Coronavirus and travel restrictions

Covid-19

A significant number of countries around the world have introduced strict travel restrictions as they seek to control and manage the incidence of coronavirus in their locations. Here, we provide a brief summary of the latest position to help you assess your next steps.

International travel restrictions

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) assessed the novel coronavirus or Covid-19, as a pandemic. At the time, there were 118,000 cases of the virus in 114 countries. And sadly, 4,291 people had lost their lives.

Below is a brief summary of the stringent travel restrictions or border controls, that countries have introduced in order to reduce or contain the spread of coronavirus.

Australia

On March 19, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that all visitors, except for citizens and permanent residents and their close family members, would be prevented from travelling to Australia.

The Department of Home Affairs in Australia has advised Australian nationals and permanent residents against all non-essential travel at this time. For Australian nationals temporarily outside of the country, the authorities advise their citizens to return to Australia, by commercial means, as soon as possible.

For those permitted to enter the country, the Department of Home Affairs states that all entrants must self-isolate for 14 days. In particular, they advise that:

  • A person may board a domestic flight to their intended destination in Australia to self-isolate there;
  • If they are well and not symptomatic, the person may self-isolate in a hotel; and
  • If the traveller does not comply with their 14-day self-isolation requirements, they may face a range of penalties that exist in each State or Territory.

Home Affairs advise visa holders in Australia to apply for a new visa before their current visa expires. However, they may be eligible for a temporary extension or bridging visa in order to protect their immigration position until a decision is made on the visa application.

Contact should be made with Home Affairs as soon as possible.

Bahrain

The authorities in Bahrain have announced that it will be testing all permitted travellers to the country for the coronavirus and requesting that they undertake mandatory self-isolation for a 14-day period.

Citizens and residents have been encouraged to avoid non-essential overseas travel.

Bangladesh

The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh announced, that with effect from midnight on 21 March, scheduled commercial passenger aircraft departing from European and other destinations, will not be authorised to land at any international airport in Bangladesh. That said, the country is servicing flights from parts of the UK.

Travel restrictions will remain in place until 31 March, though are subject to extension and change at short notice.

Canada

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development in Canada has issued a Level 3 warning against all non-essential travel at this time, due to the coronavirus.

Travel restrictions will apply to those seeking entry to Canada who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or immediate family members of Canadian citizens, aeroplane crew members, diplomats and US citizens.

Canadian nationals may sign up to the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.

China

The Chinese authorities have introduced a number of coronavirus containment and quarantine measures across the country.

International travellers permitted to enter parts of China will be quarantined for 14 days and there have been restrictions placed against travel between regions.

On 13 March, the Chinese authorities issued a new order, to ensure compliance with quarantine measures aimed at preventing people spreading the virus across the country.

Anyone deemed to have failed to comply with the new containment or testing measures may face a sentence of up to three years in prison. This applies to both Chinese and overseas nationals.

Finland

The Finnish Government has declared a nationwide state of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak.

As a result, Finland has closed its borders to non-Finnish citizens and non-permanent nationals.

The international airports of Helsinki, Turku and Mariehamn will remain open for returning passengers. Border crossing places in Northern Finland to Sweden and Norway will also remain open to returning passengers.

The travel restrictions will remain in place until 13 April 2020, though measures can be extended at short notice.

In addition, the Finnish Ministry of Transport has announced the suspension of the VR passenger rail service between Finland and Russia.

France

On 16 March, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the closure of the country’s borders with effect from 17 March. That said, French citizens and permanent residents would be permitted to return to France.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises its citizens against all non-essential travel overseas at least until 29 March. This includes travel to the United Kingdom, though it excludes Northern Ireland.

The authorities have taken a number of strict measures to limit non-essential movement within the country, including curtailing non-essential trips and strongly requesting that residents remain in their homes, except in very limited circumstances.

Germany

On March 15, the Government of Germany advised residents against all non-essential overseas travel until at least 29 March. The restrictions apply to travel to the United Kingdom, though it excludes Northern Ireland.

Germany has seen a significant number of cases of coronavirus reported across Germany, particularly in North-Rhine Westphalia, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.  

The authorities state:

EU-citizens and citizens of Great Britain, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland and their family members will be allowed to transit through Germany to reach their home countries. The same will apply for foreigners holding a residence permit in one of these countries. Other people may be rejected entry, if they cannot provide proof of urgent reasons for their entry“.

Temporary borders controls have been introduced between Germany and France, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Denmark.

