This post was last updated August 25 to reflect new information.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, every country has implemented unique admission criteria. Entry into these countries may be challenging, as criteria can be based on place of birth, nationality, recent travel history, border closures and many other factors.
The Global Team at Envoy Global is closely monitoring these global travel advisories. Please do not make any international travel arrangements without checking relevant government websites and consulting your immigration legal team.
For breaking news updates, please click here.
For the latest on COVID-19’s impact on U.S. immigration, please click here.
Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.
COVID-19 Country Specific Information
If you are seeking COVID-19 country specific information, the U.S. State Department has compiled a comprehensive list of how countries are handling the outbreak and what entry or exit requirements may be in place.
The countries and areas covered in this article include:
- United Kingdom
- European Union
- South Africa
The Canada and U.S. agreement to temporarily close their border to non-essential travel remains active. This border closure started in March 21 and has been extended to Sept. 21. Non-essential travel is considered recreational or discretionary (tourism) in nature. Exemptions are in place for individuals who are healthy and must cross the border for work or other non-discretionary (essential) purposes.
Travel restrictions remain in place for all foreign nationals seeking entry to Canada for non-essential purposes. This Order that prohibits entry into Canada from countries (other than the U.S.) remains in effect until June 30. As part of the Order, exemptions are put into place which will allow certain foreign nationals to enter Canada. Those with valid work permits or have been approved for a work permit will be allowed entry. It also includes exemptions for specific foreign nationals not required to obtain work permits, to come into Canada if they are providers of emergency services for instance.
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration issued out instructions on April 9 which suspended the processing of visitor visa (TRV) and certain electronic travel authorization (eTA) applications, unless they pertain to foreign nationals who are exempt from the travel restrictions. This suspension will remain in place as long as the Ministerial Instructions are in force.
In accordance to the announcement of the Mandatory Isolation Order in Canada, any person that is exempt from the travel ban must have a plan to quarantine for 14 days when arriving into Canada, even if there are no COVID-19 symptoms. Penalties if one does not isolate for the 14 day period can include fines, jail time, removal from Canada and/or entry ban. Certain individuals that are providing essential services may be exempt from the quarantine requirements.
Update Aug. 9: There has been a long delay in granting appointments due to the biometric centres closing during the peak of COVID-19 virus in the UK, and the phased reopening of centres together with social distancing restrictions.
The new scheme is potentially available to individuals who have previously provided their fingerprints at the UKVI centre in the UK.
- To allow biometrics to be reused, UKVI and UKVCAS (UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services) have worked together to develop a way to submit facial images using a new UKVCAS Identity Verification app (referred to below as IDV app).
- This new way of working involves reusing biometrics (fingerprints) that have been recorded in a previous application as part of the process to verify the applicant’s identity.
- Rollout of the IDV app will take place in phases, beginning in August. UKVI will invite eligible customers to use the new IDV app rather than require the applicant to book an appointment at a UKVCAS service point.
- For most applicants, using the IDV app means they will not have to attend an appointment at a UKVCAS Service Point.
- Must be identified by the UKVI as being eligible for the program and invited by the UKVI via representatives to take part in the new program.
Update July 30: If a FN had a visa that expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 they were previously able to request an extension if they were not able to return home because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19).
However, now travel restrictions are lifting globally UKVI have advised that candidates will no longer be able to extend their visa automatically on this basis and they are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where it is possible to do so, or apply to regularise their stay in the UK.
To allow time to make the necessary arrangements to leave the UK, or submit an application to regularize their stay, FNs who hold a visa or leave that was due to expire between the 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020, will be able to stay within the UK to 31 August 2020.
If FNs intend to leave the UK but are not able to do so by 31 August 2020, they may request additional time to stay, also known as ‘exceptional indemnity’, by contacting the coronavirus immigration team (CIT). The indemnity does not grant leave but will act as a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after a candidates leave has expired.
Update May 28: UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) and Service and Support Centres (SSCs), are beginning to open some of their centres from 1st June 2020. However, initially appointments can only be secured for candidates previously held an appointment but was subsequently cancelled due to the pandemic. Invitation emails will be automatically sent to the eligible candidates in order to schedule a new appointment. There has been no confirmed date of full reopening to all applicants at present.
