Please note: while we address some country-specific updates related to the COVID-19 outbreak, the below contains information regarding 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 "realtime" before traveling internationally. Please reach out to our Global Mobility Team in advance of any international travel.
Austria - Border Reopening and Immigration Procedure Updates Announced
On May 13, 2020 the Austrian government announced its agreement with France, Germany, and Switzerland to coordinate the reopening of their mutual borders by June 15, 2020 (assuming the situation allows). Details regarding specific reopening measures are not available at this time; however, initial measures will likely apply to unmarried binational couples, among others. VFS Global (Austria's visa provider abroad) offices and consulates remain closed and visa services are suspended until further notice. The immigration authorities' office in Vienna also remains closed, though they continue to accept applications by mail. Cross-border commuters carrying proof of employment are exempt from the 14-day quarantine requirement and continue to be permitted entry for work reasons.
Brazil - Travel Restrictions Extended for Foreign Nationals
Travel restrictions suspending the entry of foreign nationals to Brazil have been extended for an additional 30 days until June 22, 2020. The travel restrictions do not apply to Brazilian citizens or their immediate family members, permanent residents, residents of Brazil holding RNM cards and/or Brazilian work permits, or foreign nationals transiting through Brazilian airports. Visa processing and issuance remains suspended, and consulates are closed except for emergency circumstances. For additional information and news, please visit the Brazilian Embassy's website.
China - Travel Restriction Exemptions Available for Citizens of Germany and South Korea
While entry to China remains suspended for foreign nationals, including valid visa holders, German and South Korean nationals may be permitted to enter for business purposes. South Korean or German nationals who seek to travel for necessary economic, trade, scientific, or technological activities may be eligible to enter China using an M visa and be exempted from the 14-day quarantine requirement. This fast-track visa option is only available in special circumstances and in selected provinces and cities. Such an applicant would be required to obtain a negative COVID-19 test result in his or her home country upon issuance of the M visa and no more than three days prior to travel. Upon arrival, such applicants will be subject to an additional round of COVID-19 testing and placed in a 1-2 day quarantine until the results are available. During the first 14 days of stay in China, local governments may require permitted travelers to use designated car and driver services for any movement within China. Additional fees may also be associated with such applications, but vary depending on jurisdiction.
European Union - Member States Extend Travel Restrictions
The European Union (EU) Commission confirmed non-essential travel to EU member states will continue to be restricted until June 15, 2020 as of the latest update. Schengen Member States and Schengen Associated States have also extended such restrictions. Travel restrictions beyond June 15, 2020 will be assessed on a continuous basis. Please see the EU Commission's announcement here for more information and updates.
Italy - Restrictions Lessen as Country Proceeds with Phased Reopening Approach
The Italian government implemented the second phase of planned reopening measures as of May 18, 2020, lifting some lockdown restrictions in each region of the country. Residents no longer require a justifiable reason for being outside their homes, and as of June 3, 2020 there will be no limitations on travel within Italy. Most businesses are allowed to reopen, including restaurants, bars, and shops, so long as social distancing rules are maintained. International travel to Italy from EU and Schengen countries, as well as the U.K. and Ireland, will be possible without restriction as of June 3, 2020. As of now, travel restrictions from all other countries remains limited except in cases where travel is required for absolute necessity, health reasons, or to return to one's place of residence.
The Netherlands - Non-Essential Travel Suspension Extended, IND Policy Changes
Travel to the Netherlands for non-essential reasons remains suspended for foreign nationals until June 15, 2020. Citizens of the EU and the UK and their immediate family members, as well as residence permit holders and cross-border workers, are exempt from these restrictions. Additionally, until further notice the Dutch Immigration Services (IND) will only allow appointments for collection of residence cards for an applicant's first regular residence document. The IND will contact necessary applicants to schedule the appointments to collect the card and provide biometrics. Approved applicants who did not receive a temporary residence permit (MVV) should contact the IND regarding biometrics appointments. The IND has also announced holders of short-stay visas who remain in the Netherlands past the expiration of their visas due to inability to return home may apply for an in-country extension without a filing fee.