Ghana

On 21 March, the Government of Ghana announced the closure of the country’s borders, with effect from 22 March. The restrictions apply to non-Ghanaian citizens and permanent residents.

Mr Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah, the Minister of Information, announced that airlines had been instructed not to allow such anyone infected with the coronavirus to embark; and also urged border posts not permit such travellers into their jurisdiction.

Guatemala

As of 16 March, Guatemala has introduced international travel restrictions from the UK, as well as visitors from some European countries, Canada, the United States, South Korea and Iran.

Jamaica

Jamaica has imposed travel restrictions on travellers from Iran, China, South Korea, Italy, Singapore, Germany, Spain, France and the UK, as a result of the coronavirus.

The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton said that anyone arriving from countries where there is community spread will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Dr Tufton stated: “We still maintain [those] restrictions… but for all other persons travelling, once they come from a country, where there is internal spread, they will be required to be quarantined.”

Japan

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recommended that Japanese nationals and residents defer all non-essential travel.

The country has also restricted travel into Japan as it seeks to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Malaysia

With effect from 16 March, the Malaysian authorities has shut its borders to travellers and restricted movement within the country in order to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The measures will remain in place until 31 March, though may be extended at short notice.

Nigeria

On March 18, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control announced that the country would be restricting entry into the country for travellers from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, the US, Norway, the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Self-isolation, for a period of at least 14 days, has introduced for nationals from high-risk countries, including many part of Europe.

On 21 March, the Government widened its restrictions by closing its international airports at Lagos and Abuja from March 23 for one month.

Sierra Leone

As with many other countries, citizens and residents of Sierra Leone have been advised to postpone any intended travel to any country, which has reported confirmed case of COVID-19, unless absolutely necessary.

For UK nationals arriving into Sierra Leone, who may not display symptoms of the coronavirus, including those travelling from countries with 50 or more confirmed cases of coronavirus, they will be required to undergo mandatory quarantine for a 14-day period.

Trinidad and Tobago

On 16 March, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the closure of the islands’ borders to overseas nationals, with the exception of permanent residents, with effect from midnight 17 March.

Nationals of Trinidad and Tobago nationals will be allowed to re-enter the country but will be subjected to quarantine for a 14-day period.

Prime Minister Dr Rowley stated: “We will cease to accept people into this country who are not nationals of this country,” adding “We are basically disconnecting ourselves…”.

Qatar

The Qatari authorities have temporarily suspended overseas nationals from entering the country, until further notice.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Effective from 19 March 2020, the UAE will only allow its citizens to enter the country. All UAE residents who are abroad will not be allowed to re-enter the UAE for a period of at least two weeks, a period that could be extended.  

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) noted: “From 19 March, the UAE will temporarily suspend all visas on arrival with the exception of Diplomatic passport holders”.

In fact, as of 19 March, the UAE have restricted all visitors from entering the countries.

The UAE authorities have stated that any violation of instructions and procedures put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) will be treated as a criminal offence.

Any non-UAE nationals looking to travel to the UAE are advised to contact the UAE consular services and travel providers for the information about the latest position.

United States of America (US)

On 16 March 2020, the United States had extended their travel ban to the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland, after having initially excluded the UK from the European travel ban announced on 11 March.

And on 19 March, the US State Department had issued a Level 4 warning, the highest level possible, advising its citizens not to travel abroad. It urged Americans: “….in countries where commercial departure options remain available” and to “arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.” 

The US has suspended routine visa services in most countries. Effective 20 March 2020, the US State Department’s passport services will be limited to ” customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours”.

This has a major impact upon US citizens, particularly US citizens in the UK and those seeking to travel to or relocate to the UK.

Conclusion

Coronavirus has had a pervasive impact on people’s lives, be it health, the ability to work and conduct day-to-day activities, social distancing efforts and/ or the ability to freely travel. It is important to reflect on whether any planned international travel is essential, and if so, to be aware of the continuing impact of coronavirus and international travel restrictions.

 We hope that this summary provides a snapshot of the sorts of measures that countries are taking. And we strongly suggest that you check with the appropriate consular services and travel operators before undertaking any travel.

Stay safe!


Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

If you have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice, or assistance with your application to enter or remain in the UK, feel free to contact us.

Contact us at [email protected], and visit  https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/contact-us to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs

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US Travel Ban: What we know so far

US Travel Ban
The United States (US) has introduced a US travel ban for people from a number of Muslim-majority countries. Here is a quick on what the ban means and its implications.