The UK government have just announced the implementation of the 14-day quarantine:
- Start date: 8 June and will be reviewed every three weeks
- Exemptions: Individuals from the Common Travel Area: Ireland and Channel Islands; medical staff coming to the UK to combat COVID-19 and seasonal agricultural workers
- Individuals must provide an address where they will be based in the UK and contact information when at the border
- Individuals must go straight to the address given, ideally by car and avoid public transport
- Spot checks will be conducted by UK officials and if found to be in breach, fines up to GBP 1,000 will be imposed
From Wednesday 13th May 2020 England began its phased approach back to ‘normality’. Social distancing guidelines are still in place and it is still fully encouraged for people to stay at home as much as possible.
If you are unable to work from home, you may now return to work but should avoid public transport, especially at peak times, where possible. Preferable methods of transport are walking, driving or cycling to minimize contact. There is now no restriction on the time you can spend outside of your house and, in addition, you are allowed to meet one other person in an open space. However, social distancing guidelines should still be adhered to which includes keeping at least two meters apart and wearing a face covering to help reduce the risk of transmission.
It is important to note the above is only in relation to England; Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland are still in a full lockdown phase at present.
Although the only quarantine periods required at present are when you (or a household member) is showing symptoms, the Government is set to introduce a series of measures and restrictions at the UK border but has not yet set a date for these restrictions or defined guidance. We believe the main points are:
The Government will require all international arrivals to supply their contact and accommodation information. They will also be strongly advised to download and use the NHS contact tracing app.
The Government will require all international arrivals not on a short list of exemptions to self-isolate in their accommodation for fourteen days on arrival into the UK. Where international travelers are unable to demonstrate where they would self-isolate, they will be required to do so in accommodation arranged by the Government.
Small exemptions to these measures will be in place and all journeys within the Common Travel Area will also be exempt from these measures.
Update Aug. 25: The Burgh Quay Registration Office has now re-opened (on Monday 24 August 2020) for first time-registrations. All appointments issued for 24 August 2020, or after, will be honoured. The National Registration offices operated by An Garda Síochána (for non-Dublin residents) also re-opened on 24 August 2020.
Update Aug. 24: Irish Residency Permissions due to expire between 20 August 2020 and 20 September 2020 will be automatically renewed for a period of 1 month and will continue to replicate the existing permission with the same conditions applying. In addition, National Registration Offices operated by An Garda Síochána (for non-Dublin residents) and the Burgh Quay Registration Office will temporarily close pending revised public health guidance. Appointments which were due to take place between 19-21 August 2020 in these offices will be rescheduled. A further announcement in respect of the operation of these offices is expected before close of business on Friday 21 August 2020.
Mandatory 14 day quarantine for individuals who arrive in Ireland.
The Irish government has implemented temporary provisions for foreign nationals whose Irish Residence Permits expire between 20 May 2020 and 20 July 2020. These permits will automatically be renewed.
European Union and Schengen Area
Schengen countries have extended the non-essential travel ban until 15th June.
The European Union has closed its borders for 30 days, starting March 17. This move will limit most non-essential travel into the EU and applies to 26 member countries. Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland are also part of this agreement.
Additionally, UK citizens will still be able to travel into the EU, despite the UK exiting the union earlier this year.
Only the EU’s external borders are closed; individuals can still move freely between EU countries.
State of Alarm has been extended to 24 May. This means that many of the Immigration Offices in Spain and Spanish Consulates abroad will remain closed.
The Spanish authorities have implemented a process where the majority of Spanish Permits are considered to be automatically extended where they are due to expire or have expired during or in the 90 days leading to the Spanish State of Alarm. The permit will be extended from the first day following the expiration of the permit up to 6 months after the end of State of Alarm.
The quarantine requirement will be required for individual entering Germany from third countries, but the quarantine may no longer apply to individuals traveling to Germany from another European country. However, different regulations may be implemented in each German State.
Restrictions on non-essential travel to Germany is still in place, so travelers will need to justify their travel to Germany.
Update August 14:
- No update on when visa issuance will resume
- The Government of India is now permitting certain categories of foreign nationals (including OCI cardholders and some long term business/employment visa holders) to enter India and Indian nationals to travel. Travelers should confirm with their airlines to confirm that they will be allowed to travel to India.
