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Asia-Pacific Business Travel: Entry Bans, Vaccination and Quarantine Requirements

September 08, 2021

As summer ends, many companies are hoping to resume business travel. To help interested parties plan for the next Asia-Pacific (APAC) trip, this LawFlash outlines current entry bans and quarantine requirements in popular APAC locations. These rules are subject to rapid change based on the global and local pandemic situation.

China

China’s borders are currently closed, and entry remains strictly controlled. Only the following categories of travelers may enter the country:

  • Chinese nationals: People’s Republic of China (PRC) nationals, Hong Kong/Macao/Taiwan residents with valid travel documents to enter China (i.e., Homeland Return Permit or Tai Bao Zheng), but advance permission is required from some locations and recommended for all
  • Non-Chinese nationals with long-term entry approval: Chinese Green Card holders and valid residence permit holders under the categories of work, personal matters, and reunion, as long as the purpose for entry is the same as that for the residence permit
  • Non-Chinese nationals with short-term entry approval: Holders of valid entry visas issued after the travel ban under the PU/TE invitation letter route or Visa Facilitation Policy route
    • Application for entry visas remains closely scrutinized under the PU/TE invitation letter route as the authorities assess various factors, including the sponsoring Chinese entity’s business operations, the amount of tax paid, and the necessity for the applicant to enter China, against the COVID-19-related conditions within the PRC and where the applicant is located.
    • Application under the Visa Facilitation Policy route is not widely adopted since its implementation in March 2021, as it depends on the availability of Chinese-produced vaccines locally. Each Chinese embassy/consulate may also have its own interpretation as to the information and documents required.
  • Entry visa application from Hong Kong: The Chinese Visa Application Service Center (CVASC) in Hong Kong recently implemented a new biometric visa requirement. An applicant must attend the visa center in person for fingerprint collection. The biometric record is generally valid for five years for subsequent applications through the same visa center. In addition, the CVASC only accepts applications from fully vaccinated individuals.
  • Boarding requirements: In addition to obtaining a negative COVID-19 test result, travelers are generally required to report travel details to the Chinese embassy/consulate at the departure city to obtain a Green HDC health code prior to boarding.
  • Quarantine requirements:The general mandatory quarantine period is 14 to 21 days, and each city may have its own specific quarantine requirements.
  • PRC nationals exiting China:While there is no formal restriction for PRC nationals exiting China, passport and exit endorsement applications are currently suspended or significantly prolonged.

Hong Kong

Effective August 9, 2021, Hong Kong implemented a “vaccine bubble,” which further opened the borders to non-Hong Kong residents who are fully vaccinated. The current entry conditions for non-Hong Kong resident travelers are as follows:

  • Entry from Mainland China, Macao, and Group C low-risk places (New Zealand): Both vaccinated and nonvaccinated travelers who have only stayed in these places for 14 days before arrival may enter. Travelers will be subjected to a compulsory quarantine period of 7 to 14 days depending on vaccination status.
  • Entry from Taiwan and Group B medium-risk places (all places outside of China which are not in Group A or Group C): Fully vaccinated travelers who have only stayed in these places for 14 days before arrival may enter. Travelers will be subjected to a compulsory quarantine period of 14 days.
  • Entry from Group A high-risk places (including the United Kingdom and the United States): Entry is not permitted, regardless of vaccination status.

Country risk categorization is subject to rapid change based on the local pandemic situation. The most up-to-date country list and quarantine requirements are published on the Hong Kong government’s dedicated website.

Japan

Currently, foreign nationals who have stayed in designated countries/regions within the last 14 days are denied entrance to Japan unless such foreign nationals are under special circumstances. As of August 24, 2021, there are 160 such designated countries/regions.

Eight countries/regions (Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, China [including Hong Kong and Macao], Brunei, Vietnam, Australia, and New Zealand) are excluded from the denied countries list. However, the issuance of visas for these places is strictly restricted with the exception of foreign nationals under special circumstances.

Foreign nationals who are deemed to be under “special circumstances” include

  • mid- to long-term residents with valid reentry permission;
  • foreign nationals (1) who left Japan for a country/region before August 31, 2021 with valid reentry permission; (2) whose reentry permission expired after such county/region was designated as a country/region from where foreign nationals are denied to land in Japan; and (3) who could not reenter Japan before the reentry permission expired (except for those who stayed in India, Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, or Afghanistan within 14 days before landing);
  • spouses or children of Japanese nationals or permanent residents (Eijyusha), orlong-term residents (Teijyusha) residing in Japan, who intend to newly enter Japan;
  • persons who have a residence status of “Instructor,” “Professor,” or “Medical Services,” and intend to newly enter Japan with special permission for entry under emergency situations or to reinforce domestic medical services;
  • mid- to long-term residents who have or will have a residence status of “Diplomat” or “Official” who intend to reenter or newly enter Japan; and
  • ·others who intend to reenter or newly enter Japan with special permission for entry under special circumstances from various aspects such as humanitarian aid or public interest.

