Advice Archives - foXnoMad

Category: Advice

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

airport terminal

Please note the situation is changing daily and the information below may be out of date by the time you’re reading it.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.

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’s Facebook 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.

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.

Should You Cancel Your Travel Plans Because Of Coronavirus?

The travel restrictions, bans, and other disruptions are changing rapidly – since I uploaded the video above a number of new safety measures have been put into place. It’s best to check your local government updates as well as news about your destination for the latest developments.

Here’s how to handle your travel plans over the next 45 days and what to do about planned travel soon after that.

What If You Have Travel Plans Confirmed?

A lot depends on where you’re going, how long, for what reasons (e.g. recreational) as well as whether or not you fall into any of the high-risk groups for a severe case of coronavirus (COVID-19). Additionally, if you have regular contact with anyone in the high-risk groups, you should take this into account as well.

london train station

The information here isn’t about the medial implications of traveling (the World Health Organization has a good primer) but how to handle your travel plans. If you have international travel planned between now and April 15th for recreational purposes all things considered, you should probably cancel or delay your trip.

Many international and domestic corona-related restrictions in place right now are set to be reevaluated over the next 2-4 weeks. Given the uncertainly plus widespread cancellation of many events, the sooner you move to cancel the better.

How To Handle A Cancellation

Flights purchased through a booking engine are the first place to begin. You’ll want to process a refund there first – make sure you’re detailed as to why you’re not flying (e.g. more than just saying “corona”) – and see if you can get a refund or voucher for future travel. Additionally, you may want to get in touch with the airline directly as well as your travel insurance provider for other options.

What About Those Great Travel Deals? (Next 45 Days)

Most travel insurers are no longer covering corona-related claims after early March, so it’s a massive risk you’ll lose money, arrive to a lock down, or otherwise have your vacation plans vaporize. Attempting international travel plans before the end of April is likely not to go smoothly, so plan any trips for after the next 45 days or so (May 15th) to be safe.

For those of you with planned (i.e. booked) travel between April 15th and May 15th, it’s best to keep those plans as the middle of April is when a major reassessment but governments and the travel industry is likely. We’ll all have a better idea of what the summer travel seasons looks like then, with hopefully better news.

What Is It Like Traveling In Pakistan?

The first thing you think of when it comes to Pakistan probably isn’t tourism but recently developments have tripled visitors since 2018. It’s not now and won’t be mainstream any time soon which makes it a very interesting place to visit for a certain type of traveler.

Tourism Infrastructure

Pakistan has a fairly developed tourism infrastructure. It’s easy and inexpensive to fly within the country and the buses are the most luxurious I’ve come across anywhere. There’s a solid middle-tier of hotels, Uber (and local Careem) ride sharing, plus a variety of food from street vendors to hipster burger joints.

karachi burns road

Like a lot of the country, there’s a broad blend across the tourism infrastructure. It’s not so developed that anyone can just pop in and hop a bus from Islamabad to Lahore. For travelers with a bit of experience who don’t mind a few rough edges in their journeys it will only add to the charm.

What Would You See? Do?

As the 33rd largest country in the world, the long shape of Pakistan makes it home to a variety of geographical zones. The second highest mountain, K2, can be found in the Karakoram mountain range in the north. Geographical diversity often means cultural diversity, with Tajikistan, China, and Afghanistan’s influences in the mountains, Punjab on the eastern border, with Karachi’s hot blend of spice and sea.

pakistan curries

In addition to the natural wonders, there are historical sites like Lahore Fort built half a millennia ago. And across all of it, there are hardly any tourists visiting. For adventurous travelers, that’s a plus; less experienced tourists might find that off-putting. It’s really the story of visiting Pakistan right now.

Safety Elephant In The Room

We know the reason few people are visiting – concerns about safety. In 2014, a terrorist attack on a military school prompted the government (with mass public support) to begin a campaign against terrorism. The following two years resulted in the deaths of 4,000 terrorists and since then, terrorism-related deaths have decreased dramatically.

karachi pakistan

“From 12,000 deaths in 2009 (32 per day), the number declined by 87 percent by 2017 and continues to do so. In 2019, fewer than 300 people were killed in terrorist attacks nationwide.” – Vice

Where that leaves Pakistan today is on the cusp. Having eliminated, so far, one of the primary deterrents for people to consider Pakistan a tourist destination, the first wave of travel first adopters is arriving. Backpackers, adventurers, and us blogger types are enjoying Pakistan on the cusp.

