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CORONAVIRUS: Travel and Immigration Disruption [UPDATED 25 February 2020]

China and many other countries have implemented restrictions on entry and exit, visa and work permit issuance, closed ports, tightened quarantine rules and taken other measures in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus. These restrictions may affect international business travel and assignment plans.

China

  • At present, except for the closure of the exit channel at Wuhan ports, all port visa agencies are operating as usual. Visa-free transit for foreigners is still effective, and all land, sea and air ports of China are functioning.
  • Foreign and mainland Chinese nationals can enter or exit as usual with their valid international travel documents, although many other countries have adopted entry restrictions for travellers from mainland China (see below).
  • Foreign nationals going to China to work are highly encouraged to enter with a Z (work) visa after having obtained the notification letter of work permit, rather than trying to obtain the notification letter of work permit while in China on a business (M) or tourist (L) visa. Those who fail to enter China within the validity of their Z visa due to the coronavirus are allowed to enter China with another type of visa. The Chinese employer should provide an explanation statement in support of the use of an alternative visa.
  • Chinese immigration authorities will exempt foreign nationals whose temporary visas or residence permits expire during this period of disruption from penalties, or impose lighter penalties, depending on the circumstances. Newland Chase’s team in China is available to provide guidance and assistance with renewals and de-registration.
  • Most immigration offices in China have reopened as of 4 February, and the Wuhan authorities are due to resume work on 14 February. Holders of valid endorsements to Hong Kong, Macao or Taiwan who are affected by the epidemic and fail to enter the above places within the validity period can re-apply for certificates of the same type and validity period for free when the outbreak is over.
  • In Shanghai, foreign nationals whose visas/stays/residence permits/passports expired within the past 10 days – including those whose employment in China ended – may visit the local immigration authorities to file their visa, stay, or residence permit extensions immediately after 10 February. Foreigners who fail to renew their work permit on time due to the epidemic outbreak are allowed to file for the renewal application within three months of the expiry date of the work permit.
  • Shanghai immigration authorities require applicants who have entered Shanghai directly to conduct a 7-day self-isolation, and those who have entered Shanghai via another Chinese city to undergo a 14-day self-isolation, before taking their visa interview.
  • Shanghai labour authorities have suspended the submission of physical documents for work permit applications (including initial, renewal, transfer, and cancellation). Instead, all applications will be processed online only during this period, with a commitment letter provided by the Chinese employer. The commitment letter should affirm the authenticity and validity of their online submission and original documents should be kept for further check. A similar online practice has been adopted in other regions in China, such as Beijing, Zhejiang and Guangdong.
  • Foreign nationals are advised not to attempt to return to or enter Shanghai from Hubei and other affected provinces. If they do so, and are successful, they will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • The Shanghai International travel Medical Center, and the equivalent authorities in other cities, have the discretionary power to permit or refuse foreign nationals to undergo a medical examination based on their entry, residence, travel and other documents.
  • In Beijing, immigration authorities are asking all foreign nationals and Chinese citizens to hold off submitting their visa/stay/residence permit applications in person if it is not urgent. Those who require urgent assistance with applications are encouraged to make appointment reservations in advance. As mentioned above, Beijing has adopted an online submission and commitment letter process for work permit renewals and cancelations.
  • In Shenzhen, immigration authorities have opened green channels for expedited applications for emergencies and urgent requests. The authorities have also implemented other convenient measures to facilitate visa applications for those remaining in Shenzhen during this outbreak period.
  • On 23 January, the government of Wuhan in Hubei province suspended all public transport and cancelled rail and air departures from the city. Hundreds of flights to and from Wuhan were cancelled. The travel ban has since been extended to several other cities in Hubei province.

Australia

  • The Australian government has banned the entry of all travellers, regardless of nationality, arriving from any part of mainland China, who departed or transited China since 1 February. Exceptions apply to citizens and permanent residents of Australia and their immediate family members.
  • Citizens and permanent residents of Australia and their immediate family members who enter Australia and who have been in mainland China will be required to self-isolate for 14 days from the time they left mainland China.
  • Temporary visa holders who are ineligible for entry into Australia under these measures will have their visa cancelled. Arrangements will be made to reinstate visas as appropriate following the lifting of these enhanced border control measures.

