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How To Handle Visa Overstays And Issues Due To Coronavirus Travel Restrictions

Please note the situation is changing daily and the information below may be out of date by the time you’re reading it. Because of the quickly developing situation, I’ve included advice and a template you can send to the relevant embassies to get more information.

Closing borders has left people stranded worldwide and many of you, on tourist or other visas, wondering what will happen once travel is permitted again. You might be in a situation where your visa in a foreign country is or has already expired. Below is a template you can use to send to the appropriate embassies.

Template To Send Embassies

Subject: Question – Overstaying Because of COVID-19

Good afternoon,

I’m would like to know the correct procedure for travelers who will be overstaying their visas in (COUNTRY) due to travel restrictions, flight cancellations, and border closings related to COVID-19.

What must be done on our side to make sure we are following the rules in these extreme circumstances?

I would really appreciate if you could point me in the right direction as soon as possible.

Thank you in advance.

This template was highly successful in getting prompt replies from many embassies. Additionally, many nations have already posted or replied back to me with their current procedures. Please be sure to verify anything posted below, it is posted only for informational purposes.

European Union (EU)

In Chapter V Article 33 of the EU Visa Code regarding Extensions, the following is applicable:

The period of validity and/or the duration of stay of an issued visa shall be extended where the competent authority of a Member State considers that a visa holder has provided proof of force majeure or humanitarian reasons preventing him from leaving the territory of the Member States before the expiry of the period of validity of or the duration of stay authorised by the visa. Such an extension shall be granted free of charge.

The global pandemic falls under force majeure and visa extension fees have been waived. Get in touch with the embassy of the EU/Schengen country you are currently in to apply for an extension if you are worried about overstaying. Currently, 90 extensions are being issued in most cases for Schengen tourist visas.

buckingham palace

United Kingdom (UK)

The latest information can be found here.

If you’re in the UK and your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020

Your visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

You must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) to update your records if your visa is expiring.

You should provide:

  • your full name (include any middle names)
  • date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
  • nationality
  • your previous visa reference number
  • why you can’t go back to your home country, for example if the border has closed

We’ll let you know when your request is received and when your visa has been extended.

u.s. capitol building

United States (US)

Tourist Visas:

Note that the expiration date on a U.S. visa does not determine how long one can be in the United States.  The way to confirm one’s required departure date is here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home.

Those who need to extend their stay must apply with USCIS.  Their website is here:  https://www.uscis.gov/visit-united-states/extend-your-stay.

Non-Tourist Visas:

Please refer to ECA communication dated February 7, 2020, for guidance, specifically the section on exchange visitors currently inside the United States. Sponsors and their exchange visitors are also encouraged to review the following USCIS website detailing special situations for extensions and change of visa status, including those individuals subject to INA 212(e): Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement. Go to: https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/special-situations and https://www.uscis.gov/visit-united-states/extend-your-stay.

China

Latest updates here.

The National Immigration Administration has rolled out special measures to facilitate foreigners’ stay in China as well as their arrivals and departures amid the battle against the COVID-19 outbreak.

With no need of a separate application, foreigners in China will have their stay or residence permits extended automatically for two months during the epidemic period, Liu Haitao, an official with the administration, said on March 1 at a news conference in Beijing.

Immigration offices nationwide will issue urgent exit and entry permits within 24 fours for those coming to China for anti-COVID-19 missions, including medical assistance, drug development and academic exchanges, Liu said.

They could also apply for a special visa at Chinese ports of entry if their journey is made on too short a notice, he added.

Like Chinese citizens, foreign residents in China can file applications online and have documents delivered to their homes after the issuance, Liu said.

Australia

The latest can be found here.

I have a Visitor visa or Electronic Travel Authority (ETA)

International tourists should return to their home country as quickly as possible, particularly those without family support.

If you cannot depart Australia as planned, check your permitted stay period, visa expiry date and visa conditions to make sure you remain lawful in Australia.

You can check your visa details in VEVO, the myVEVO app, in your visa grant letter or your ImmiAccount. You can check your ETA expiry and conditions through our Check an ETA service.

Under Australian migration law, it is not possible to extend a visitor visa or ETA. You must apply for a new visa before your current visa expires. You can apply to remain in Australia as a visitor unless you are eligible to workstudy or join family in Australia.