In summary, the executive order, signed by President Trump on Friday 27 January:

  • Halts travel from seven Muslim-majority countries for a period of 90 days. They are:
    • Iran
    • Iraq
    • Libya
    • Somalia
    • Sudan
    • Syria
    • Yemen
  • Prevents dual nationals from travelling to the US for 90 days if they hold nationality from one of the above countries
  • Grant priority to Individuals of religious minorities if they are from the countries listed
  • Allows for the executive order to be extended to other countries or beyond 90 days, if necessary

Implications

Nationals of any of the seven countries listed will be prevented from entering the US. This extends previous security restrictions which had excluded those nationals from entering the US without a valid visa.

The executive order applies to individuals with permanent residence status in the US and who may be seeking re-entry after a holiday abroad. It will include nationals that have legitimately and successfully secured a spouse or work visa overseas and are due to travel to the US.

The US administration confirmed that dual nationals are included so that a dual British Sudanese national seeking entry to the US for business, after the executive order was signed, may find themselves detained at the US airport and eventually returned to the UK.

Update: The UK Foreign Office later confirmed on 29 January, that nationals from the listed countries with dual British nationality, will be exempt from the travel ban. Instead, dual British nationals may be subject to further vetting and questioning. We hope this clarification has been disseminated to immigration officials at the US border.

Caps to the number of refugees admitted into the US under the US refugee programme for the 2017 fiscal year have also been implemented. The number has been capped from 110,000 to 50,000 with refugees from Syria being prevented from entering the US indefinitely.  However, the US administration confirmed that the travel ban will not apply to refugees or those seeking refugee status from the above countries.

For businesses, employees from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen will be barred from returning to their place of work in the US or from entering the US in order to represent their company.

As a result, individuals arriving into US airports individuals arriving into US airports, with valid visas, will be detained at the airport and removed, merely because of their nationality.

Concerns

The travel ban has elicited uproar and condemnation from political figures around the world, including, UK opposition leaders, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin TrudeauAnd it has of course, caused significant distress and anguish to individuals and families trying to come to terms with the direct and wider implications of the ban.

Of great concern is the speed and wide ranging nature of the US travel ban.  As a former civil servant in the Home Office of ten years, I myself have experience of numerous amendments and changes to immigration laws, rules and policies. In all cases, the Secretary of State at the time introduced transitional arrangements, allowing immigrations consultants and lawyers time to digest the legal and wider implications of the announcements. This has not been the case here, a point supported by UK immigration lawyer, Harjap Singh Bhangal on Sky News on 29 January. Bhangal stated that governments ‘…can’t just change immigration policy overnight and expect it to be implemented’ again highlighting the lack of transitional period or consideration.

Indeed, the immediacy of the travel ban, and inability of immigration professional to consider and properly advise individuals affected has already drawn one Federal Judge into the mix.

Judge Ann Donnelly of the US District Court in Brooklyn granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to partially stop the removals of individuals after determining that the risk of injury to those detained by being returned to their home countries necessitated the decision.

This was followed by US District Judge Leonie Brinkema who issued a temporary restraining order, valid for seven days, against the removal of any green-card holders being detained at Dulles International Airport. For more, see the Chicago Tribune.

Despite the Federal Court rulings, the Department of Homeland Security have confirmed that the travel ban remains in place.

As a result, a number of immigration advisers have made themselves available, for free, at several airports to provide advice and guidance to those affected.

Guidance

The application of the travel ban on Muslim-majority countries remains confused. Several Republicans party members have also expressed unease with the measures, despite the president’s proclamations to the contrary. And it is not clear if the ban will stay in place for 90 days, be extended to other countries or lengthened.

For the time being, the situation is uncertain. If you are travelling to the US and have concerns about the travel ban, you should:

  • Seek advice and clearance from the US embassy prior to travel, to avoid adverse consequences at the US border. Dual British nationals should be aware of the clarification issued by the UK Foreign Office
  • Ensure that you have prior authorisation to enter the US using a British passport, either through a visa, a Permanent Resident Card, or the Visa Waiver Programme and seek further clearance from the US embassy
  • Ensure that you are familiar with US entry requirements
  • Contact the airline responsible for your flight to ensure that you will be able to board
  • Seek immigration advice or guidance prior to your travel if you remain concerned. See also the UK Foreign Office website  for additional guidance. Upon travel, ensure that you have documents confirming your reasons for travel to the US. On arrival to the US, seek expert US immigration support if you concerned about your circumstances.

 

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. We offer immigration solutions to businesses, individuals and families by looking at the bigger picture to get the right solution.

Call to Action: Contact me for a consultation or assistance with an immigration matter. Or read more of our blogs.

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