Hong Kong

  • The government has asked most civil servants to stay at home and most immigration services remain suspended until at least Sunday 9 February. During this period, new applications cannot be submitted and approved entry visas cannot be collected.
  • The government has also taken measures to limit travel between Hong Kong and the mainland, including the suspension of new visas to individual mainland tourists, closing borders, halving the number of flights to and from mainland China, suspending the MTR’s intercity services, and closing West Kowloon station, which serves the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link. All but two land crossings with the Mainland have been closed - only the bridges to Zhuhai and Macau, the bridge to Shenzhen, and the airport remain open.
  • Residents of Hubei, and anyone who has visited Hubei in the last 14 days, have been banned from entry to Hong Kong.
  • Effective 25 February, non-Hong Kong residents travelling from Korea and those who have been to the country in the past 14 days will be barred from entering Hong Kong. Hong Kong residents, while exempt from this ban, must quarantine for 14 days if they have been in the South Korea’s two most infected areas.

India

  • As of 4 February, existing Indian visas of all Chinese nationals and other foreign nationals who are either based out of China or who have visited China in the last two weeks are cancelled.
  • India has closed its e-visa services to all holders of Chinese passports and applicants of other nationalities residing in China, including those to whom e-visas have already been issued.

Indonesia

  • Effective 5 February, Indonesia has temporarily banned entry and the issuance of any visas on arrival, visa exemptions, limited stay visas or visit visas for anyone of any nationality who has been in China in the 14 days preceding the date of entry into Indonesia,
  • The Ministry of Manpower has unofficially confirmed that they will not accept any new work permit applications from Chinese citizens. Work permit renewals are not affected.
  • All flights to and from China have also been suspended.

Israel

  • Israel has banned the entry of non-Israeli nationals who have visited China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.

Japan

  • Japan has banned entry to travelers confirmed to be infected with coronavirus, holders of passports issued in Hubei province and any foreign nationals who have visited Hubei in the previous 14 days.
  • Effective 11 February these restrictions are extended to holders of passports issued in Zhejiang province and to any foreign nationals who have visited Zhejiang in the previous 14 days.

Macao

  • Macao has suspended entry for non-residents from Hubei province and those who have visited Hubei in the last 14 days, unless proof of non-infection is provided.
  • Travellers from Hubei already in China can stay but must enter quarantine.

Malaysia

  • The government has put on hold the issuance of all types of entry visa, work permit and dependent permit from passports issued in Hubei, Zhejiang, Jiangsu and other nearby provinces.
  • The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and the MYXpats Centre of the Expatriate Services Division (ESD) have both confirmed that they will not process new applications for PRC nationals with travel documents issued from the above-mentioned locations.
  • ESD also announced that other nationalities who may have traveled to any of the above-mentioned locations within 14 days may also be imposed with similar restrictions. Renewal applications are not affected.
  • The West Malaysian authorities have suspended entry for travelers of all nationalities who have visited the affected regions of China.
  • The East Malaysian authorities have banned entry for all Chinese nationals, and to travelers of any nationality who have visited China in the last 14 days.
  • Work pass, dependant pass and long-term social visit pass holders are allowed entry but must self-quarantine for 14 days.

New Zealand

  • All foreign nationals who have departed from or transited through mainland China since 2 February will be refused entry.
  • New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members will still be able to enter NZ, but they must isolate themselves for the first 14 days of arrival.
  • The government has extended these restrictions until 24 February and is reviewing the situation every 48 hours.
  • The Immigration New Zealand (INZ) China Beijing office remains temporarily closed during this time. INZ will continue to re-route applications to other branches where possible, to minimise delays.

Philippines

  • On 14 February, the government lifted its temporary entry ban on visitors from Taiwan.
  • The government has temporarily banned the entry of any person, regardless of nationality, except Filipino citizens and holders of Permanent Resident Visa issued by the Philippine Government, directly coming from China and its Special Administrative Regions;
  • Also in place is a temporary ban on the entry of any person, regardless of nationality, except Filipino citizens and holders of Permanent Resident Visa issued by the Philippine Government, who within 14 days immediately preceding arrival in the Philippines, has been to China and its Special Administrative Regions;
  • There is a mandatory 14-day quarantine for Filipinos and Permanent Resident Visa holders coming from any place in China and its Special Administrative Regions;
  • There is also a temporary ban on Filipinos travelling to China and its Special Administrative Regions. There may be exceptions for members of government delegations conducting official duties, members of the World Health Organisation and members of other agencies involved in fighting and containing the spread of the virus.

