On Sep 16 2020

What Businesses and Employees Need to Know about Global Travel during COVID-19

Until recently, the 21st century has been a period of increasing global mobility and travel. Airplane travel, once a rare luxury of the privileged or high-powered executives, has become commonplace and multinational companies have operations, employees, and financial interests spread across the globe, requiring the daily transfer of people internationally. All of this changed in the spring of 2020 when the COVID pandemic significantly curtailed global travel unlike any other time in our history. This sudden and drastic decrease in travel created challenges for businesses in moving their employees, executives, and contractors around the world. These restrictions even affect U.S. citizens, as countries shut their borders to U.S. citizens because of COVID infection rates here.

In the U.S., the coronavirus-related impediments to business immigration have been amplified by recent presidential proclamations, purportedly enacted to protect jobs in the face of the pandemic. Until December 31, 2020, U.S. entry is barred for H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and certain J-1 nonimmigrants if they were outside the United States on the effective date of the proclamation and did not hold a nonimmigrant visa in one of the relevant categories at the time, among other requirements. Immigrants are similarly barred from entering the U.S. Although there are exceptions for both nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, mainly foreign nationals working in the U.S. national interest and immediate family of U.S. citizens, the viable options for foreign nationals are largely limited to investment visas; E visas for foreign nationals from certain treaty countries and EB-5 visas for immigrant entrepreneurs investing in a U.S. business and creating jobs for U.S. workers.

If a potential traveler already held a valid work visa or can obtain a work visa in the face of these restrictions, employees and companies should also confirm that the embassy or consulate in the relevant country is currently open and accepting applications or appointments. Although embassies and consulates around the world are starting to open on a country-by-country basis, the range of services may be restricted, and wait times for appointments may be longer than usual. Workers should check the status of their local consulate and seek an expedited appointment.

Finally, individuals who are otherwise able to travel to the United States may still face entry restrictions as a result of COVID-19. The U.S. is barring foreign nationals who have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland, countries in the Schengen Area, China, or Iran, 14 days before traveling to the U.S. Exceptions are made for U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and their dependents, among other exemptions. These restrictions will remain in effect until terminated with no projected expiration.

There are similar restrictions and challenges moving employees elsewhere throughout the globe, with many countries limiting or barring entry to foreigner travels, with exceptions.

In Canada, entry is generally barred for any non-essential purpose, including tourism, and applies for those entering Canada from the United States until September 21, 2020.  Exceptions include Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and their immediate family members as well as those holding a valid work permit as well as other categories for certain workers. These exceptions only apply in cases where the person seeking entry is asymptomatic.  

Even if entry to Canada is granted, travelers are subject to a 14-day enforced quarantine, with very limited exceptions. The quarantine may take place in a residence or similar location and not required in a government facility. Travelers are also required to provide a credible quarantine plan to the border agents upon entry. The very limited exceptions to the quarantine rule include asymptotic individuals entering Canada to provide essential services.  

The United Kingdom currently has no travel restrictions, however, there is a 14-day quarantine for international travelers, with exceptions for certain countries, as well as essential business travel, among others. These other exceptions are largely related to the type of work the person would be undertaking in the U.K. and evidence of their qualification for the exemption at the time of entry into the U.K. is required Evidence would include an employer letter explaining the purpose of the trip and reason an exception would apply.

If entry is granted, travelers must provide contact information and the place they will be staying. Exceptions are in place for travelers from certain places and fines are imposed in for non-compliance or failure to provide the information requested.  

In Australia, an entry ban is in place for all non-citizens and non-residents with very limited exceptions, which include citizens, permanent residents and their families, individuals who are entering Australia at the invitation of the government to help with the COVID-19 response, individuals traveling to provide critical medical services, individuals involved in work that supports national food supply, or those whose entry would otherwise be in Australia’s national interest, among other exemptions of a similar nature. Travelers are warned not to travel until the exemption is approved and such approval should be requested no less than 14 days and not more than 3 months before entry.

If one of the limited exceptions for entry applies, all travelers arriving in Australia, including Australian citizens, are required to quarantine for 14 days at a designated facility, which may be a hotel in the place of arrival. The individual may be responsible for the cost of his or her stay in quarantine.  

France is allowing unrestricted entry for travelers from within the European Union and certain other greenlighted countries. For those outside the E.U., travel is restricted except for  French citizens and their families; French residents, citizens of other E.U. countries, individuals involved in the COVID-19 response efforts, and certain other exemptions.

If entry is granted, travelers must complete and carry a travel certificate presented before boarding and at border control. The certificate includes a legal declaration that the traveler does not have COVID-19.  There is also a 14-day quarantine requirement for travelers from certain countries or have visited certain countries, with certain other exceptions.

Although the world is slowly reopening and global travel increases, the landscape is constantly changing and differs from country to country. As such, businesses and business travelers must stay updated and aware of the restrictions and requirements they might face before travel.


The material contained in this article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.  An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation.  The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

Reprinted with permission from the September 16, 2020 edition of the The Legal Intelligencer© 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. ALMReprints.com  877-257-3382  reprints@alm.com.