The Government of India has further considered the relaxation of visas and travel by way of the “air bubble” scheme. This scheme is a bilateral agreement between the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India and countries including USA, UK, Germany and France at the moment. This scheme permits certain visa holders to travel to India and Indian nationals to travel to these countries. Further countries may be added from time to time at the discretion of the Government of India. Please note that although these guidelines have been issued by the Government of India, each country and airline may have its own set of rules and regulations which must be checked prior to travel.
-Quarantine for Indian nationals returning to India
Further the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has introduced a portal whereby all international passengers arriving on the Vande Bharat Mission (repatriation) flights will have to complete a self-declaration/reporting form and can now also apply for an exemption from institutional quarantine digitally. These forms (self-reporting and exemption of quarantine) is available for all international passengers arriving into India at www.newdelhiairport.in. The online self-declaration/reporting form “Air Suvidha” is to be mandatorily completed by all international passengers arriving into India. The online exemption request form must be completed by international passengers at least 72 hours prior to the date and time of departure.
Travel restrictions in India remain in place but the authorities have recently released a notification on the lifting of certain visa and travel restrictions for certain categories of foreign nationals who wish to come to India.
The following categories of foreign nationals are now being permitted to come to India:
- Foreign businessmen coming to India on a business visa (other than a B-3 sports visa) in non-scheduled commercial /chartered flights.
- Foreign healthcare professionals, health researchers, engineers and technicians for technical work at Indian health sector facilities, including laboratories and factories. This is subject to a letter of invitation from a recognized and registered healthcare facility, registered pharmaceutical company or accredited University in India.
- Foreign engineering, managerial, design or other specialists travelling to India on behalf of foreign business entities located in India. This includes all manufacturing units, design units, software and IT units as well as financial sector companies (banking and non-banking financial sector firms).
- Foreign technical specialists and engineers travelling for installation, repair and maintenance of foreign-origin machinery and equipment facilities in India, on the invitation of a registered Indian business entity. These could be for equipment installation, or is under warranty, or for after sales servicing or repair on commercial terms.
Foreign nationals covered in points 1-4 listed above shall have to obtain a FRESH business or employment visa from the relevant Mission abroad. Those foreign nationals holding a valid long term, multiple entry business visa (Excluding B-3 visas) shall have to get these visas re-validated from the concerned Indian Mission prior to travel. These foreign nationals will not be permitted to travel to India on ANY e-visa (electronic) obtained previously. Dependents who are on dependent visas are still not allowed to travel back to India.
From 19 June 2020, Singapore enters the second phase of re-opening.
LONG-TERM PASS HOLDER – APPROVAL TO ENTER SINGAPORE
All long-term pass holders (including those on employment/S passes, dependant passes) will continue to require prior approval before coming back to Singapore. The authorities have not provided a timeline to allow these pass holders to return, but has said that it expects to be able to facilitate the re-entry of more long-term pass holders in the coming weeks. Approvals were previously granted on a very limited basis and only to those with exigent circumstances.
Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders entering Singapore from Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, mainland China, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam and who stayed in these countries and territories in the last consecutive 14 days prior to their entry will be allowed to serve their stay-home notice at home. Those entering Singapore from countries that are not in this list will be required to serve their 14-day stay-home notice at dedicated facilities.
COST OF COVID-19 TESTS AND STAY-HOME FACILITY
All inbound and outbound travelers who enter or leave Singapore from 11.59pm on 17 June will also be required to pay for their COVID-19 tests, and those who are not Singaporeans or permanent residents entering the country will need to pay for their stay at dedicated facilities.
Short-term visitors are still not allowed into Singapore except those coming in under green lane or fast lane arrangements. A green lane arrangement is in place between Singapore and China (limited to the provinces/municipalities of Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Tianjin and Zhejiang) which allows travel both ways for government sponsored travellers on official business only. Applications must be made through a Singapore sponsoring government agency. It is meant for government officials visiting Singapore and significant technical personnel who are needed to maintain critical systems in Singapore. Similarly, Singapore residents who intend to travel to China must also be sponsored by a government agency in China which will file the relevant application on their behalf. Applications for company-sponsored business travellers will be opened under a later phase, details of which are not available as yet. The government is also in discussion with other countries on the implementation of green lane arrangements and is also looking to facilitate business travels for professionals based in Singapore with the necessary safeguards in place.
