It is a strange time afflicting us all, an unprecedented one for sure. The COVID-19 has turned into a global pandemic, which have led many countries to put up strict restrictions on entry and exit. Visa and immigration rules have altered and have been changing as and when new developments have been unfolding. Work permit issuance is also getting changed. It’s now the era of closed borders and increasingly tightened quarantine rules – every attempt is being taken to curb the spread of the deadly virus.
As an overseas removal company, Writer Relocations is giving you highlights of visa and immigration norms of some of the countries of the world. So, for a person planning a travel from India to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, due to whichever reasons, you need to take into consideration the various new factors in these current times.
- Most offshore applications for permanent visas appear to be on hold.
- All visitors to Australia are urged to leave the country if it is possible to do so.
- Australian citizens and permanent residents are not given permission to travel overseas due to COVID-19 restrictions.
- Temporary Skill Shortage and subclass 457 visa holders who have been stood down, but not laid off, will maintain a valid visa and businesses will have the opportunity to extend your visa as per normal arrangements.
- Those who have been laid off should find another employer within 60 days or make arrangements to leave Australia, where possible.
- A special category of the Subclass 408 Temporary Work Visa has been created to cater to temporary residents employed in critical sectors like health, aged care or agriculture, who cannot return to their home country and have no other visa options.
- The US and Canada have agreed to extend restrictions on non-essential travel across their shared border for 30 additional days, until 22 June. Cross-border trade and regular commuters will not be blocked.
- Effective 18 March, entry is suspended for foreign travelers, including those holding a valid visitor visas or electronic travel authorization (eTA).
- Foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home are permitted to enter Canada (documents issued prior to 18 March).
- Foreign nationals seeking to come to Canada from anywhere other than the US will need a work permit or approval letter before seeking to travel.
- Non-essential work permits will not be issued at the border.
- Immediate family members who intend to reunite with a family member currently in Canada need written authorization from the government of Canada.
- Ordinary rules apply for those seeking to extend before current work permit expiry (implied status), and within 90 days of work permit expiry (restoration).
- Foreign workers already in Canada whose status has been expired more than 90 days can seek a temporary resident permit.
- Canadian citizenship applicants who are unable to travel to Canada can reschedule their knowledge tests, retests, interviews, hearings or Oaths of Citizenship for a later date.
- Applicants for visitor visas, work permits, study permits or permanent residence who cannot complete the next steps in their application will be given an automatic extension.
- Effective 17 March until further notice, the issuance of all visas is suspended, including applications for which an appointment has already been made.
- Effective 17 March, prefectural offices are closed until further notice, and all appointments postponed.
- The Paris Prefecture of Police has launched a web portal to enable foreign nationals to apply for postal delivery of their residence permits that were supposed to be delivered during lockdown.
- The period of validity of the following permits that expire between 16 May and 15 June is extended by 180 days from their expiry date.
- Holders of short-stay visas which are going to expire who cannot return to their country of origin can, in case of justified urgency, enjoy an extension of their short stay visa (up to 90 days) or a residence permit that is provisional.
- Effective 15 May, border checks at the border with Luxembourg have ended.
- On 13 May, Germany agreed in principle with Austria, France and Switzerland to coordinate the reopening of their mutual borders by 15 June.
- Travelers without a valid reason for traveling are not allowed to enter Germany.
- Immigration offices in several cities have reopened with limited services (mainly for emergencies only) and on an appointment basis.
- Services at the alien offices in Berlin are unavailable without an appointment.
- Immigration offices in other cities are closed or offering only limited or emergency services.
- Foreign residents living in Berlin will not be penalised for the expiry of temporary residence documents while alien office services are restricted. However, exiting and re-entering Germany is only possible with a valid residence document.
- Foreign residents may have their permits extended by submitting an extension application (online or by fax) before the validity expires. They should obtain a confirmation letter or other proof of submission, which however would not grant reentry into Germany.
- Hamburg and other jurisdictions may offer to extend C visas if required due to the current situation.
- From 1 June, some UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) abroad are resuming services, where local restrictions allow.
- Effective 8 June, passengers of all nationalities arriving in the UK will have to self isolate for 14 days.
- A breach of self-isolation would be punishable with a £1000 fixed penalty.
- All priority and super priority services have been suspended until further notice.
- Applicants can only submit under the standard route. Life in the UK test centres are currently closed so any Indefinite Leave applications submitted without evidence of a completed test will be held until this can be taken and the results published.
