Visa and immigration during COVID -19
Frequently asked questions and guidance to help support you and your teams at this time.
Border closures and travel restrictions have never been witnessed on this global scale before. Even countries who would usually operate relatively loose border controls, have tightened regulations and closed their borders. This has understandably and unavoidably affected the way we live, the way we work, and the way we move around the globe. With these changes comes a new set of global challenges regarding visas and immigration.
The K2 Corporate Mobility immigration team is working to ensure a free flow of information regarding how these global border closures are affecting our clients and their employees. Therefore, we have compiled a number of the most frequently asked questions that we are asked, as well as our tips when thinking of immigration in these times. This is to ensure that you have the most up to date information.
In case you have any outstanding questions on anything immigration related, you are welcome reach out to K2, we would be happy to assist you.
Q. What should employers do to stay on top of the current situation?
As an employer, it is important that decisions are made with all the correct information taken into consideration. This is crucial to be able to make a calculated, rational decision on how to proceed.
To achieve this, we recommend that you stay in close contact with your employees and constantly review the status of their location, making sure you know how they may be affected by the updates to travel restrictions globally.
Based on knowing where the employees are, you can make further strategies of how they may or may not continue their work, based on their location. It is also important to note what type of visa conditions are applicable if your employees are stuck abroad. Make sure your employees are supported as much as possible, especially if they are stuck overseas without being able to travel to their country of residence.
We also recommend that employers make sure that their company’s business travel policy is in line with the changing government regulations now put in place. By doing this, you can also make sure that the different quarantine regulations are adhered to globally.
Q. We have employees and/or visitors abroad trying to enter the country, is it possible to travel?
At this point, travel restrictions must be considered on an individual basis. It is still possible to travel between some countries and flights may still be available, however there are some borders that are completely closed. The situation and status of countries keeps changing very rapidly.
As a first step, it is important to look at the background of each individual case. Some countries currently only allow citizens and permanent residents to travel to and enter their countries. For example, this is the case in the Unites Arab Emirates and Australia (at the time of writing). This means that foreigners holding valid visas are unable to travel into these countries, until the travel restriction bans are lifted.
Q. Are work permit/visa holders allowed to travel back to their country of residence?
This is currently a hot topic globally, as many countries rely on a foreign workforce. However, it is up to the national governments of each nation to determine who they will allow entry to. For this reason, we find a number of different pathways taken by countries; there is not a global response or guideline that will apply to all work permit/ visa holders.
For example, some countries are allowing residents who live and work in country, to return, although the employee must prove that they hold a valid residence. Sweden and Germany are examples of countries who currently have regulations such as this (at time of writing).
In France, only citizens can enter without restrictions. Permanent residence holders and persons having their principal residence in France may enter but supporting documents must be provided to prove that they are long-term residents in France. Anyone entering France, including citizens, need to provide an international travel certificate proving the purpose of the travel in order to be allowed to enter.
Another approach used by for example in Brazil, USA and Japan, is to restrict entry based on travel history.
Other countries, like Singapore, have taken a different approach, where employees are only permitted to re-enter Singapore if they work in essential industries, such as healthcare.
Alternatively, countries such as Australia, China and Argentina are not allowing any foreign work visa holder to enter the country.
For countries where entry is still possible for residence permit/visa holders, mandatory quarantines and health checks might also apply depending on travel history.
As such, entry restrictions for those who hold a work permit or visa permit, need to be reviewed on a case by case basis, and the numerous exceptions in each country need to be considered.
Q. Does working from home impact any visa regulations?
Generally speaking, visa regulations are not impacted if an employee wants to work from home/ remotely. In fact, most governments recommend remote working where possible given the current situation.
Q. Unfortunately, we have been required to lay off workers, what is the time frame before they will be required to leave the country or find a new employer?
This should always be checked on a country by country basis. Australia for example allows for someone to find a new position within 60 days. In Sweden the employee has 90 days to find a new job. Whereas employees in Singapore will only get 30 days to find a new employer or leave the country.
We understand that this makes it difficult for foreign employees, especially as some of them may not be able to leave due to travel restrictions. Governments around the world are now trying to find ways of dealing with foreign nationals overstaying their visa validity periods.
Q. Is it possible to renew visas and what happens with processing times for visa renewals?
Generally, on a global level, it is still possible to renew visas and/or work permits for employees already working in a country. However, processing times have in many cases been greatly affected due to lockdowns where government employees are also working from home or have been put on leave.
We are here to help in any way we can
Should you need any additional information, consultation, or guidance around visa regulations and/or global immigration, please do contact us as we would be delighted to assist you.
Additionally, if you would like to have a virtual coffee with any of our immigration experts, please let us know as we would be happy to arrange this.
To get in contact with a member of our dedicated immigration team, please email firstname.lastname@example.org