Foreign nationals who hold valid passes or who hold approval letters in Malaysia may return/enter the country if they are able to secure a reentry permission from the relevant approving agency or regulatory body. Approvals will be sent out by the Director General of Immigration Department Malaysia within 7 days from date of submission. If a response is not received within that period, the submission is considered rejected.
Upon receipt of the entry approval letter, the foreign national is required to undergo a COVID-19 test overseas within 3 days and must obtain a negative result. The approval letter and the COVID-19 test result is required to be presented at point of entry and foreign nationals are requested to download and install the “MySejahtera” mobile application. Further to that, a mandatory 14-day home quarantine must be complied with.
International travelers are only permitted to enter via the following entry points:
- Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA)
- Immigration Checkpoint, Sultan Iskandar Building Johor
- Sultan Abu Bakar Complex (2nd Link), Johor
Update Aug. 5:
1. Japan starts accepting foreign nationals who have traveled from Japan and are unable to return to Japan
This only applied to those who have left Japan with re-entry permit before the day when country/region where such foreign nationals are currently staying was designated as an area subject to denial of permission to entry into Japan.
Please see below information from Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Re-entry of foreign nationals who possess the status of residence: https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page4e_001074.html
Process and Required Documents for Re-entry: https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page25e_000334.html
2. Landing resumption plan by Japan government
Japan is considering to open the gate for some countries/regions where the COVID-19 infection situation is stable and currently under discussion with Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Singapore, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar, Mongolia, Laos and Taiwan. For visitors from Vietnam and Thailand, both new landings and re-entry the restriction will be lifted from 29 July 2020. However, this is only applicable for person who has the nationality and lives in the same country.
For above 2), it is still trial base and under restricted conditions, so we could say that Japan is still closing the gate for most of foreigners and from most of countries.
However, 1) is great news for those who left Japan before situation gets worse and unable to return to Japan.
Vietnam is slowly back to normal however with some preventive measures for self-care.
Update June 19: BOI has issued the process for a BOI promoted company to make a special request for bringing in foreign national employees to Thailand regardless of whether the person is already holding a work permit / permission to work in Thailand (BOI Pre-Visa Approval) or not. Processing time for obtaining permission is at about 20 working days excluding the time needed to gather the document.
Once permission is approved, foreign nationals will still need to complete the following:
1. A completed and signed “Declaration Form” obtained from the Thai Embassy or Consulate
2. A “Fit to Fly” Health Certificate issued within 72 hours before departure
3. A copy of the foreigner’s Health Insurance Policy with at least USD 100,000 coverage for Covid-19 in Thailand
4. Upon arrival in Thailand, the foreigner must go into 14-day quarantine in a government designated Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) at their own expense and comply with all health regulations under the Thailand’s Emergency Decree.
Temporary ban on all international flights to Thailand has been extended until 30 June 2020.
This ban permits the entry of international flights on the conditions listed below, however arriving passengers are subject to 14 days state quarantine and regulations under the Emergency Decree on State of Emergency:
- State or military aircraft
- Emergency landing
- Technical landing without disembarkation
- Humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights
- Repatriation flights
- Cargo flights
The Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that foreigners who are in urgent need of returning to Thailand and are holding valid work permits or have already been granted permission to work in Thailand by a government agency can apply for permission to enter the Kingdom.
This does not apply to any other type of Thai visa holders including dependent visas, student visas, retirement visas or Permanent Residents. This will not be applicable for Urgent Work Permit applications as well.
Foreigners who are able to return to Thailand must contact the Thai Embassy at least 10 days before the departure date and apply for the Certificate of Entry into the Kingdom of Thailand.
In order to travel to Thailand, the foreigner will need to carry and be able to present the following documents:
3.1 Certificate of Entry into the Kingdom of Thailand
3.2 A completed and signed “Declaration Form” obtained from the Thai Embassy or Consulate
3.3 A “Fit to Fly” Health Certificate issued within 72 hours before departure
3.4 A copy of the foreigner’s Health Insurance Policy with at least USD 100,000 coverage for Covid-19 in Thailand
Upon arrival in Thailand, the foreigner must go into 14-day quarantine in a government designated Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) at their own expense and comply with all health regulations under the Thailand’s Emergency Decree. ASQ are hotels in various locations in Thailand that have been approved for quarantine.
South Africa is slowly coming out of lockdown from 1 June, where many companies can resume services under strict health and safety guidelines. However, all visa and permit applications remain suspended until further notice.