- Many UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) and English Testing Centres abroad are closed or offering limited services, and appointments (for e.g., biometric enrolment) may be cancelled.
- Applicants who have paid for courier return will receive their passport if courier routes remain open. TLS contact or VFS Global can be contacted directly to request courier return of passports.
- British nationals abroad who cannot apply for a passport can apply for an emergency travel document.
- It is taking longer than usual to process citizenship applications because of coronavirus. This will not affect the decision. Extra time will be allowed to enroll.
- biometrics and provide additional information. Applicants have 6 months (rather than the usual 3 months) to book their citizenship ceremony after receiving an invitation from the Home Office.
- Employees who have applied for a Tier 2 or 5 visa and are waiting for a decision can start work before receiving a decision if they have been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).
- The Home Office will not take any compliance action against Tier 2/5 employees who are unable to attend their work due to the COVID-19 outbreak (i.e., illness, their need to isolate or inability to travel due to travel restrictions) or against sponsors which authorize absences and continue to sponsor employees despite absences for this reason.
- There is no need to report sponsored employees working from home due to coronavirus. Some alterations to their working arrangements need to be reported as usual.
- Sponsors can temporarily reduce the pay of sponsored employees to 80% of their salary or £2500 per month, whichever is the lower. Any cuts in package must be part of a company-wide policy in a bid to avoid redundancies. That cannot be avoided since all workers are treated the same.
- These reductions aren’t permanent, and the employee’s pay need to be returned to once these arrangements have ended.
- An employee may still apply for their visa if their Certificate of Sponsorship has become invalid due to coronavirus.
- Effective 1 June, entry is suspended for certain Chinese nationals seeking to enter the United States on an F (student) or J (exchange visitor) visa to pursue graduate level study or conduct research in the US.
- Effective 28 May at 11:59 pm EDT, entry as immigrants or nonimmigrants is
- suspended for travelers of any nationality who have been in Brazil in the previous 14 days. This does not apply to US citizens or permanent residents (green card holders).
- Effective 23 April for a period of 60 days (with an option to be continued “as necessary”), entry is suspended for first-time immigrant visa applicants.
- The US, Mexico, and Canada have each agreed to extend restrictions on nonessential travel across their shared borders for 30 additional days, until 22 June.
- Effective 16 March, the travel ban is extended to the United Kingdom and Ireland.
- Effective 29 February, foreign nationals (other than immediate family of US citizens, permanent residents, and flight crew) who have travelled in Iran within 14 days of their arrival, will be denied entry into the United States.
- Effective 31 January, foreign nationals (other than immediate family of US citizens, permanent residents, and flight crew) who have travelled in mainland China within 14 days of their arrival, will be denied entry into the United States.
- US citizens who had visited or been in the Hubei province within 14 days of their return will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine.
- Effective 1 June, USCIS will accept premium processing requests for eligible Form I140 petitions (likely the same types of I-140 petitions accepted before 20 March, when premium processing was suspended).
- Effective 8 June, USCIS will accept premium processing requests for eligible Form I129 (nonimmigrant worker) petitions, including H-1B petitions filed before June 8 that are pending adjudication and are cap-exempt, and all other Form I-129 petitions (non H-1B petitions) for nonimmigrant classifications eligible for premium processing filed before June 8 that are pending adjudication.
- Effective 15 June, USCIS pans to accept requests for premium processing for H-1B petitions requesting premium processing by filing an I-907 concurrently with their I129 (or request for a petition filed on or after 8 June) and which are exempt from the cap.
- USCIS is preparing to reopen some domestic offices on or after 4 June. The offices that will be reopening include the local offices that process asylum claims, permanent resident and naturalization interviews, Info Pass appointments, and biometrics processing. USCIS has announced that they will send notices to individuals and their attorneys when the previously cancelled appointments have been rescheduled.
Keep an eye for our next blog on visa and immigration restrictions and concessions on a few other countries.
- As of 0530 hrs Indian Standard Time (IST) on 22 March 2020, no scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft is permitted to take off from any foreign airport for any airport in India. These instructions shall remain in force till prohibition on international travel of passengers from/to India is lifted by the Government of India. Hence, all incoming passenger traffic on all 107 Immigration Check Posts which includes all Airport ICPs, all Seaport ICPs all Land Port ICPs, all Rail Port ICPs and all River Port ICPs, is prohibited. However, this restriction will not apply to international cargo operations and flights especially approved by DGCA.
