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Update: COVID-19 Continues to Create Havoc for Global Employers and Travelers

June 16, 2020

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic restrictions continue to ease globally, we have compiled a list of current immigration updates for employers looking to move essential employees globally, and/or repatriate them to their home countries.

The following information is accurate as of June 16, 2020.

UNITED KINGDOM

The Home Office has confirmed that employers may furlough or reduce the salaries of Tier 2 and Tier 5 migrants as part of arrangements to avoid redundancies in line with the wider furlough rules (the lower of 80% of normal salary or £2,500 per month). This temporary reduction in salary may fall below the normal minimum salary threshold for the role or visa category.

The reduction must be part of a company-wide policy to avoid redundancies and in which all workers are treated the same, and sponsored employees must return to at least their previous salary level once these arrangements have ended.

The Home Office has also provided further guidance for the income and maintenance requirements for applications on the basis of family or private life. If an individual experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19, the Home Office will consider employment income for the period immediately before the COVID-19 loss of income, as long as the requirements were met for at least six months before March 2020. If the salary was reduced due to furlough, the Home Office will consider the income as if they were earning 100% of their salary. For self-employed individuals, loss of income due to COVID-19 between 1 March 2020 and 31 July 2020 will be disregarded.

As of 12 June 2020, the status of UK immigration services are as follows:

  • A number of Visa Application Centres (VACs) in the United Kingdom reopened on 1 June for individuals who previously had appointments cancelled due to the pandemic. New applicants are not yet able to book biometric appointments, however they should submit their online application before the expiry of their current visa. A biometric appointment can be secured once the centres reopen to all applicants.
  • A number of international VACs reopened on 1 June, including some VACs in Thailand, China, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Fiji, Malaysia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
  • The second phase of VACs are scheduled to reopen from 22 June, including some VACs in Turkey, Egypt, Azerbaijan, New Zealand, Spain, Brunei, Belgium, Vietnam, Gambia, Serbia, Japan, further centres in China and Thailand, Switzerland, Portugal, France, Cambodia, South Korea, and Tunisia.
  • VACs will not be offering priority or super priority services and applicants should anticipate longer than usual processing times.
  • Life in the UK test centres will gradually resume services. Applicants should check the booking information on the website for further details.
  • Some English Testing centres will also resume services. Individuals should check the booking website for specific updates.
  • Visits to the Overseas Visitors Records Office to register under the Police Registration Scheme are currently suspended. Those returning to their home country before completing registration should not face re-entry issues.

European Union

The European Commission released a comprehensive proposal with a timeline to gradually lift restrictions on travel both within and outside of the European Union borders. In summary, it was recommended that EU member states lift internal border controls and restrictions to free movement within the EU by June 15, 2020. Starting 1 July 2020, it was recommended that EU member states begin lifting restrictions for nonessential travel into the EU and Schengen Associated States (such as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein) based on each country’s COVID-19 situation, to also include third-country nationals legally residing in an EU member state and their family members. EU member states are also expected to prepare a list of third countries for which travel restrictions may be lifted starting 1 July 2020 based on each country’s COVID-19 situation.

The European Commission has also issued guidance on resuming visa processing and issuance by diplomatic posts abroad so that operations will resume in time and coordination with the lifting of travel restrictions and expansion of essential travel. As this comprehensive proposal is relatively new, each EU member state is implementing its own policy with the aim of easing travel restrictions.

Travel restrictions within the EU are continuing to change and borders starting to reopen. We will provide updates as they become available.

MALAYSIA

The Malaysian government implemented a Movement Control Order (MCO) which was effective from 18 March to 3 May 2020. From 4 May until 9 June, this was replaced by a Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO). Most recently, on 10 June 2020, a Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) came into effect, and will be in place until 31 August 2020. Under this RMCO, some restrictions have been relaxed; however, many of the international travel restrictions implemented with the initial MCO will continue.

Currently, all foreign visitors are barred from entry into Malaysia, as well as some pass holders. The following can enter Malaysia during the current RMCO period: Malaysian citizens and permanent residents; spouses and children of Malaysian citizens (as long as they hold valid Long Term Social Passes); foreign diplomats for the purpose of returning to their posts at relevant embassies and consulates; families of foreign diplomats (if they hold valid Dependent Passes); and foreign nationals deemed to be providing essential services in Malaysia.

Foreign employees with valid work passes or permits who have been waiting to initially enter or re-enter Malaysia now have an opportunity to do so, under a new route. They must obtain an “Entry Approval Letter” from the Director General of Malaysia’s Immigration Department, and must be able to prove they are entering to work in a “key post” or “technical post” in Malaysia. Further information about this process and how to apply can be found on the Expatriate Services Division (ESD) website.

This Entry Permission guideline is extended only to Foreign Knowledge Workers with active Employment Passes (EPs) who are currently outside of Malaysia; new Foreign Knowledge Workers with approved Employment Passes currently abroad; and their dependents. These EP holders must have occupations categorized under key posts (senior management) and technical posts as assessed by the approval agency/regulatory body.

