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Please note the situation is changing daily and the information below may be out of date by the time you’re reading it.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

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.

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.

What 249 Gram Drones Mean For Travelers

There are a number of rules, regulations, and restrictions for flying drones around the world. Often, an important number you’ll find in many of the regulations is 250 grams, a weight used to differentiate between drone classifications. With the release of the DJI Mavic Mini specifically designed to weigh 249g, you might be wondering what it means if you travel with a drone.

There’s a lot of confusion regarding the current weight limits and not knowing the right rules could get you fined or worse. Here’s what you need to know about flying your lightweight drone.

Why 249g?

It’s important to remember that drone rules vary across the world (here’s an always up to date map, as well the mobile version), but in many United States jurisdictions and western Europe, 250 grams often marks the line between two classes of drone. Since a lot of the world has taken its drone law cues from the U.S. (one of the world’s largest drone consumers), 250 grams has become an unofficial global standard.

scottish highlands

Drones weighing more than 250 grams are usually considering amateur unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) whereas 249g and less are either a lower class of drone or classified as toys.

Rules Still Apply

One major point of confusion for a lot of people to clear up now – in most places with a 250g weight limit, drones weighing less aren’t exempt from any rules. For the most part, drones like the Mavic Mini weighing 249g don’t have to be registered, but all the other restrictions apply.

And if you think about it, that makes sense. The Mavic Mini is 249g but it can still fly above 120 meters (394 feet) which is most places is not allowed because that’s another level of flight space. You still need to maintain a visual line of sight (VLOS) in Sweden for example, since 249g or not, crashing a drone can still be dangerous to people below.

Know The Local Regulations

Drones weighing less than 249g might be able to be imported into countries where UAVs are not officially allowed but it’s important to check the specific rules that apply. As I mentioned above, this map is updated in real-time and DroneMate (Android/iOS) can put all the local laws and regulations in your pocket for offline use. It’s also worth mentioning that as drones get lighter and smaller, legislators are likely to update the rules over time to encompass the updated tech.

249g drones like the Mavic Mini make it just a little less hassle to get permission to fly a drone in some places but that’s not likely to be the case indefinitely.

How To Prevent Jet Lag (But You’re Not Going To Like It)

jet lag sucks

No matter what anyone tells you, jet lag is something you can treat but not completely avoid. Traveling in the sky fast enough to outpace our biologically imprinted circadian rhythms requires some body hacking to mitigate the effects.

You’ll still feel jet lag but less intensely for shorter durations if you subject yourself to a few uncomfortable rules.

1. Don’t Eat On The Flight

For some reasons as soon as we board a flight our appetites start fiendishly craving overly processed, tasteless airplane food. Our biological clocks are timed in big part through our livers. According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, evolution has primed our bodies to become sleepy a short time after our final meal of the day. Having airplane food high in sugar and sodium resets this countdown timer. Also, the lactose in the foods and other additives may cause even more gas than flying already does disrupting deep sleep even further.

2. Run Right After Your Flight

A solid cardio-focused workout can help speed up our body clocks adjustment to a new timezone. The impact of running in particular might have a significant impact on combating jet lag, shortening it up to 8 times in limited animal studies. Anecdotally, the best time to get the workout in is immediately after arriving to a new destination. Don’t fall for the “I’ll just rest my eyes” trap and get to a park, treadmill, or if either aren’t an option, try these hotel room workouts.

Plan for a minimum of 30 minutes or more of exercise at the highest intensity comfortable for you to get your blood thoroughly circulating. Swollen flight ankles? Running or biking is a straightforward way to treat that flight side effect as well.

3. Control The Mornings And Power Through

Sleep is not a state you can will yourself into easily but staying awake is a goal we can achieve through conscious will. No matter what time you land, try to get to sleep at a normal hours but no matter how little you sleep, get up on time in the morning. Give yourself an extra hour from your regular wake up time back home but other than that, don’t snooze. Using your bladder as an alarm clock can ensure you get out of bed, no matter how much you want 5 more minutes.

sarajevo golden hour

Use Chemicals Subtly

Caffeine can also be used in moderation to help adjust your clock as well if consumed at the right times. Caffeine drinkers, get that coffee or tea as early as possible in the morning after you wake up but don’t consume any after noon. You might be wondering about alcohol but since that drug blocks rapid eye movement (REM) and deeper stages of sleep, if you must, keep it to one drink until your jet lag is gone.

One last thing, remember that getting over jet lag takes time so maintain these habits for at least a week, depending on how many time zones you’ve shifted. In the first day or two we often have a rebound effect giving a false honeymoon period that we’ve cracked jet lag – only to realize a week later at 3am completely awake that might have been wishful thinking.

What Do You Need To Declare At The Airport?

dublin airport

We’ve all walked under those big green and red banners at airports asking if we have anything to declare. Perhaps you’re undying love for rock ballads? No, that’s not what they mean but if you’re confused about airport declarations understanding what the question means can help.

Specific Disclaimer

Most countries will hand you a declaration form or under those declaration banners, list out specific items you should declare. Essentially customs are looking for things they can tax and prohibited items for the most part. Remember that every country has different rules so remember to brush up on what’s prohibited to avoid any legal trouble.