The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), Zone Office for National Capital Region (ZONCR), has resumed skeletal operations on 16 June 2020. Application acceptance will be limited to 20-30 per day and it will be on a first come first served basis. Due to the limited number of applications that can be lodged per day, delays in application processing should be expected.
As of 1 June, all persons with long term visas (excluding A-1, A-2, A-3 & F-4) are required to obtain a re-entry permit prior to departing Korea if they intend to return to Korea.
Persons departing Korea on or before 31-May-2020 are exempt from the re-entry permit requirement. Failure to obtain a re-entry permit from 1 June onwards will result in forfeiture of visa and registration status. Prior to return, all persons must submit to a medical exam and receive results no more than 48 hours prior to their scheduled return date. All current entry and quarantine requirements and procedure remain in place and are unchanged.
Update July 31: Starting August 01, 2020 entry to Russia is allowed for citizens of the following countries on the basis of all types of visas:
Foreign citizens who have permanent residence permits in these countries can enter Russia as well.
- Self-isolation in Moscow ended on 9th June. People may now leave their place of residence without e-passes, although sanitary requirement, including people wearing facemasks and gloves in public, are in place.
- On 6th June Russia slightly lifted its restrictions on FNs exiting Russia. Russian Citizens may leave to take care of close relatives abroad, perform work activities broad or study abroad. Specific documentation will need to be provided upon exit.
- On 6th June Russia slightly lifted its restrictions on FNs entering Russia. FN can now enter Russia to take care of close relatives, or to receive medical treatment in Russia. Specific documentation will need to be provided upon entry.
- 14 day quarantine period is mandatory for everyone entering Russia from regions who have been badly impacted by COVID-19.
- FNs with immigration documents expiring between 15th March and 15th September 2020 will be automatically renewed for 184 days after its factual expiration date.
- As of 27th June foreign workers will have to pass a COVID-19 test as part of the process for the following applications:
- TRP (Temporary Residence Permit);
- PRP (Permanent Residence Permit);
- Work Permit (visa-nationals);
- Patents (CIS citizens);
- COVID-19 test as well as other medical tests will not be required (at least now) for applicants submitting their documents for HQS work permits.
The New Zealand government has announced a further exemption to the border closure for 'other essential workers'. This will take effect from 18 June 2020 with the below criteria:
Short term roles (less than six months)
The worker must have a unique and technical or specialist skill that is not obtainable in New Zealand, or they must be involved in one of the following:
- A major infrastructure project.
- An event of national or regional importance.
- A government approved programme, or a government-to-government agreement.
- Something that will have a significant benefit to the national or regional economy.
The role must also be time critical. For example, if the worker is involved in a major infrastructure project, it must be shown that the infrastructure project would be severely impacted by their absence.
Long term roles (more than six months)
The worker must meet one of the two short-term worker criteria. They must also:
- Earn twice the median salary (approximately $106,000); or
- Have a role that is essential for the completion of a government-funded science program, the delivery or execution of a government approved event, or a role in a programme that is of major significance to New Zealand, such as the America's Cup.
An individual applying under this category may also request approval for their partner and dependent children to come to New Zealand with them.
Strict quarantine rules remain for anyone coming into New Zealand. The worker and their family must secure a place in managed isolation or quarantine for 14 days, and the worker or their employer must cover the costs.
Update Aug. 5: Manilla in the Philippines has gone into partial lockdown, which is affecting immigration services provided by the Philippines authorities and will cause delay to applications.
Bureau of Immigration:
Confirmed Online Appointments during the period 4 August to 18 August 2020 are suspended. Appointments to be rebooked after 18 August
The following transactions are temporarily suspended except for outbound passengers intending to depart the Philippines from any of the international airports in Luzon during the effectivity of MECQ:
- Filing of applications for extension/conversion to non-immigrant visa including hearing/interview;
- Filing of applications regarding Filipino citizenship including RA 9225, hearing and interview;
- Filing for downgrading of visa status;
- Filing for extension of Tourist visa;
- Filing of application for Special Work Permits/Provisional Work Permits;
- Filing for the renewal of Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Cards (ACR I-Cards); and
- Implementation of Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved visa applications for extension/conversion to non-immigrant/immigrant visa.
- Implemented temporary suspension of the filing of the renewal of ACR I-Cards, paper-based ACR I-Cards