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COVID-19 Creates Havoc for Global Employers and Travelers

April 13, 2020

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to impact most countries around the world, governments have introduced travel restrictions, temporarily suspended flights, imposed mandatory home isolation measures, and suspended services for some immigration procedures, as well as closed some government agencies. For employers looking to move essential employees globally, and/or repatriate them to their home countries, we’ve compiled a list of current immigration updates to consider.

The following information is accurate as of April 10, 2020.

Argentina

General Restrictions

Argentina has closed its borders until and including April 12 for nonresident foreigners, with the following exemptions:

  • Persons who are affected by the transfer of merchandise by international trade operations for the transport of cargo of merchandise, by means of air, land, sea, river, and lake
  • Carriers and crew of ships and aircraft
  • Persons affected by the operation of flights and medical transfers

Exempted persons must be asymptomatic, and comply, both within and outside the country, with the recommendations and instructions provided by the National Health Authority.

The Ministry of Health (Official Bulletin of March 14, 2020) established a prohibition of entry into the country for a period of 30 days to nonresident foreigners who have passed through “affected areas” in the 14 days prior to their arrival.

Such prohibition will last until April 14, 2020 for nonresident foreigners who have stayed in China, South Korea, Iran, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Schengen area countries, and until April 15, 2020 for nonresident foreigners who have stayed in Chile and Brazil.

Temporary Flights Suspension

International passenger flights are suspended from the “affected areas” for a period of 30 days.

  • International passenger flights from China, South Korea, Iran, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Schengen area countries are suspended until April 12, 2020.
  • International passenger flights from Chile and Brazil are suspended until April 15, 2020 (the Ministry of Health included both countries in the COVID-19 affected zone area on March 16, 2020).

Mandatory Home Isolation

  • Home isolation for all individuals in Argentina until April 12, 2020
  • Home isolation for at least 14 days for all nationals and residents arriving to Argentina

Suspensions of Consular Visas/Immigration Office Closure

  • Consular visas applications have been suspended until further notice.
  • The Immigration Office has been closed since March 17, 2020 and will remain closed until April 12, 2020. The submission and processing of all applications of residence in Argentina will be suspended until April 12, 2020.

Immigration Office Measures

The National Directorate of Migrations has arranged to extend the validity of precarious, transitory, and temporary residences expiring between March 17 and April 16 for an additional 30 days.

Australia

Australia is currently only allowing entry for travelers who are Australian citizens, permanent residents, immediate family members of an Australian citizen or permanent resident, or New Zealand citizens usually resident in Australia.

Provisional (temporary) visa holders, except New Zealand citizens who normally reside in Australia (with a subclass 444 visa or other permanent or provisional visa) will be denied entry to Australia at this time. Additionally, New Zealand citizens and permanent residents not living in Australia can only travel through Australia to return to New Zealand.

All travelers who are allowed to enter Australia are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated facilities, such as a hotel, in their port of arrival.

Additionally, the Australian government has provided further information on the changes implemented for Temporary Skilled Shortage (TSS) visa holders. TSS visa holders who have been stood down, but not laid off, will maintain their visa validity and employers will have the opportunity to extend their visas as per the usual procedures.

Employers will also be able to reduce the hours of a TSS visa holder without the person being in breach of their visa conditions or the business being in breach of its employer obligations. TSS visa holders who have been stood down or reemployed after the coronavirus pandemic will have their time spent in Australia count toward their permanent residency skilled work experience requirements, even if they have not worked for a period of time. However, please note that those who have been laid off due to coronavirus should find another employer within 60 days or make arrangements to depart Australia, as there have been no automatic extensions to visa expirations at this time.

The above travel restrictions and visa-related provisions are subject to change in light of the developing COVID-19 pandemic. We will publish additional updates as they are announced.

Brazil

As of March 19, 2020, Brazil has banned the entry of foreigners flying from Europe, Asia, and Oceania, including Australia and New Zealand. As of March 27, all air borders have been closed to nonresident foreigners of all nationalities for a period of 30 days.

At the time these restrictions were implemented, they did not apply to immigrants with prior authorization for permanent residence, foreign professionals serving with international organizations, or foreign officials accredited with the Brazilian government. However, this may change.