Russia

  • Russia has closed its land borders with China to all traffic, and has also suspended the issuance of electronic visas to Chinese nationals. It has also suspended rail traffic and restricted air traffic with China
  • Effective 19 February, Russian consulates in China have temporarily suspended acceptance of applications and issuance of private, tourist and student visas to Chinese nationals. Service, business, humanitarian and transit visas may still be issued;
  • Entry of Chinese citizens under work, private, tourist and student visas is temporarily suspended from 20 February. Entry of Chinese holders of service, business, humanitarian and transit visas is not restricted;
  • The following immigration services have been suspended:
    • Issuance, extension and correction of work permits for Chinese citizens in Moscow;
    • Issuance of work visas at the Russian consulates in China;
    • Issuance of invitation letters for Chinese citizens;
    • Issuance of e-visas for Chinese citizens;
    • Issuance of tourist documents for organised tourist groups from China.
  • In Moscow, already-approved work permits are not being handed over to Chinese citizens in some cases.
  • Work visa extension and transfer applications are still being processed, until further notice.

Singapore

  • Singapore citizens and permanent residents and long-term pass holders (including Work Passes and Permits, Student Pass, Dependent Pass, Long-term Visit Pass and in-principle approval (IPA) for a Work Pass) who have visited Hubei in the last 14 days, or are holders of PRC passports issued in Hubei, and who are currently overseas, will be quarantined on arrival. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) strongly urges employers to ask these employees to defer coming into Singapore until further notice. Employers must inform MOM by 7 February that they have deferred the return of these employees, and if not, provide the reasons why not.
  • From 31 January 2020, Singapore residents and long-term pass holders (including Work Passes and Permits, Student Pass, Dependent Pass, Long-term Visit Pass and in-principle approval (IPA) for a Work Pass) who travelled to mainland China within 14 days of arrival in Singapore from the 31 January onwards must be placed on a 14-day leave of absence (LOA) from the day of their return from China. Employers must obtain and retain written acknowledgement of the LOA from these employees, and declare to MOM by 7 February that they have informed the affected foreign employees of the LOA requirement.*From 11:59pm on 18 February 2020, Singapore residents and long-term pass holders (including Work Passes and Permits, Student Pass, Dependent Pass, Long-term Visit Pass and in-principle approval (IPA) for a Work Pass) with recent travel history to mainland China within the last 14 days will be issued a 14-day Stay Home Notice (‘SHN’) upon arrival in Singapore.
  • This new Stay Home Notice (‘SHN’) scheme is stricter than the previous Leave of Absence (‘LOA’) requirements, which allowed persons to leave their homes briefly to purchases food and household supplies. Those currently serving a LOA would need to continue to serve out the remaining LOA order.
  • Employers or Employment Agents acting on behalf of the hiring company will not be allowed to proceed with the issuance of work passes for these employees during their SHN period. After the SHN, the usual procedures for issuance of work pass i.e. send workers for medical examination, fingerprinting, attend the Settling-In Programme and safety courses, may then proceed.
  • MOM will revoke the licence of any Employment Agents who encourage or assist a person to breach their SHN. If the SHN is breached, MOM will take action against the employer and the employee.
  • MOM will reject all new work pass applications for foreign workers from mainland China until further notice. Renewal applications for existing pass holders will not be affected.
  • MOM will automatically extend Short-Term Visit Passes by 14 days and, on request, extend the work pass issuance deadline.
  • Employers are advised to regularly check MOM's website and MOH's website.
  • All new visitors with recent travel history to mainland China will not be allowed to enter or transit Singapore, and holders of PRC passports issued in Hubei, will not be allowed entry into Singapore, or transit through Singapore.
  • Previously issued short-term and multiple-visit visas, as well as visa-free transit facilities, and the issuance of new visas, for all those with PRC passports, will also be suspended with immediate effect.
  • It is currently unclear whether MOM will reject those work pass applications submitted and already in progress prior to the announcement by MOM on 31 January.

South Africa

  • Chinese nationals holding Intra-Company Transfer Work Visas which are due to expire on or before 31 July 2020 may apply to change their statuses to a Visitor’s Visa in terms of section 11(1)(a) of the Immigration Act, endorsed for work in terms of section 11(2) of the said Act, subject to meeting application requirements, valid for up to 6 months (180 days); however, no change of status to any other visa category or change of conditions on the visa will be accommodated.
  • Chinese nationals holding Visitor’s Visas issued in terms of section 11(a) of the Act, which includes a holiday or business visitor, who has reached the legal maximum period of residence of 6 months in total will be allowed to apply for a new Visitor’s Visa in the same category valid for a further period of 3 months (90 days); however, no change of status to any other visa category or change of conditions on the visa will be accommodated.
  • Chinese nationals holding any Temporary Residence Visa which expired from 1 December 2019, up to and including 29 February 2020, will be allowed to submit a renewal application based on their expired visa without first having to apply to regularise their stay in the form of an ‘Authorisation for an illegal foreigner to remain in the country pending an application for status’ as contemplated in Form 20 in annexure A to the Immigration Regulations.