Governments Love Taxes

Technically, you can list every single item you bought in a foreign country that you’re bringing back home with you. Practically, for stuff under a few hundred dollars, “gifts” is a reasonable description. There’s a set total number (e.g. $1000) for taxable purchases abroad which is why customs often asks how much something cost.

dji mavic drone

Many places will differentiate between unopened boxed items as well so if you are pulled aside to have your bags checked in customs, electronics in plastic will likely get you stuck with a duty (i.e. tax) to be paid. A new set of headphones around your neck however, probably not.

Prohibited Items

Some might be obvious like guns but other prohibited items often include produce, meats, and other organic materials. Invasive species and other non-native seeds can disrupt local ecosystems so most everything that’s not sealed, packaged, or canned will likely need to be declared. A wrapped box of chocolates, highly doubtful.

Cash Money

Currency (for example in the United States) over $10,000 must be declared. Not doing so can lead to customs agents confiscating nearly all of it. The idea behind these laws is to disrupt smuggling and money laundering operations. With modern banking though for most people, it’s probably better just to bring a little cash for the airport ride then use the ATM afterward. Large sums of cash are easy to lose as well so unless absolutely necessary, keep it in the bank.

Pets

Any kind of non-human animal traveling with you (including service pets) need to be declared in many places. Keep this in mind as you walk through customs to have your pet medical information, as well as other documents, handy as you go through customs. Pet microchips will usually need to be scanned as well, plan accordingly and take your time.

I Declare Generalities

As I mentioned above, customs in every country vary (like regulations on drones) but their motivations are pretty much the same. Taxes on stuff you bought abroad, contraband, and live animals are what customs are controlling. The $5 magnet you bought for your mom isn’t on the table, unless that magnet is made of rare diamonds.

How To Travel

new york city

There are a lot of ways to travel smarter but if you want the most straightforward advice on how to get started, this is your guide.

First of all, traveling is not that hard. At least not the basics in general, assuming you’ve got some disposable income, a bit of time, and of course the inclination to go somewhere.

Where To Go

Traveling can mean a lot of things but often the first thing to come to mind is some far off exotic place. Those can be great choices but you’ve probably never gone to the tourist sites in your own town. What about the next town over? Maybe you want to start a travel blog or YouTube channel, you don’t need to go very far to do either.

Since you can’t see the entire world in a lifetime, these places are good choices to start from. If you love street food, definitely go to these cities. Adventure sports? Las Vegas. Want to see how much it costs to fly from where you are to anywhere? Kayak Explore will show you.

Honestly though, most of us have a place we’ve always really wanted to see. Don’t let people talk you out of it. Get suggestions on things to do nearby (more ideas can’t hurt) but if there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, that’s where you should probably be headed. You might love or hate a place and that can change over time so aside from actual dangerous places, all you’re hearing are people’s opinions about a given point in time.

travel memes

And if someone’s never been to a place don’t listen to their advice about a place. It’s probably negative and definitely uninformed.

How To Go

Some places you have to fly. For others, taking a train is more environmentally friendly but also easier on your body than taking an airplane. Remember to add 4 hours at least to any total flight time – that covers getting to an airport on time, checking in, plus going through security. A 30 minute flight is really more like 4 or more hours of travel time.

Obsessing over flight prices isn’t likely to save you much nor is booking on a Wednesday. Check out multi-city flights. Travel savings are much more obtainable through choosing the right accommodation, where you eat, and by simple packing habits like buying a reusable water bottle.

What To Take

Recently I saw this tweet which is mostly true unless you’re a French horn musician. What you use at home is what you’ll use on the road. You shouldn’t pack more than you can use in two weeks and most specialized travel gear isn’t versatile enough to justify the costs (remember what I said about saving above?)

arthurs seat edinburgh

Learn these important phrases of the local language using this powerful tool. Gum or mints are essential. One other thing, it’s usually worth paying a bit more to get durable gear. Cheap fabrics don’t withstand traveling well so it’s better to get one good thing than 3 cheap things over the same period of time. Plus good products usually come with good warranties because the brands can stand behind their products.

Stay Connected

Currency is a helpful app that works offline. WiFox gives you passwords to all the airports in the world, important since getting to your accommodation from the airport is when you’re most vulnerable. Find some good travel blogs, they give good firsthand insights that can help with planning, navigating scams, and learning the local customs.

scottish highlands

Download Google Maps offline to help you get around. Put the phone down and look up when you don’t need it.

faucetsafe app

Go with the flow, try a food you’ve never had, and always eat where the locals do. Long lines of tourists don’t always indicate the best places to eat and TripAdvisor can only get you so far. Ask a local. Try it, you’ll get good advice like this.

Remember The Important Things

There’s certainly more, but this should help get you started. Traveling can be tiring, confusing, or a bit lonely sometimes. Keep in mind that if you can travel for recreation, you’re one of the lucky ones on Earth. Not everyone can travel and for most of human history it was impossible to move like we do now.

Understanding other cultures doesn’t require much footwork far or near – meeting new people can give you an important insight. Getting out of cities and into nature can give you perspective. The one thing to bring on any journey is an open mind, without that, you can visit every country in the world and still have not seen much of anything at all.

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