The coronavirus outbreak and governments’ reactions to it are a rapidly changing situation.
Following the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration that classified the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak as a pandemic on March 11, a number of governments have instituted or announced measures limiting international travel. In the most notable of the new restrictions, the United States has announced that it is suspending all travel from Europe’s Schengen Area for 30 days beginning at midnight on Friday, March 13. This measure would expand existing travel restrictions in place for arrivals from mainland China and Iran.
The restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents or their immediate families as well as holders of some categories of U.S. visas (such as A-1, A-2, C-1, D or C-1/D, C-2, C-3, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4 and NATO visas). The Schengen Area is a 26-country group that has officially abolished border control among themselves.
Globally, it is unknown if other governments will follow suit after the announcement from the White House. However, some of the recent and notable measures that have been implemented or announced this week by other countries are as follows:
On March 11, the Australian government put measures in place that bar the entry of foreign nationals (excepting permanent residents and citizens of Australia) who have been to mainland China, Iran, South Korea or Italy in the 14-day period prior to the planned arrival. Permanent residents and citizens of Australia who have been to mainland China, Iran, South Korea and Italy in the same time period will be required to self-isolate for 14 days starting from the day they left mainland China, Iran, South Korea or Italy. In addition, Australia will bar the entry of any foreign national who is not a New Zealand passport holder who resides in Australia, a diplomat or a permanent resident of Australia if the individual has left or transited a country subject to a travel restriction in the 14-day period prior to the planned arrival.
All visas for India, with the exception of diplomatic, official, UN or other international organizations, employment and project visas are suspended effective from midnight GMT on March 13 at the port of departure to April 15. This restriction includes all other e-visas and physical visas for tourism and business visits―however, it is not yet confirmed if the restriction extends to dependent “X” entry visas that are held by dependents of employment visa holders. Furthermore, holders of a valid OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) are no longer visa exempt for the same period of visa suspension. In additional, all incoming travelers arriving in India may be subject to a 14-day quarantine.
Effective as of March 8, Indonesia bars the entry of all foreign nationals who have visited certain regions in Italy, Iran, South Korea or China within the last 14 days.
On the March 9, the Japanese government implemented strict border controls on arrivals from China and South Korea and cancelled any visa exemptions or visas already issued to holders of passports issued by China, Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR and South Korea who were not already in Japan. Furthermore, embassies and consulates of Japan have been requesting that visa applicants provide additional documentation regarding the health/medical state of visa applicants along with additional details regarding travel history.
On March 10, Thailand suspended the issuance of visas to nationals of China, Bhutan, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. In addition, visa exemptions for nationals of Italy, South Korea and holders of passports from Hong Kong SAR were cancelled.
On March 8, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc suspended the visa exemptions/visa on arrival facilities for nationals of Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Nationals of those countries, along with nationals of Italy, now need to apply for a visa in advance of travel.
On March 10, Austria started to ban the entry of arrivals from Italy, unless they held a valid medical certification, and has implemented check points at high volume border crossings, such as the Brenner Pass.
The Czech government has implemented an entry ban on holders of passports issued by Austria, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom unless the traveler holds a valid temporary or long-term visa for the Czech Republic or permanent resident status in the Czech Republic.
Additional health checks were put into place within 30 kilometers of the German border and at other points of entry into Germany on February 28. As of March 11 and prior to the announcement of the United States, German Chancellor Angela Merkel advised that Germany would not be closing borders or implementing broad entry restrictions at this time.
On March 11, Hungary announced a reinstatement of border controls on its borders with Slovenia and Austria in addition to existing entry bans on travelers arriving from or who have recently visited Italy, China, Iran or South Korea.
Per an Italian presidential decree, all individuals in Italy are instructed to stay at home and domestic and air travel has been banned except in compelling circumstances. Furthermore, all travelers must hold a signed certification (provided by the police) on the reason of travel and must receive special government dispensation to travel outside the city where they are registered. Travelers must show this certification at airports. Individuals landing in Italy will be required to declare the reason of travel upon entry. While Italian borders and ports of entry technically remain open, people are required to declare the reason of travel upon arrival. Overall, the domestic measures taken and the responses of other countries to arrivals from Italy has led to a de facto closure of the country.
On March 12, Norway implemented a mandatory quarantine of individuals who have travelled to any non-Nordic country with a retroactive effect from February 27.
As of March 11, only foreign nationals with a negative coronavirus test less than three days old or those who pass a medical exam will be permitted entry.
Only some of the Schengen Area states―including Austria, Malta and Slovenia―have implemented border/port of entry controls to prevent entry of people from Italy and other more severely infected jurisdictions. On a more widespread basis, most EU countries have instituted additional checks at their borders, medical screenings or outright bans on the arrival of people who have been in Italy recently or other endemic areas, such as China, Japan, South Korea or Iran.
On March 13, Spain’s prime minister declared a state of emergency, effectively closing the country down for a period of 15 days effective March 14.
On March 11, Switzerland closed nine smaller border crossings to redirect traffic to major entry points.
People arriving from China, South Korea, Iran, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and other countries facing “unfavorable” battles with the virus will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. Russia has suspended the issuance of visitor visas to Italian citizens and closed most points of entry along its border with China.
The Israeli government has banned the entry of any foreign nationals who have been in China, Thailand, Singapore, Japan and South Korea in the two week period prior to departure on February 26 and has instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine of all people arriving from outside Israel.
The Kingdom of Jordan has closed its border with Israel, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Iraq as of March 10. It also closed its seaports to all vessels from Egypt.
The Qatari government has implemented a ban on the entry of non-Qatari citizens who have recently departed/transited Bangladesh, mainland China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Syria or Thailand. Furthermore, they have suspended issuance of new entry bias to nationals of those countries.
Scaling the Response
These new temporary measures build upon existing restrictions most countries had previously implemented to screen travelers for symptoms, as well as slowing or halting the issuance or adjudication of entry visas, and limiting entry from people who have recently been in any of growing list of countries where the virus was endemic, including China, Italy, Iran and South Korea. International travel, especially from coronavirus endemic countries and regions, has been further limited for some time due to the closures of foreign embassies, consulates-general, and high commissions and visa processing outsourcing offices (such as VFS, TLS, and others), leading to delays or impasses related to visa application submission, fingerprinting, adjudication and issuance.
The summary above does not comprehensively list all existing travel restrictions, border closures, visa suspensions or entry bans. The coronavirus outbreak and governments’ reactions to it are a rapidly changing situation. As a result, in addition to checking existing travel and health advice from the authorities (CDC, WHO, the U.S. State Department, the British Foreign Office, the International Air Transport Association and others), companies and individuals with any questions regarding international travel limitations, visa applications, concerns regarding potential visa/permit overstays, or other potential impacts on immigration status should seek legal counsel.
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