THAILAND

Despite the ongoing entry ban on foreigners into Thailand, the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has recently announced that foreigners who are in urgent need of returning to Thailand and who hold valid work permits and/or have already been granted permission to work in Thailand by a government agency can apply for permission to enter the country.

Note: this exemption does not apply to dependent pass holders, student visa holders, retirement visas, or permanent residents.

The process for those eligible to return to Thailand is as follows:

  • Foreign worker must contact their local Thai Embassy/Consulate at least 10 days before their scheduled arrival in Thailand and apply for a “Certificate of Entry into the Kingdom of Thailand.”
  • The Thai Embassy/Consulate will then forward the application to the MFA for approval, and when approved, the consulate will be instructed to issue the foreigner a “Certificate of Entry into the Kingdom of Thailand.”
  • The foreigner will need to carry and be able to present a number of items in order to travel to Thailand including the Certificate of Entry, completed and signed Declaration Form, a Fit to Fly Health Certificate issued within 72 hours of departure, and a copy of their Health Insurance Policy with at least $100,000 coverage for COVID-19 in Thailand.

Upon arrival in Thailand, the foreign worker must then remain under a 14-day self-isolation period in a government-designated Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) at their own expense and comply with all health regulations under Thailand’s Emergency Decree.

VIETNAM

On 23 May, under the directive of the prime minister, the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 prevention and control issued Decision No. 2847/CV-BCD relating to the requirements and procedures for foreign investors, business managers, experts, specialists, and highly skilled workers who are to enter Vietnam for work.

Since that directive was issued, several localities’ authorities have issued their own directives addressed to companies and organizations located in their respective provinces to provide guidance on how to apply for approval of entry into Vietnam for these above-mentioned qualifying foreign workers.

Companies must first send official requests to their relevant provincial Ministry of Labour before the relevant locally determined deadlines, which will then be put in front of the Provincial People’s committee for their consideration and adjudication. Once approved, the committee shall then coordinate with the various departments to issue entry visas for relevant individuals. All travelers who enter Vietnam at this time are subject to 14-day mandatory government quarantine at a designated center or hotel, which will be communicated prior to departure to the sponsoring company or organization. Health monitoring tests will be conducted during the quarantine.

ARGENTINA

The Immigration Office remains closed until 28 June 2020. Re-entry into the country is suspended for most foreign residents of Argentina. Those who are admitted must comply with a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. Additionally, they must download an app developed by the Ministry of Health for COVID-19-related checks. Noncompliance will lead to fines and/or imprisonment.

Sales of air travel tickets to Argentina remain suspended until 1 September 2020.

BRAZIL

The suspension of entry for all foreign nationals has been extended until 21 June. The entry restriction does not apply to Brazilian citizens; permanent/temporary foreign residents in Brazil, foreign employees of the Brazilian government or international organizations; spouses/partners/children/parents/guardians of Brazilian citizens; passengers who are transiting internationally (without leaving the airport) to a destination country that will admit them; foreign nationals authorized by the Brazilian government to enter the country in the public interest; foreign nationals who hold a foreign ID card; and airline crew and personnel.

CANADA

Restrictions on nonessential travel between the United States and Canada have been extended until 22 June 2020. Only four airports are accepting international flights: Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver.

All foreign nationals who are granted admission into Canada must self-isolate for a period of 14 days. Noncompliance with the mandatory quarantine period may lead to penalties and travel ban of up to one year.

CHILE

The entry restrictions by land, sea, and air, are currently slated to be lifted on 17 June, but this may be extended. No consular services until further notice. Online applications filed in country are accepted.

The validity of foreigner ID cards which expired in 2019 are automatically extended until 31 December 2020. The validity of foreigner ID cards which have expired/will expire in 2020 will be automatically extended for one year from the date of expiration.

COLOMBIA

The travel ban has been extended until 31 August 2020.

COSTA RICA

The entry restrictions by land, sea, and air, have been extended until 30 June.

The following individuals are exempted from the entry restrictions: foreign nationals who left Costa Rica prior to 25 March and who hold a valid temporary or permanent residence, short-stay or special category visa; foreign nationals who have submitted applications for temporary or permanent residence, short-stay, or special category visa.

Consular processing at Costa Rican consulates/embassies is suspended until 18 July, 2020. Foreign nationals who have been issued visas cannot use their valid visas until 18 July – visa validity will become effective on that date.

MEXICO

Restrictions on nonessential travel between the United States and Mexico have been extended until 22 June 2020.

PERU

The state of emergency has been extended until 7 September 2020. Entry and all international travel by air, sea, land, and river is suspended.

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. Find resources on how to cope with the post-pandemic reality on our NOW. NORMAL. NEXT. page and our COVID-19 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, and download our biweekly COVID-19 Legal Issue Compendium.

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