February 2021 Global Immigration Alert

Seyfarth Shaw LLP

Please note: while we address some country-specific updates related to the COVID-19 outbreak, the below contains information regarding global restrictions and closures as they stand today. Given the constantly changing nature of this situation, we highly recommend reviewing any global mobility inquiries on a case-by-case basis, including any consulate-specific or immigration authority resources, in “real-time” before traveling internationally. Please reach out to our Global Mobility Team in advance of any international travel.

 Canada - Travel Restrictions and Entry Requirements

All air passengers (five years of age or older) have been required to test negative for COVID-19 before travelling from another country to Canada.  Documentation of a negative test result must be presented to the airline prior to boarding a flight to Canada.  The test must be performed using an accepted molecular test method and must be taken within 72 hours prior to the traveler’s scheduled departure.  Travelers who have recovered from COVID-19 and are no longer infectious but continue to test positive may present a positive COVID-19 molecular test conducted between 14 and 90 days prior to departure, instead of a negative COVID-19 molecular test.  Furthermore, subject to very limited exceptions, the Government of Canada will introduce a 72-hour pre-arrival testing requirement (molecular test) for travelers seeking to enter Canada by land.

The Government of Canada has also announced that in the coming weeks all air travelers arriving in Canada, subject to very limited exceptions, must take a COVID-19 molecular test on arrival at their own cost.  They must also reserve a room at a Government of Canada-approved hotel for three nights, at their own cost, while they await the results of their COVID-19 molecular test.

In an effort to ensure compliance with Canada’s 14 day-quarantine requirement, designated screening officers will visit travelers’ quarantine locations to establish contact, confirm identity, and confirm that travelers are at the place of quarantine they identified upon entry into Canada. These officers will conduct visits in 35 cities across the country, starting in Montréal and Toronto. Cases that warrant a strong enforcement action will be referred to law enforcement for follow-up.  Traveler compliance is assessed based on information obtained by officers at the port of entry and during verification calls.  Failure to provide accurate information is an offence under Canada’s Quarantine Act and could lead to serious penalties such as prison and hefty fines.

 China - Foreign Work Permit System Verification Required

The Chinese authorities announced changes to the Foreign Work Permit system as of January 11, 2021.  Due to these changes, employers are required to re-verify their accounts in order to file work permit applications going forward.  The documentation and contact details for the company representative must be updated, in addition to the account being verified or re-activated.  This may be done through the online application system using the company representative login credentials (see here).

 EU Council - Review of Travel Restrictions

The EU Council continues to review epidemiological conditions to revise the list of countries from which travel is currently restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Recommendations are made based on COVID-19 case numbers, economic and social considerations, and reciprocity.  For the most updated list of recommendations and travel information see here.  Please note that each EU member state will implement the recommendations individually.  Due to recent surges in COVID-19 case numbers, many EU countries have implemented new quarantine and testing requirements for entry both from internal EU countries and non-EU countries.

 Hong Kong - New Quarantine Requirements Announced

Hong Kong authorities have extended quarantine requirements to a period of at least 21 days of self-isolation.  As advised by the Hong Kong Centre of Health Protection, the new compulsory quarantine requirement is applicable to all travelers, including holders of employment visas.  If a traveler has stayed outside Hong Kong in the past 21 days and is planning to travel to Hong Kong, he or she must stay at a Designated Quarantine Hotel to undergo the 21-day quarantine.  Further, if a traveler has stayed only in China (including the Mainland, Macau, and Taiwan) on the day of arrival at Hong Kong or during the 21 days before that day, he or she may not stay at a Designated Quarantine Hotel to undergo quarantine.  That traveler may stay at other hotels or his or her home to undergo 14-day quarantine.

The Chief Secretary for Administration has announced exemptions for certain essential travelers. The regulations are fairly strict and exemptions are generally only available for travelers whose presence in Hong Kong is crucial for the supply chain, COVID response efforts, or maintaining essential functions for residents of Hong Kong.  More information regarding the exemption criteria is available here.

 Singapore - Entry Requirements for Employment Pass Holders

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) continues to update guidance regarding entry requirements for Employment Pass (EP) holders traveling from abroad.  Based on where travelers have stayed in the 14 days prior to arrival, entry requirements include pre-departure COVID testing, quarantine, and post-arrival COVID testing.  In addition, please note that pass holders who departed from, transited through, or visited South Africa or the U.K. within the last 14 days are not allowed to enter Singapore until further notice.  This restriction applies even if the pass holders had obtained prior MOM entry approval.  The most updated information is available at the MOM’s website (here).

 South Africa - Visa Concessions Extended until March 31, 2021

Foreign nationals already in South Africa whose visas expired were previously able to have their visas automatically extended to January 31, 2021 in terms of the concession issued by the Department of Home Affairs due to their inability to travel during the lockdown due to COVID-19. The South African government has extended this concession so that such visa holders may automatically extend their visas further to March 31, 2021 without the need to submit a formal application.  Foreign tourists who arrived in South Africa prior to commencement of the new Regulations on January 11, 2021 will also have their visas automatically extended to March 31, 2021 without the need to submit a formal application.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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