South Africa

  • Chinese nationals holding Intra-Company Transfer Work Visas which are due to expire on or before 31 July 2020 may apply to change their statuses to a Visitor’s Visa in terms of section 11(1)(a) of the Immigration Act, endorsed for work in terms of section 11(2) of the said Act, subject to meeting application requirements, valid for up to 6 months (180 days); however, no change of status to any other visa category or change of conditions on the visa will be accommodated.
  • Chinese nationals holding Visitor’s Visas issued in terms of section 11(a) of the Act, which includes a holiday or business visitor, who has reached the legal maximum period of residence of 6 months in total will be allowed to apply for a new Visitor’s Visa in the same category valid for a further period of 3 months (90 days); however, no change of status to any other visa category or change of conditions on the visa will be accommodated.
  • Chinese nationals holding any Temporary Residence Visa which expired from 1 December 2019, up to and including 29 February 2020, will be allowed to submit a renewal application based on their expired visa without first having to apply to regularise their stay in the form of an ‘Authorisation for an illegal foreigner to remain in the country pending an application for status’ as contemplated in Form 20 in annexure A to the Immigration Regulations.

South Korea

  • South Korea will not impose any penalty fee on foreign national visitors and residents who are coronavirus patients for exceeding the period of stay until they are recovered and officially confirmed by the medical institutions.
  • For Alien Registration Card (ARC) holders whose current ARC expiry date is in between 22 February 2020 and 29 April 2020 (both dates inclusive), their ARC expiry date has been automatically extended to 30 April 2020. This policy is applied to all visa holders except E-9 and E-10 visa holders.ARC holders who fall under this automatic extension policy do not need to visit their district immigration offices to apply for ARC extension.
  • All foreign nationals who have stayed in or visited Hubei will not be allowed entry from 4 February.
  • Chinese nationals with a Hubei-issued passport are prohibited from entering South Korea.
  • Chinese nationals who have visited Hubei in the last 14 days will not be allowed entry on the visa waiver programme.
  • All issued and effective visas issued at the Korean consulate in Hubei are temporarily suspended.
  • All Chinese citizens and foreigner nationals arriving from China are temporarily prohibited from entering Korea through Jeju Island via the visa waiver program.
  • The government has announced that all foreign nationals arriving from China must submit their mobile phone number, which will be checked before they are allowed to enter South Korea. One phone number per family with children will be checked, and all phone numbers for a group of friends. Airlines will be financially responsible for returning travellers who fail to submit working phone numbers. Phone number checking is expected to cause delays on arrival in South Korea.

Taiwan

  • Non-resident foreign nationals who have visited or resided in mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau in the past 14 days (including transit), and all Mainland Chinese, Hong Kong and Macau nationals, are temporarily banned from entry and from accessing visa and entry permit application services.
  • Non-resident foreign nationals entering Taiwan via South Korea are subject to mandatory 14-day home quarantine.
  • Foreign residents with Taiwan ARC cards, and Taiwan nationals, who have visited or resided in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau or South Korea in the previous 14 days (including transit) are subject to mandatory 14-day home quarantine after entering Taiwan.
  • Foreign nationals entering Taiwan via Thailand, Italy, Iran, Singapore and Japan will be subject to mandatory 14-days self-health management protocol.
  • Foreign nationals seeking to enter Taiwan may apply for an entry permit or visa as long as they have not visited or resided in China during the previous 14 days, subject to additional requirements. Applications submitted by those who have visited or resided in China during this period will not be accepted.
  • When applying for a visa, foreign nationals must provide additional documents, including: a full travel history for the previous 14 days; a certificate of a health check-up conducted in the previous seven days showing that the applicant does not have a fever of 38 degrees Celsius or higher and is not suffering from respiratory tract or lung infections; and a signed affidavit stipulating that the applicant shall immediately notify health authorities in Taiwan when experiencing any symptoms detailed above.
  • Applications for temporary entry stays (landing visas and online visas) and the online application system for foreigners for Hong Kong and Macau residents have been suspended.
  • In case of exceptional circumstances, Taipei Economic & Cultural Offices (TECO) abroad may accept and process applications on presentation of Entry and Exit Certification Records issued by the Hong Kong and Macau governments to prove no travel history to mainland China within the previous 14 days.
  • Hong Kong and Macau residents who obtained valid Entry and Exit documents for Taiwan before 7 February, have valid residence permits for Taiwan or are travelling to Taiwan from countries outside Hong Kong, and Macau must all be subject to 14 days of self-health management.
  • An online health declaration system will be launched to expedite the process of quarantine operations and immigration clearance upon arrival.

