possession of a valid approval (“Zusicherung”/”Assurance” or “Meldebestätigung”/”certificat d’enregistrement”) may still be refused to enter Switzerland unless their activity is connected to a predominant public interest (e.g. Specialists in Health Care Sector, supply of essential goods, etc.).
The immigration authorities will limit the issuance of new work permits, as well as the adjudication of pending cases in an effort to reduce administrative burdens. This will include online registrations. Cases and applications which are of direct relevance to the current crisis (i.e. for medical positions) will be exempt from this limitation and will still be accepted and processed. These additional measures will be effective until further notice, but for a maximum of 6 months according to the Federal Council.
United Kingdom – Recent Updates to Immigration Policy and Procedures
The COVID-19 crisis is impacting the processing of all UK visa applications. All visa centres inside the UK, and most outside the UK, are currently closed. The UK Visa Service (UKVI) has indicated that they will prioritise returning all documents to applicants as soon as the centres re-open, although there is no set date for this.
The Priority and Super Priority routes have also been suspended – any applications that are being processed will be subject to longer timeframes (varying from 8 weeks to 6 months). In addition, the Tier 2 and 5 Priority line, which enables Sponsors to expedite the processing of requests for additional certificates, or changes to their Licence, has been suspended. Sponsors should therefore be aware that, should the line not be reopened, such requests may take 18 weeks to be actioned.
UKVI have conceded that the usual right to work check procedure, which requires the checker to hold the new employee’s original documents in their possession, is inappropriate at this time. Employers are able to conduct the checks electronically by receiving a scan or photo of the right to work documentation via email, and then verifying the likeness of the employee using a video link.
Additionally, the normal requirements surrounding unpaid leave for Tier 2 workers have also been relaxed. The usual rules state that a Tier 2 worker cannot take more than one month of unpaid leave before triggering a notification to UKVI, which in turn leads to cancellation of the visa. However, at this time UKVI confirm that unpaid absences due to Coronavirus (including illness, a need to isolate or an inability to travel) do not need to be reported. This will be kept under review.
For individuals whose visas expire between January 24, 2020 and May 31, 2020 but are unable to leave the UK, UKVI have developed a short term scheme allowing an extension of permission to remain in the UK until May 31, 2020. Individuals must contact UKVI providing information on their current status and confirmation of why they are unable to leave the UK e.g. self-isolating or travel restrictions to their home country. UKVI will also accept in-country applications from those same individuals with expiring visas who would normally need to make an application from abroad; for example switching from Visitor to Tier 2 status.
Any individuals whose visa is expiring but intend to remain in the UK should submit an extension application as normal via an online process. There will undoubtedly be delays in the processing of these applications due to the closure of all visa centres and suspension of priority routes. However, UKVI have stated that “Your immigration status will not be negatively affected as a result of you not being able to attend an appointment.”
By: Ryann Stout and Gabriele Vennewald