Business Track/Residence Track: The frameworks of “Business Track” and “Residence Track” for cross-border travel between Japan and designated countries/regions have been suspended since January 14, 2021.

Boarding requirements: All entering from foreign countries (including Japanese and foreign nationals with reentry permission or other permission under special circumstances) are required to take a COVID-19 RT-PCR within 72 hours before departure.

Quarantine requirements: All persons (including Japanese nationals and foreign nationals with reentry permission or permission under special circumstances) entering from foreign countries are required to (1) submit a COVID-19 Testing Certificate that meets certain requirements and certifies a negative result; (2) take a COVID-19 test at the arrival airport; and (3) submit a written pledge to (a) remain at home for 14 days after arrival, (b) refrain from using public transportation, (c) install certain applications (MySOS and COCOA [COVID-19 Contact-Confirming Application]), and restore and report health and location information to the Health Monitoring Center of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare through such applications every day during the quarantine period. Foreign nationals who stayed in certain designated countries or regions within the last 14 days where a new virus variant is widely spread are required to stay in a hotel reserved by the quarantine station for the first three days (depending on the country/region, it could be the first six or ten days) of the quarantine period, and are required to be tested for COVID-19 afterward.

These requirements could be changed within short notice based on the local COVID-19 situation.

Singapore

An overview of Singapore’s border policies with respect to various “categories” of countries is as follows:

Category I - Hong Kong, Macao, Mainland China (including Jiangsu province), and Taiwan

Travelers from these countries/regions are required to take a COVID-19 PCR test at the Singapore checkpoint, and must then proceed immediately to self-isolate until their test comes back negative. Once tested negative, they can go about their activities in Singapore, without a need to serve any further form of quarantine or stay-home notice (SHN).

Category II - Australia, Brunei, Canada, Germany, and New Zealand

Travelers from these countries are required to take an on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test at the Singapore checkpoint. Once they have entered the country, they are required to serve a seven-day SHN in either a suitable accommodation (such as preassigned hotels or served apartments) or a place of residence. It should be noted that there is no restriction for the work pass holder to work electronically during the period of the SHN.

On the seventh day of the SHN, the entrant is required to retake a COVID-19 PCR test.

Category III – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Republic of Korea, and Switzerland

Travelers from these countries are required to be fully vaccinated before arrival. For the purposes of entry into Singapore, an individual is considered fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving the full regimen of Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty, Moderna, or WHO EUL vaccines.

Travelers must perform the following:

  • Take a COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours before departure and obtain a copy of the test report.
  • Take an on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test at the Singapore checkpoint.
  • Serve a 14-day SHN at a SHN-dedicated facility (SDF) or a place of residence or suitable accommodation.
  • Take a COVID-19 PCR test on day 14 of the SHN.

These requirements may vary slightly depending on the individual’s circumstances. Also, individual pass holders who were vaccinated overseas will also be required to take a serology test to confirm their vaccination status after serving their SHN.

Category IV – All other countries excluding Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka (Excluded Countries)

Travelers from these countries are required to be fully vaccinated before arrival. Travelers must do the following:

  • Take a COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours before departure and obtain a copy of the test report.
  • Take an on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test at the Singapore checkpoint. Travelers with travel history to Indonesia or the Philippines will be required to take an Antigen Rapid Test in addition to the PCR test.
  • Serve a 14-day SHN at an SDF or a place of residence or suitable accommodation.
  • Take a COVID-19 PCR test on day 14 of the SHN.

Entry for travelers with travel history to all Excluded Countries is presently prohibited.

Vaccinated Travel Lane – Brunei and Germany

As of August 27, 2021, Singapore’s Ministry of Health has opened up a new Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) for travelers from Brunei and Germany. The VTL will commence beginning September 8, 2021.

Travelers who wish to travel using the VTL must apply for a Vaccinated Travel Pass. To qualify, travelers must be fully vaccinated in their VTL country of departure, or Singapore. A PCR test must be taken 48 hours before departure and on days one, three, and seven of arrival.

Procedural Overview

To successfully travel to Singapore, travelers will also need to ensure that their travel dates are cleared with Singapore’s Immigration and Customs Authority. This can be done by booking a date using one of Singapore’s open “travel lanes”—different lanes apply for Work Pass Holders, their dependents, or individuals and short-term visitors wishing to enter the country.

How We Can Help

Our APAC immigration team can assist in navigating the landscape and provide recommendations for travel planning. Our services include entry eligibility assessment, quarantine exemption assessment, and related visa/entry approval/quarantine exemption applications.

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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:

Hong Kong
Vivien Yu

Washington DC
Shannon A. Donnelly