- Indian nationals are strongly advised to avoid non-essential travel to COVID-19 hit countries. Currently with the national lockdown, there are no scheduled international commercial flights taking off from India to any foreign country.
- The following categories of foreign nationals are permitted to enter India via nonscheduled commercial/chartered flights, trains, ships or other transport, having obtained a fresh business or employment visa, as applicable, from the relevant Indian consulate. Existing electronic visas remain suspended and are not valid for entering India. Foreign nationals holding a valid long-term multiple entry business visa (other than B-3 visa for sports) or an employment visa issued by an Indian consulate must have these visas re-validated by the relevant consulate.
- Business travelers with a business visa (other than B3 visa for sports;
- Healthcare professionals, health researchers, engineers and technicians for technical work at Indian health sector facilities, subject to a letter of invitation form a recognized and registered healthcare facility, registered pharmaceutical company or accredited university in India;
- Engineering, managerial, design or other specialists travelling to India on behalf of foreign business entities located in India, including all manufacturing units, design units, software and IT units as well as financial sector companies (banking and non-banking financial sector firms).
- 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.
- The suspension of all scheduled international passenger services is extended until 30 June 2020.
- With the suspension of international commercial flights to India, travelling into India is currently not possible. Also, post resumption of the flight services, incoming travelers (regardless of nationality or visa type) will still need to comply with the ‘quarantine’ stipulations as directed by authorities.
- The suspension of visa services is extended in line with the suspension of all international passenger services.
- The following categories of OCI cardholders stranded abroad are permitted to return to India: Minor children born to Indian nationals abroad and holding OCI cards; OCI cardholders wishing to come to India on account of family emergency such as death in the family; couples with permanent residence in India, where one spouse is an OCI cardholder and the other is an Indian national; and university students who are OCI cardholders (not legally minors) but whose parents are Indian citizens living in India. Qualifying OCI cardholders are required to contact the Indian consulate in their country of residence to request travel to India on special flights.
- Air India is accepting certain passengers from inside India for the outbound section of these repatriation trips. To qualify, passengers must be nationals of the destination countries; Indian or foreign nationals holding a visa for the destination country (valid for at least one year); or health workers holding a valid permit for travel to the destination country (and written permission from the Embassy of the destination country). Before purchasing the tickets, such persons are required to recheck their eligibility for travel by referring to the conditions on the respective countries’ regulatory website. The full cost of travel must be borne by the passenger. At the time of boarding the flight, all passengers must undergo thermal screening as per the health protocol. Passengers must ensure that they comply with all travel and health requirements of the destination country. All passengers must sign an undertaking stating that in case of deportation, the entire cost of the deportation penalty, return fare, and cost of quarantine will be borne by the passenger.
- All existing visas (except diplomatic, UN/international organization, employment and project visas) issued to nationals of any country who have not yet entered India stand suspended until the lifting of the suspension of international passenger services.
- Incoming travelers, including Indian nationals are required to complete and submit a self-declaration form and undergo universal health screening at the designated health counters at all points of entry, will be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days, and are advised to avoid non-essential travel.
- India Visa application centers and online e-visa application facility are closed till further notice. However, at few locations the Embassy/consulate and their representative offices are in discussion to resume their visa/consular services.
- Foreign nationals are not permitted to visit the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) or Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) without a prior appointment until further notice.
- All foreign nationals presently in India allowed to exit India and return at a later date based on availability of flights. However, they must return to India on a fresh visa issued from an overseas mission/consulate only.
- Regular Visas, e-visas or stay permits of foreign nationals whose visas have expired or will expire between 1 February (at midnight)) and the date of the lifting of the suspension of international passenger services, are extended without fee “Gratis basis”, based on the submission of an online application by the foreign national via the e-FRRO portal. Such extensions are granted for a period up to 30 days from the date of the lifting of the suspension of international passenger services from India without overstay penalties. Exit will also be granted to such foreign nationals on request. As present the FRRO are issuing them Gratis visas until 15 July 2020.
- The validity of OCI card of foreigners presently in India shall remain.
- The visas of all foreign nationals already in India remain valid.
- All foreign nationals already in India should approach their jurisdictional FRRO/FROs through e-FRRO to apply to extend their current Indian visas before the expiry.