Canada

On March 26, 2020, two Orders in Council came into effect, which set forth the details of the travel ban. Additionally, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has released program delivery instructions and special instructions, and orders have been made pursuant to the Quarantine Act that, in conjunction with the Orders in Council, inform who is subject to Canada’s “travel ban,” who is exempted, and the obligations of individuals upon entry to Canada.

Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents, student permit holders (as well as prospective students who have been approved for a study permit), and work permit holders, as well as any immediate family members[1] of the same are allowed to return to Canada by air or via United States or Canada border. Foreign nationals traveling from the United States who have been in the United States for at least 14 days will be able to enter Canada. Any passenger showing symptoms of the virus will not be permitted to board an airplane to Canada.

All eligible entrants into Canada (by air and land) will be subject to a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine.

Those who hold work permit approvals and will be entering Canada will have a waiting period of 14 days before they can receive their Social Insurance Numbers (SIN). Intermittent travelers between the United States and Canada will be subject to imposed self-quarantine. Therefore, it is highly recommended that intermittent travelers who are currently in Canada and whose presence is required for business purposes remain in Canada.

For a discussion of temporary restrictions on nonessential travel to Canada, please see our March 25 Immigration Alert.

Colombia

As of March 16, 2020, Colombia has closed its borders to all nonresident visitors. Permanent residents and Colombian citizens must complete two weeks of self-isolation. Migración Colombia will deport foreign nationals who violate the 14-day quarantine requirement.

Croatia

The European Union has closed its borders to all non–European Union residents. Travel within the European Union is restricted on a country-by-country basis. Croatia has barred admission to all travelers except Croatian residents returning home, foreign citizens departing to their home countries, diplomats, law enforcement, medical workers, controlled shipments of goods, and others on a case-by-case basis.

Entry and Exit Requirements

The only international airport currently operating is Zagreb Airport. For more information, please see Zagreb Airport COVID-19 Update. Other airports are closed until further notice.

The visitors who are unable to leave Croatia within the permitted 90 days of visa-free status should call their local police station and provide their details in order to avoid overstay penalties. When calling, ask to speak with the unit dealing with foreigners (aliens). Please visit the Ministry of Interior website for contact details by country.

Quarantine/Health Monitoring/Self-Isolation

Croatia has closed its borders to foreign nationals, with limited exceptions. If you are permitted entry, do note that as of March 12, 2020, any foreign nationals traveling to Croatia from narrowly defined COVID-19 affected areas are mandated to spend 14 days in official government quarantine facilities. Placement in quarantine is at the expense of the traveler. These areas are:

  • China: Hubei province
  • Germany: County of Heinsberg in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • Slovenia: Bela Krajina and Dolenjska regions
  • South Korea: City of Daegu and county of Chengdu

Additionally, the Croatian Ministry of Health has implemented health monitoring and self-isolation measures aimed at individuals traveling from a comprehensive list of COVID-19 affected countries. Persons traveling from these countries/areas are subject to health monitoring when entering Croatia. These individuals, even if they do not have a cough, elevated temperature, or any other signs of a flu, are ordered to self-isolate at home for 14 days and report their condition to the nearest epidemiologist for further instructions. Individuals showing signs of illness arriving from the affected areas are referred to hospitals for diagnostic processing and treatment.

International travelers whose travel is affected should contact airlines or ground transportation companies to rearrange travel or schedule alternative travel.

India

The Bureau of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India issued a broad directive that all incoming passenger traffic (including airports, seaports, land port, rail ports, and river ports) is prohibited. The prohibition applies to all travelers, regardless of nationality. All existing visas issued to nationals of any country except those issued to diplomats, official passport holders, those in UN/international organizations, those on employment or project visas, and those who are operating aircrew of scheduled commercial airlines and who had not yet entered India stand suspended with effect from March 13, 2020 to April 15, 2020.

Visas of all foreign nationals already in India remain valid. They may contact the nearest FRRO/FRO through the e-FRRO module for extension/conversion etc. of their visa or grant of any consular service. Visa services granted on account of COVID-19 are gratis.

