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.

Belgium - Travel Restrictions Lift for EU and Schengen Area Visitors

As of June 15, 2020 entry to Belgium is now permitted for those traveling from EU member states, the U.K., and the Schengen area even for non-essential reasons. Travel from outside the Schengen area remains suspended until further notice. Non-EU citizens who hold an EU residence card or long term visa are permitted to travel to Belgium under the most recent order. However, arrivals from outside the Schengen area must self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival and monitor their health.

Delays in the processing of immigration applications continue as the staff of government ministries continue to work from home. Visa centers remain closed and visa issuance is suspended.

China - Flights Resume and Updated Residence Permit Extension Procedures Implemented

A total of 95 foreign airlines will be permitted to resume one flight per week to China on a route they were licensed to operate prior to the pandemic starting June 8, 2020. Airlines that successfully screen out positive COVID-19 cases prior to arrival in China for three consecutive weeks will be permitted to operate an additional weekly flight. Airlines that operate flights with positive COVID-19 cases will no longer be allowed to operate flights to China.

The Chinese immigration authorities have provided guidelines for renewing residence permits for those who remain outside the country due to travel restrictions.

Residence permit holders are in general required to be present in China and attend an interview in order to extend current residence permits. Current travel restrictions continue to impact those foreign nationals with work and residence permits issued before March 28, 2020 who remain outside of China.

Solution: Applicants may file an extension of their work permits while they are outside mainland China, with the intention to file a residence permit extension when they are able to return. If the residence permit expires while the applicant remains outside of China, the permit will be cancelled automatically. In this case, work permit holders can obtain a visitor visa from a Chinese Consulate in their current country of residence/stay to return to mainland China once the travel restrictions are lifted. The authorities confirm in such a case that the work permit holder would still be permitted to file a residence permit extension based on the work permit once they return.

EU - Commission Recommendations for Border Reopening

The EU Commission issued a press release with its recommendations for lifting restrictions on international travel for member states. The recommendation advised Schengen Member States and Schengen Associated States to lift internal border controls by June 15, 2020 and to prolong the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the EU until at least June 30, 2020. It then sets out an approach to progressively lift the restriction afterwards.

They recommend travel restrictions be lifted for countries selected together by Member States, based on a set of principles and objective criteria including: the health situation, the ability to apply containment measures during travel, and reciprocity considerations, taking into account data from relevant sources such as ECDC and WHO. For countries towards which the restriction remains in place, the Commission proposes to enlarge the categories of permitted travelers to include additional foreign nationals, such as international students.

The EU Commission launched a website called "Re-open EU" on June 15, 2020 which allows an individual to review travel restrictions and entry requirements on a country by country basis with real-time information. The interactive tool "Re-open EU" will also include practical information provided by Member States on public health and safety measures such as on physical distancing or wearing of facemasks. You may choose the language at the top right corner and use the drop down menu to choose the destination country to immediately learn current restrictions; please see here.

The Commission is also issuing guidance to Member States to ensure that the resumption of visa operations abroad is well coordinated with the gradual lifting of the travel restrictions. In order to ensure a harmonized approach, Consulates should simultaneously resume operations in each location and through full implementation of EU visa rules, ensuring good communication towards the public.

For updated information regarding the EU Commission's guidelines, see their website.

France - Consulate Openings and Restarting of Visa Processing

Selected French Consulates and Embassies will reopen as of June 29, 2020 and resume the acceptance and processing of visa applications. The French Embassy to Ireland in Dublin will reopen and allow visa and passport applications on a limited basis, requiring appointments in advance. The French visa application center in Colombo, Sri Lanka will resume visa processing for certain applicants, such as students. Some visa services will also resume in Costa Rica, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Turkey.

In accordance with Schengen area regulations, travelers from EU member states are permitted to enter France as of June 15, 2020. Reciprocal restrictions remain in place for travelers from the U.K., and some nationalities will be subject to quarantine requirements. France will progressively reopen to travelers from additional countries in alignment with the rest of the EU starting on July 1, 2020.

Italy - Change of Travel Restrictions and Quarantine Requirements

As of June 3, 2020 different rules apply for Italian and foreign nationals depending on where the traveler is travelling from or to.

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published FAQ at their website so that travelers can understand whether travel restrictions are lifted and whether quarantine requirements still apply.

Singapore - Entry procedures and Quarantine Requirements

Effective June 17, 2020, Singapore pass holders face the following key changes:

  • All incoming pass holders, regardless of travel history, will be required to take a COVID-19 test before their Stay-Home-Notice (SHN) is over, except for those who are 12 years old and below.
  • Pass holders who travelled from some countries can serve SHN at a suitable place of residence that is only occupied by them or their family members or hotel. While those who travelled from other countries will continue to serve SHN at dedicated SHN facilities assigned by the Government.

Please see further details at the website of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Switzerland - Travel Restrictions Lessen

The Swiss Federal Council announced it will lift all COVID-19-related travel restrictions for workers on July 6, 2020. This will allow entry for work purposes for travelers from the EU and EFTA, as well as other countries. However, third-country (non-EU) citizens are still not permitted to travel to Switzerland for non-essential reasons. Entry for a stay of less than 90 days that does not normally require a permit will only be authorized in cases of special necessity. This also applies to travel for short educational courses, medical treatment, and non-urgent business meetings. If possible based on expert guidance, Switzerland plans to lift the remaining entry restrictions at the same time as the other Schengen member states.

Cantons will also begin to process residence applications from third-country (non-EU) citizens who are not planning to work in Switzerland, such as people who have retired, staring July 6, 2020.

United Kingdom - Immigration Application Processing Resumes

The processing of UK visa applications is beginning to re-start, both inside the UK and globally. Biometric centres inside the UK are re-opening on a limited capacity basis, with appointments initially being offered to those who applied in March 2020, before being offered to those who applied during the shutdown period. It is hoped that more slots will become available as lockdown restrictions are further eased across the country.

Many UK visa centres outside of the UK have reopened, with applications being processed within standard processing times. However, the centres in some large hubs, including the US and India, remain closed with no confirmed re-opening date.

A mandatory 14 day quarantine for any individuals arriving into the UK came into effect on June 8, 2020.

There are a number of limited exemptions to the mandatory quarantine -including commuting workers, medical professionals and workers in critical infrastructure areas, including nuclear, rail, utilities and communication.

The Government have confirmed that the restrictions will be reviewed regularly with alternative options to quarantine, including 'international travel bridges,' being explored.

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.