Thailand

  • Chinese nationals or travellers from China will be required to provide a medical certificate when applying for a Thai visa in China.
  • Thailand has not yet put in place any temporary suspension of visas on arrival for Chinese citizens, nor any relaxation of work permit or visa application or renewal deadlines for applicants unable to travel to Thailand due to the coronavirus outbreak.

United Kingdom

  • Chinese nationals in the UK who are normally resident in China and whose visas expire between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020 will have their visas automatically extended to 31 March 2020.
  • Non-Chinese and non-EEA nationals in the UK who can prove that they are normally resident in China and whose visas expire between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020 should contact the coronavirus immigration helpline to have their visas extended to 31 March 2020.
  • Chinese nationals in the UK whose leave was granted by the Irish authorities and expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 March 2020 should contact the coronavirus immigration helpline to discuss their consequences.
  • Chinese nationals in the UK on a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa who want to switch to a Tier 2 (General) visa can exceptionally apply from within the UK, instead of from China, if their visa has an expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020.
  • British nationals whose passports are at a UK Visa Application Centre (VAC) in China can apply for an emergency travel document if they need to travel urgently.
  • Chinese or third country nationals whose passports are at a UK Visa Application Centre (VAC) in China should contact the Chinese authorities or their consular representative in China to get an alternative travel document if they need to travel urgently.
  • The Home Office will not take any compliance action against Tier 4 students or Tier 2/5 employees who are unable to attend their work/studies due to the coronavirus outbreak, or against sponsors which authorise absences and continue to sponsor students or employees despite absences for this reason.

United States

  • Effective 2 February, 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.
  • Those planning trips to the United States who are resident in China, have travelled to China recently or intend to travel to China before entering the US are advised to postpone their US visa interview until 14 days after their departure from China.
  • US citizens who have been in Hubei province within 14 days of their return will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine.
  • US citizens who have been in other areas of mainland China within 14 days of their return will undergo proactive entry health screening and up to 14 days of self-quarantine with health monitoring.

Vietnam

  • Vietnamese consular posts in mainland China and Hong Kong have stopped issuing visas (tourist or business) to all Chinese nationals and all other nationalities. Until further notice, no applications will be accepted.
  • For visa on arrival (VOA) pre-approval letters, requested at the immigration dept in Vietnam, foreign nationals (other than Chinese) need to prove that they are not coming from China.
  • Chinese nationals applying for Vietnamese visas from outside China may need to provide evidence (air tickets) that their travel to Vietnam will not originate from China, Hong Kong or Macau.
  • All flights between China and Vietnam have been cancelled. There may still be limited flights from and to Hong Kong and Taiwan.
  • From 5 February, the immigration department in Hanoi will temporarily stop granting visa on arrival (VOA) pre-approval letters for work and business purposes and for dependents. Only VOA for tourism purpose will be available, provided that the traveller is not travelling from China.
  • Foreign nationals already granted pre-approval letters for VOA for work or business purpose will still receive their visa upon arrival at the airport as normal but note that Chinese nationals may not be allowed to enter Vietnam.
  • For business and work purpose and for dependents, and whatever the nationality of the traveller, the visa pre-approval letter issued by the immigration department in Hanoi will only be possible with endorsement at the Vietnamese embassies/consulates abroad until further notice.
  • The Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) immigration department has not as yet put in place similar restrictions. However, the labour department in HCMC has suspended new work permit applications and renewals or reissuing for Chinese nationals.

Elsewhere

  • United Arab Emirates will suspend all flights to and from China, apart from Beijing, from 5 February. All passengers travelling from Beijing International Airport will be required to undergo a 6-8 hour medical screening at the airport before boarding.
  • Kazakhstan has closed all transport links with China and suspended all visa on arrivals from China.
  • Sri Lanka has suspended all visa on arrivals from China.
  • Mongolia and Nepal have also closed their borders with China.

How can we help?

Newland Chase’s immigration specialists in China and the rest of the world are on standby to advise and assist employers whose staff are affected by this developing situation. Please contact us.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this immigration alert has been abridged from laws, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the applicability of this information, please contact Peregrine © 2019 Peregrine Immigration Management Ltd.