Travel Restrictions and Government Accommodation During COVID-19
It is difficult to imagine a more uncertain time for travelers than what we are seeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past several months, individuals around the globe have encountered numerous levels of travel restrictions that have complicated both personal and professional travel.
Since January 2020, governments worldwide have implemented and extended travel restrictions of varying degrees. Many of these began with restrictions on certain nationalities and have since broadened significantly. For example, within the Schengen area, countries like the Netherlands have banned non-essential travel but still permit EU citizens and residence holders to enter the country. On the other hand, countries like Italy and Spain have closed borders completely.
Restrictions of this nature have impacted passengers both personally and professionally, leaving many individuals stranded outside their country of residence and without a current means of returning home. To accommodate this unprecedented situation, many governments have permitted travelers whose status is expired to remain in country if they are unable to leave. Immigration statuses are also being extended automatically in certain countries, while others are accepting applications to extend or change status without having to exit the country.
A good example of this is in Japan, where Change of Status applications are being accepted on a case–by–case basis as long as applicants can show qualifying reasons why they cannot exit the country. In addition, immigration authorities in the United Kingdom are allowing individuals to apply for long-term visas from within the UK until the end of May. This includes applications that individuals would normally need to file from their home countries. During this time when international travel remains problematic, it is encouraging that government agencies are willing to consider applications of this nature.
As we approach May and June, governments will continue to decide whether travel restrictions will be lifted, extended, or amended. Individuals and their employers should remain flexible and be prepared to reschedule travel or change assignment dates as needed.
Foster will continue to monitor travel restrictions and other action related to COVID-19 and will provide additional updates on the immigration-related impacts of COVID-19 via our firm’s website at www.fosterglobal.com.