Further, visa-free travel facilities granted to OCI card holders who are not in India have been kept in abeyance until April 15, 2020. This has come into effect from March 13, 2020 at the port of departure of any foreigner for onward journey to India. Indian visa services at consulates abroad have been discontinued until April 15, 2020. Foreign nationals requiring travel to India for compelling reasons may contact the nearest Indian embassy/consulate.

Japan

Entry Ban

In the country’s latest effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 within its borders, Japan has recently announced additional entry bans for individuals from dozens of countries including Canada, the whole of the People’s Republic of China, all of South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This brings the total number of subject nations to 73. In addition to imposing a travel ban on applicants from these countries, the ban also extends to foreign nationals who stayed in any of the named countries within 14 days of applying for a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) or visa.

Exceptions to this general rule include foreign nationals with the status of residence of Permanent Resident, Spouse or Child of Japanese National, Spouse or Child of Permanent Resident, or Long-Term Resident. In order to qualify for entry into Japan, these individuals must have departed from Japan on or before April 2, 2020 with reentry permission. Any foreign national who departed from Japan on or after April 3 (even if they hold one of the residence permissions described above) is in principle subject to refusal of landing without special exceptional circumstances.

Strengthened Quarantine

All arrivals, including Japanese citizens, who have visited any subject countries and regions within 14 days prior to arrival should undergo PCR (antigen) testing for COVID-19.

Foreign nationals arriving from any country must wait 14 days at a location designated by a quarantine station chief and refrain from using public transportation.

Handling of Residence Applications and CoE Issuance

Foreign nationals currently in Japan as temporary visitors who are unable to return to their home country will be allowed extension of the period of stay for 90 days.

In addition to barring entry from applicants coming from the 73 subject countries, the Japanese government has also suspended the processing of CoE applications for applicants of those countries until the ban has been lifted, although CoE applications are still being accepted.

For the time being, CoEs usually valid for three months will be treated as valid for six months.

Malaysia

The Malaysian government has implemented a movement control order (MCO), which will remain in effect until at least April 14, 2020. During this MCO period, there is an entry ban for all foreign nationals, including valid pass/permit holders. Malaysian citizens and permanent residents (PR) can enter but are subject to a self-quarantine period of 14 days following entry. The same is true for spouses and children or citizens, foreign diplomats, and their spouses and children.

Malaysian citizens and PR holders who have a valid long-term residence permit for a third country can exit to that country but cannot return to Malaysia before April 14. All other Malaysian citizens and PR holders are not permitted to exit Malaysia—the only exception to this is for daily commute by land to Singapore or Thailand.

During this MCO period, all immigration offices nationwide will remain closed, including the submission counters at MYXpats Centre and the Expatriate Services Division, the e-Xpats Service Centre of MDEC, and the Malaysia Investment Development Authority.

Mexico

On April 3, 2020, the National Immigration Institute (INM) announced that their offices will be closed from April 6 to April 10, to reopen on April 13. Additional processing delays should be expected once the INM resumes operations.

The definition of essential travel has been agreed upon and is in effect for travel to Mexico. Hence, individuals traveling for work will likely not be barred from entry to Mexico.

For a discussion of temporary restrictions on nonessential travel to Mexico, please see our March 25 Immigration Alert.

Peru

Through a Supreme Decree, a public health emergency state was declared nationwide for a period of 90 calendar days, and prevention and control measures were issued to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

As of March 16, 2020, Peruvian borders have been closed to international travelers who intend to travel by land, air, sea, and river.

Schengen Area

As set out in our March 18 LawFlash, most non-EU nationals are banned from entering Schengen Area member countries or Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania in light of COVID-19. Entry remains permitted for EU, Schengen, and UK nationals as well as EU long-term residence permit holders and their family members, cross-border workers, medical staff, researchers, and diplomats. The European Commission has now issued practical guidance on these Schengen travel restrictions with the following key recommendations:

  • Visa-exempt nationals who will overstay their 90 days of allowable stay in a 180-day period should apply for a long-term national visa or temporary national residence permit in their country of stay.
  • Visa nationals who will overstay their Schengen visa duration should apply for a 90-day extension. Upon expiry of this extension, visa holders may apply for a long-term national visa or temporary national residence permit in their country of stay.
  • Visa holders should justify and provide evidence of their purpose of travel, which typically must be deemed essential, when seeking entry.
  • EU countries are urged to waive sanctions or penalties related to overstay, and should be lenient with current overstay when assessing future visa or residence applications.
  • EU countries are urged to continue offering a minimum visa service for those exempt from the travel ban.