Pakistan’s reputation hasn’t recovered nor the infrastructure developed enough to attract casual visitors. On the flip side, it’s got more than enough in place to make it a unique, inexpensive, and relatively easy place to visit for someone with travel experience and inclination.

It’s too soon to tell if Pakistan will continue to improve the areas important for tourism – security, infrastructure, reputation. At this moment however if what you’ve read so far has you very curious, Pakistan might be a good candidate for your next destination.

5 Things Tourists Do To Offend Locals And How To Avoid Them

kathmandu monkey temple

Travelers don’t usually want to offend the people living in the places they’re visiting but despite your best intentions it’s possible to piss off the locals without meaning to. As travelers, it’s often the things you don’t do that can get you into trouble and make you feel more like an invader than a tourist.

You don’t want to leave your new favorite city or country feeling guilty about being an unintentional jerk. Fortunately these mistakes made by travelers novice and experienced alike are easy to avoid if you keep a few things in mind.

1. Neglecting to Learn the Local Customs

beirut lebanon

Most seasoned travelers figure they’ll just pick up the culture through observation as they go along. While you don’t need to take an anthropology course before venturing to a new place, brush up on the local faux pas. Know the basics like not putting your feet up in front of others in some places, the difference between “peace” and this, or throwing the OK sign in Brazil for example.

2. Criticizing Home

sydney australia

Going to other countries and saying how much you hate where you came from without a good word to say is a quick way to get under some peoples’ skin. Some travelers think they’ll endear themselves to the locals, especially if they’re not as well off as you, but that can make you sound demeaning, spoiled, or blind to the realities around you. If you don’t appreciate where you are from it’s hard to appreciate where you’re going.

3. Bringing Up Sensitive History

wagah border ceremony

Learning more about a nation’s history is a good way to learn about a culture before you encounter it yet doesn’t mean locals interpret events as you’ve read them. It’s best to listen to the locals talk about war, politics, and national figures as they bring it up rather than dictate. Use your best judgement when asked your opinions but be mindful of local sensitivities and remember expressing some views (for locals and foreigners alike) may even be dangerous depending where you’re traveling.

4. Not Going Along With It

scottish highlands

One of the best ways to adapt to a culture is to immerse yourself in it and go with the flow. Don’t resist bargaining, thinking it’s only done when someone is trying to rip you off, or get upset by varying personal space around the world. Being invited to someone’s home for a meal is a gesture of respect anywhere in the world, be sure to take a bite of all the food. Going along with the flow begins with what I mentioned in above: knowing what the customs are to go with the flow to.

5. Assuming It’s All The Same

red rock canyon

A surefire way to piss off a local is to say that their (country, culture, people, etc.) are “basically the same” as somewhere else. The more you travel the more you realize how similar we all are – still the Norwegians aren’t just Swedes living in a different country. Customs also differ regardless of physical distances; don’t assume a nearby town is as liberal as the beach resort you are staying at so dress and act appropriately.

Other Potential Offenders

  • Not knowing any of the local language – This varies but a traveler should always learn these 6 basic words: hello, goodbye, please, thank you, yes, no. Here’s one of the fastest ways to catch up on the local tongue.
  • Treating locals like 2nd class citizens of their own country – Don’t talk down to anyone or be the all-knowing traveler.
  • Not trying some of the local cuisineYuck, gah, gross, and reactions like these at first sight or smell limit your experience as a traveler as well as offend. Give it a try, you might like it.

Don’t Get Offended Yourself

In every new place you visit there will be customs you are unaccustomed to, individuals who give the locals a bad name, and travelers who’ve made these mistakes above potentially giving you a bad name! If you’ve done your basic research and committed yourself to immersing just a bit while respecting the locals, you won’t be likely to offend anyone. Some rules that apply globally: be kind, thoughtful, and open-minded.

Best of all you’ll end up being a good ambassador for other travelers but your fellow compatriots back home as well.

This is an updated version of a post I originally shared for a now-defunct travel blog in 2009.

How Long It Takes To Get To The New Istanbul Airport

Getting to and from different parts of Turkey’s largest city to the new Istanbul Airport (IST) isn’t as convenient as it was from the former major airport in town. Planning a visit through IST is a lot easier though when you know how to get there and the time it takes to do so.

You can see the best times to get to Istanbul Airport in the video above or read on.