When you apply for a new visa, you may be granted a bridging visa that will keep you lawful in Australia until a decision is made on your visa application.

If your visa has already expired, see don’t hold a visa.

South Africa

The latest announcements can be found here.

Any foreign national who is already present in the Republic and originates from a country which is affected by the COVID-19 outbreak or who, in order to reach such destination of origin needs to transit a country which is affected by COVID-19, and whose temporary residence visa is due to expire or has already expired, will be allowed to re-apply for such a visa provided they meet all the prescribed requirements. Visas valid until 31 July 2020 may be issued to such applicants.

Any foreign national who originates from a country which is affected by the COVID-19 outbreak or who, in order to reach such a destination of origin needs to transit a country which is affected by the COVID-19, and who is the holder of a temporary visa which expired since 01 December 2019 and those which will be expiring up to 31 March 2020 will be allowed to re-apply for such a visa without the need to first obtain FORM 20 (Authorisation for an illegal foreigner to remain in the country pending an application for status)

These are temporary measures and is applicable until further notice.

Thailand

The latest information can be found here. New rules and restrictions for all travelers as of March 22nd.

There is a provision (clause 2.28) in the current Immigration Order 327/2557 concerning the extension of stays that allows immigration to give 30-day extension “based on embassy request”. If you have exhausted all possible extensions of your entry stamp, you may use this embassy letter to extend your stay in Thailand due to travel restrictions in your country or due to the cancellation of the flight. This extension is applicable to any type of entry stamp (visa on arrival, visa exemption, tourist visa or non-immigrant visa). You need to contact your embassy in Thailand if they are able to issue the letter. It is also good to note that some immigration offices may issue the extension without the embassy letter as long as you are able to show proof of cancellation of your flight.

Note: All nationalities currently holding a 60-day tourist visa can still obtain a 30-day visa extension just like before. All nationalities under the visa exemption scheme currently holding 30-day entry stamp are still able to extend for 30 days at the local immigration office, just like before.

Taiwan

The latest announcement:

Automatic 30-day extension for foreigners entering Taiwan on or before March 21 with visa waiver, visitor visa, or landing visa (no application is required) (overstayers excepted).

Mexico

The latest here.

The period of stay allowed will not be more than 180 days, at the end of which you must leave the country by any means because said immigration status does not allow you extend the period of stay in the country or change the condition of stay. Due to the foregoing, and because the Mexican immigration authority has not restricted departures from the country, it must foresee their departure from national territory by another means of transportation available or other than by air in the event of cancellation of the service. It will also be convenient to contact your embassy or consular representation in Mexico in order to obtain the corresponding assistance for your return. Greetings.

Turkey

There has been no general announcement made, so far it seems decisions are being made on a country to country basis. Here’s the latest for U.S. citizens. The current recommendation being made is:

The Government of Turkey announced that due to COVID-19, they are extending visa validity for tourists in Turkey, who cannot leave due to international flight suspension.

That said, we have been sending information on existing flights. Please consider taking a limited commercial option – such as a flight to Doha, Qatar, on Qatar airways, which has connection options to the United States. As long as you purchase a ticket with connections to the United States as your ultimate destination, you will be allowed to board your flight from Istanbul.

We recommend you drive to Istanbul, and take existing flight options out, before commercial flight options disappear.

Turkey (cont.) – Information For Australians

If you are not already, we highly recommend that you monitor the Australian Embassy in Turkey’sFacebook page, Twitter (@AusAmbTurkey) and webpage. For urgent consular assistance, please call our 24 hour Emergency Call Centre in Australia on +61 2 6261 3305.

Visas

We acknowledge that it’s difficult to get the correct advice on extending your visa in Turkey. At this stage, we have not been informed that Turkey will be automatically extending its visas for foreign citizens still in the country as a result of COVID-19. To get an extension, you should try to make contact with local authorities as your first point of call. If you’re still not sure who to contact or how to get an extension, we recommend that you contact the Australian Embassy in Turkey by email on [email protected].

You can also subscribe to updates from Smartraveller for changes to the situation in Turkey.

Jamaica

Visa extension applications are only being accepted by appointment – the best contact email address to use is: [email protected]

Updates Incoming

This page will be updated as new information comes in but with this being a developing, global crisis it won’t be possible to post all the information here. Check through to the links however for more information, I’ll be sure to keep adding and updating those as frequently as possible.

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