Thailand

Effective April 6, 2020, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) announced the temporary ban on all international flights to Thailand, which will be effective until 11:59 pm on April 18, 2020. All international flights to Thailand will be cancelled until that time. The only exceptions to this rule include state or military aircraft, emergency landings, technical landing without disembarkation, humanitarian aid, repatriation flights, and cargo flights.

Prior to this recent announcement, an entry ban was implemented for all foreign nationals (with the exception of diplomats, shippers, drivers, pilots, and some others), which will remain in effect until April 30, 2020. Thai nationals and non–Thai national work permit holders will be allowed to enter the country provided they have a fit-to-fly health certificate issued no more than 72 hours before traveling. All travelers entering Thailand will be required to undergo 14 days of self-quarantine at their own residence, with possible observation.

Once flights have resumed, foreign nationals of all nationalities who have arrived in Thailand must wait 14 days from the date of their arrival in Thailand before their online application can be made on the Board of Investors website to apply for all types of work permit applications including new and renewal applications.

Effective March 19, a list of 18 countries and two Special Administrative Regions (including the United Kingdom and the United States) are considered restricted by the Employment Department. The Employment Department will accept new work permit applications from these countries only if the applications are made by an authorized representative of the foreign national holding a valid power of attorney.

Further, the Immigration Bureau requests that nationals of the restricted countries and other nationals who have visited the restricted countries in the previous 14 days do not file visa applications within 14 days of arrival, except if their visas will expire during that period.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

With effect from March 19, 2020, the UAE closed its borders in light of COVID-19 and only citizens of the UAE are allowed to enter. On April 2 the UAE government announced its decision to renew for a further two weeks the suspension of entry of all UAE residents who are currently abroad. Nationals with residence permits issued by the UAE who are unable to return due to the entry restrictions should register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC) to apply for permission for reentry.

United Kingdom

As detailed in our March 31 UK Immigration Alert, the UK Home Office on March 30 temporarily relaxed the right to work check requirement for employers due to COVID-19. The UK Home Office issued further guidance for individuals who are currently in the United Kingdom and unable to return to their home countries due to COVID-19, as well as for individuals applying for UK visas outside the United Kingdom, as detailed in our March 25 UK Immigration Alert.

Vietnam

Entry Ban

Effective March 22, 2020, the Vietnamese government approved an entry ban on all foreign nationals and all overseas Vietnamese nationals and their dependents granted with visa exemption certificates. Exceptions to this total ban include those entering Vietnam for diplomatic or official duty purposes, or under extraordinary circumstances such as participating in major foreign affair or diplomatic activities, or those being experts or highly skilled workers who may be considered for visa issuance on a case-by-case basis, if deemed necessary.

Suspension of New Work Permit Issuance

The Vietnamese government has requested the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs to temporarily hold off issuing new work permits to foreign employees from countries or territories infected by COVID-19.

Limited Renewal of Visas/Work Permits

Visas and work permits due to expire may still be renewed for foreigners who need to stay in Vietnam for work and are unable to return to their country, or for foreign experts, business managers, highly skilled workers, etc. who (1) have tested negative for COVID-19 in their home country, and (2) have been accepted for entry into Vietnam and placed under quarantine as per regulations.

Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force

For our clients, we have formed a multidisciplinary Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force to help guide you through the broad scope of legal issues brought on by this public health challenge. We also have launched a resource page to help keep you on top of developments as they unfold. If you would like to receive a daily digest of all new updates to the page, please subscribe now to receive our COVID-19 alerts.

Contacts

If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

London
Jennifer Connolly
Yvette Allen

New York
Jamie Cheung

Washington, DC
Shannon A. Donnelly



[1] Immediate family members include the following: spouses, common-law spouses, dependent children (under the age of 22), parents/step-parents, parents/step-parents of a spouse or common-law spouse, or guardians/tutors of Canadian children.