Timing

Traffic in Istanbul could be called punishment instead since most of the time that’s what it feels like. However, if you’re fortunate enough to have a flight in the late evening or early morning hours (10pm-7am) a ride from the European side of the city to Istanbul Airport will take roughly 30-45 minutes with a taxi. From the Asian side, add an extra hour to be absolutely sure you’ll make it to the airport on time.

ortakoy mosque istanbul

For all other hours of the day, add an extra hour of drive time to get to the airport. You may get lucky with traffic but to be absolutely sure, those are the minimum amount of times you’ll need just to get to IST.

Once There

Keep in mind at IST you’ll go through security before entering the airport, then after passport control, with a third check likely before your gate. Checking in as well, plus the security checks is a 45 minute process at non-peak hours – at all other times add an hour to this.

Adding it all up at non-peak traffic hours, you can comfortably leave for IST Airport 2.5 hours before your flight from the European side, 3.5 hours from the Asian side. During most of the day though you’ll have to add an hour to both times. So, if you’re flight is at 4pm, from the European side you’ll want to leave around 12:30pm. From the Asian side, 12pm is a safe bet.

Ride And Security

You almost never need to arrive at an airport 3 hours before your flight, two is usually sufficient. That’s the case at IST as well, but since traffic and the added security checks can take a while, calculate so you’re walking through the front door 2 hours before takeoff. Besides, if you get there early, you can enjoy using the free wifi with this hack.

How To Spend 72 Hours In Berlin: Quick Guide To Food, Booze, And Art

berlin street food

There’s a lot to do and see in Berlin, Germany but even better more to eat and drink. You can take in Berlin through many senses so here’s how to touch upon each one if you’ve only got a short time in Germany’s capital city.

Start Early Checkpoint Charlie

Before you immediately click away (I see you Berliner) – a lot of people want to see Checkpoint Charlie. Walking around this area is hard to avoid so it can be done anytime yet if you want to enter the decent museum, arrive before they open. Crowds are terrible, lines worse, plus you don’t have much time to get to everything else.

brandenburg gate

While you’re nearby Checkpoint Charlie both the Brandenburg Gate (ready for your Instagram selfies) and Holocaust Museum (read if you’re considering) are roughly a 20 minute walk away.

Getting Around In Berlin

If an hour of walking sounds nice, it’s about the time you’ll need to get most anywhere from the center of town. Otherwise you’ve got bike rentals everywhere, Uber’s JUMP bikes with a small electric engine, plus scooter options as well. Travelers who prefer getting around by car, it’s best to hail a cab from the road (or use MyTaxi app versus Uber) since it’s less expensive and cabbies are fairly honest in Berlin.

berlin art

Back To Lunch

At this point, you’re probably getting hungry. From the Brandenburg Gate, you can focus on the north part of the city. Oslo Cafe has good coffee roughly 30 minutes walking distance with some bakery snacks. On Sundays, add the Arkonaplatz Market to your list, there’s plenty of shopping and street food to choose from. Any other day of the week, arrive on an empty stomach to Holy Everest one of the best restaurants in Berlin.

holy everest berlin

As the day draws to a close you might be wondering where to grab a drink before dinner. Hop a cab to either Bateau Ivre for a louder environment whereas Cafe Luzia is a bit more relaxed – both are moderately priced; located in Kreuzberg.

Late Morning Food To Art

Ideally, you’re doing this plan on a Thursday. Around noon, you can enjoy lunch at Kopps, one of the best vegan restaurants anywhere most people will enjoy. Right next to it is Koppenplatz, a small park often with live music during the warm-ish months. Once refueled, it’s a 45 minute walk to East Side Gallery, the largest open-air gallery in the world. East Side Gallery features murals along stretches of the Berlin Wall; excellent for photographs or a nice stroll to digest lunch.

berlin sunset

Try to time it so you get to Oberbaumbrucke Bridge 45 minutes before sunset, these are some of the best shots of the Berlin skyline during “golden hour.”

To celebrate the great sunset photo, cheers over a fancy cocktail at Apotheken. Belly warm, walk over to Markthalle Neun for Thursday night’s street food festival. Martkhalle Neun also has other food events during the weekends which vary as well.

Just A Taste

There’s plenty more to eat across Berlin, options for vegans or carnivores, not to mention Christmas markets and summer festivals. For meals across the day this video will give you breakfast, lunch, or dinner and if you would like any other recommendations, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

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