The novel “Coronavirus” has now spread to over 50 countries internationally and certain countries are taking immigration-related measures to attempt to control or slow the outbreak of the virus. The Coronavirus is affecting the ability for people to travel around the globe for business or work purposes, especially those requiring immigration permissions to enter their intended country of travel. This information is quickly changing as more countries start to develop their own in-country immigration policy restrictions and guidance.
The United States has issued a directive temporarily barring foreigners from entering the United States if they have been to China within the last 14 days. Exceptions have been made for immediate family members of US nationals and permanent residents. Hong Kong and Macau, however, are excluded from the travel ban. The US consulates in China are currently not processing any visa applications.
The UK Government has imposed significant restrictions between the UK and China with many commercial flights to China being suspended. In response to the heightened security measures, employers should forbid work-related travel to China. Employers/sponsors are not required to report absences nor withdraw sponsorship for extended absences stemming from the Coronavirus as it is considered an exceptional circumstance.
In response to the virus outbreak, Visa Application Centers (VAC) operated in China, through VFS, are closed until further notice. Thus, foreigners seeking to enter the UK from China may find it impossible to attend interviews to apply for their visas.
It has been reported that the closed VAC’s hold several individuals’ passports despite their offices being closed. Individuals with passports currently being held at a VAC should contact the authorities, and or, their respective consular authorities to obtain an emergency travel document.
The Home Office issued guidance which indicates that Chinese nationals who are in the UK with upcoming visa expiration dates between now through March 30, 2020 will receive an automatic extension on their visas through March 31, 2020. Depending on the status of the Coronavirus, the extension policy may be revised.
The UK government has advised that foreigners who have returned from the Wuhan or Hubei provinces in China should self-quarantine for 14 days even if they do not show any symptoms of illness. Foreigners who have traveled from other Chinese provinces are advised to closely monitor their heath. Employers who have employees to whom the above directives apply should prevent them from going into work until after the 14 days, and, until after their symptoms subside.
The Singaporean Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has issued an advisory to abandon all travel plans to the Hubei province in China and also to only travel to Mainland China on very selected circumstances.
As of January 31, 2020, until further notice, MOM will reject all new Employment Pass applications (or any work permit applications) for applicants from China. Renewal applications, however, will remain unaffected.
As of February 18, 2020, foreign employees who have traveled to China within the last 14 days from their arrival to Singapore are required to obtain MOM’s pre-approval. Employers are required to submit the online form at least 3 days before the intended date of arrival. The foreign employee must have the approval letter at the time of entering Singapore.
Work Permit holders who successfully enter Singapore from China will be issued a 14-day Stay Home Notice (SHN) where they must self-quarantine themselves at their place of residence. During this time, work permit eligible employees who have work permits approved, but must complete the immigration work permit pass process, may not proceed with finalizing their processes until after the 14-day period ends.
MOM will be enforcing strict penalties against employers who attempt to circumvent the above procedures.
The Indian authorities issued a directive which restricts any Chinese nationals and foreigners traveling from China to enter India through March 2020. The restrictions apply at all ports of entry, including, air, land, seaport, and land borders with Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.
Effective immediately, the Indian government has suspended all existing issued visas issued to Chinese passport holders (both regular sticker visas, as well as e-visas), issued prior to February 05, 2020. Any hardship concerns should be brought up to the Indian embassy in Beijing, or consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou for a new visa. This specific policy does not apply to other foreign nationals entering India from China.
The Israeli authorities have closed land crossings, seaports, and airports to arrivals from China, except to permanent residents and Israeli nationals, who must self-quarantine themselves for 14-days if arriving from China.
More recently, Israel has extended the ban to foreigners entering Israel from Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.
The Vietnamese Embassy in China has stopped issuing all types of visas (Tourist, business, and work) to Chinese nationals and to all other foreign nationals applying for visas in China. Foreign nationals applying for a visa-on-arrival, must have a pre-approval letter and establish they are not coming from China, Hong Kong, or Macau.
The Japanese government (GOJ) has issued a directive which has banned people who have been infected with the Coronavirus from entering the country. As of February 18, 2020, any foreigner who has traveled to China in the last 14 days from the date of entry into Japan, and foreigners who have a Chinese passport issued in the provinces of Hubei and Zhejiang, will not be allowed entry except in special circumstances.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT), has issued a notice to not travel to China. They have issued a directive that Foreign Nationals who are in China will not be granted entry to Australia until 14 days after they have left China.
Australian permanent residents and citizens, as well as their immediate family, will still be allowed to enter China.
The Czech government has suspended flights to and from China and have halted the issuance of visa at Czech visa application centers. An exception to the widespread restrictions are for family members of Czech nationals who may apply for short-term Schengen visas at the consulate in Shanghai.
What Can You Do?
Graham Adair is dedicated to ensuring full employer compliance and providing the most up-to-date information on country response to the Coronavirus. Graham Adair continues to closely monitor global trends and policies for several countries across the globe, since this situation is ongoing, please note that information may change. Please do not hesitate to contact us for any information or with any concerns.