South Korea - Tracking Measures and COVID-19 Testing Required for all Travelers
Free COVID-19 tests will be administered to all travelers arriving in South Korea. Travelers entering are still also required to submit Health Declaration forms with contact details, and must also download a smartphone contact tracking app to log their symptoms for 14 days. Short-term visitors must undergo testing at the airport upon arrival and are required to stay in the quarantine facility designated by the government for the first two weeks in South Korea. Employers of long-term visa holders who do not hold an Alien Registration Card (ARC) are requested to contact the district health center prior to employees traveling. Employers may pre-book government-approved quarantine accommodations for employees to receive pre-authorization from the district.
Long-term visitors with quarantine exemption certificates and South Korean citizens who have visited China may be exempted from 14-day quarantine requirements if they test negative for COVID-19 at the airport upon arrival. Such exempted travelers are required to answer all phone call checks by the KCDC (once or twice a day) and update their physical condition daily on the required app. The government will impose heavy penalties for those who do not comply with testing, health safety, and quarantine measures, including fines up to KWW 20 million or up to three years in prison.
Spain - Self-Quarantine Requirements to be Lifted
The 14-day quarantine requirement for all travelers will be lifted on July 1, 2020. The national state of emergency in Spain has been extended until June 7, 2020, though a four phase de-escalation plan for repealing the state of emergency has been designed. Consular services and visa processing remains suspended until further notice however.
Switzerland - Authorities Begin Processing Applications, Border Reopening Announced
Effective June 8, 2020, the Swiss authorities announced that the following applications for EU/EFTA nationals will be processed once again:
- Application for a residence or cross-border commuter permit
- All online notifications of commencement of work for local employment up to 90 days and
- All online notifications of cross-border service provision for a maximum duration of 90 days per year.
The authorities will also re-start the processing of work permit applications for non-EU/EFTA nationals and approvals will be granted if the work assignment is in the public interest (e.g., necessity for the national economic supply) or if a company urgently requires this skilled labor from an economic perspective and the work cannot be postponed or performed abroad.
Family reunifications will also be accepted again for all
persons with a permanent residence permit, a residence permit, a
short stay permit, or those who have been temporarily admitted to
Switzerland, under the usual conditions.
In addition, students will be allowed to enter Switzerland to begin, continue, or finish their studies, regardless of their nationality. This does not apply, however, to education and further training lasting for a period of less than 90 days' time.
As of June 15, 2020, the borders between Switzerland and Germany, France, and Austria will reopen. All travel restrictions to and from these countries will be abolished from this date onwards, and the free movement of persons between these countries fully re-established. Passengers entering Switzerland by air will no longer be limited to Zurich, Geneva, or Basel airports. The authorities may order a medical examination at the border for certain groups of people, including a temperature reading, a health questionnaire, or quarantine, for any person from a high-risk country listed in the COVID-19 Ordinance at that point in time who wishes to enter Switzerland.
It is planned to lift entry restrictions for all Schengen states from June 15, 2020 and no later than from July 6, 2020 provided developments with respect to the pandemic in Switzerland and in the EU/EFTA allow. The list of high-risk countries will be successively updated by the respective authorities.
United Kingdom - Visa Center Reopening and Processing Updates
The COVID-19 crisis continues to impact the processing of all UK visa applications. However, a limited number of visa centers outside of the UK are starting to open from June 1, 2020 - this includes centers in Australia, China, and Germany.
A small number of visa centers inside the UK will also be opening with extremely limited capacity as of June 1, 2020. These centers are currently only accepting appointments for individuals who submitted their applications in February and March 2020 but were unable to attend an appointment before the centers closed. No other individuals can book slots at the moment.
The Priority and Super Priority routes remain closed - 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 not yet re-opened. Sponsors should therefore be aware that, should the line not be reopened, such requests may take 18 weeks to be actioned.
UKVI's scheme to allow an extension of permission to remain for individuals whose visas expire between January 24, 2020 and May 31, 2020 has been extended to individuals with visas that expire up to July 31, 2020. As before, this scheme should only be used by individuals who wish to leave the UK but are unable to do so (e.g., due to illness or travel restrictions). 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 centers 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."
In addition, any UK visa applicants who obtained their 30-day entry visa but were unable to travel to the UK before the pandemic began will be able to request a replacement visa with revised validity dates free of charge. The applicant must contact the Home Office with information about their application. The applicant will be contacted when the Visa Application Center re-opens and invited to arrange for a replacement visa to be placed in the passport. This concession will remain in place until the end of 2020.
Originally published June 1, 2020
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.