With the novel coronavirus turning into a pandemic, several countries across the world are imposing partial or complete travel bans. The sudden lockdown announcements, along with the sealing of borders, has brought uncertainty to those who were in the midst of overseas travel. With flights being called off, visitors with an expiring visa are in a state of panic. Here are the options available for them.
For tourists stranded in the EU: The European Union nations would be extending the visas of tourists on humanitarian grounds, considering the spread of COVID-19. The Schengen group - the clutch of 26 countries in EU which share loose borders - recently announced that it would be sealing their frontiers in view of the coronavirus outbreak. Flights in and out from the region have also been barred. Catch all the live updates related to coronavirus outbreak.
Since overstaying a visa term is a penal offence, stranded tourists are recommended to apply for a visa extension before the relevant authorities in Schengen country where they are currently located. Article 33 of the EU Visa Code mandates the renewal or extension of visa on humanitarian and other compelling grounds.
"In case a visa holder who is already present on the territory of the Member States is unable to leave before the expiry of his visa for reasons of force majeure, humanitarian reasons or serious personal reasons, he should address the request for extension of the visa to the competent authorities of the Member State where he is present even if that is not the Member State whose consulate issued the visa," the provision under the law states.
Four tourists stranded in Australia: The restrictions being imposed in the wake of COVID-19 may end up leaving a number of foreign visitors stranded in Australia. The country has strict visa rules -- requiring those considering to overstay their terms obtain the prerequisite permissions.
Tourists with "no further stay" visas are required to inform the Department of Home Affairs if they are unable to return home and the date of their visa expiry is nearing. "Non-citizens seeking to extend their stay in Australia should review information on the Department's website and apply for another visa," a spokesperson of the Home Department said.
The spokesperson further added that the visa extension applications would be assessed on case-to-case basis. "Any visa application will be assessed considering the COVID-19 enhanced border measures and an applicant's individual circumstances. Applications for a new visa should be made before their current visa expires," the official added.
For American tourists: Nationals of the United States, stuck in foreign countries, should contact their embassies at the earliest. As reported by media publications, the US embassy aided the country's tourists stranded in Morocco after the latter imposed a lockdown to contain coronavirus spread. Special flights were arranged between March 14 to March 19 to bring back the stranded tourists. However, some of the visitors were unable to return and have been advised to stay put at the respective locations and seek extension of visas.
Similarly, other nations including India have asked their overseas populace - who are on tours, study or pilgrimage programmes - to contact their nearest embassies. The High Commissions would arrange for their return to India, depending on the possibility amid the escalating restrictions.
Here Are The Restrictions Imposed by Major Nations
- India has banned on entry to all travellers from March 18 except those on official, diplomatic or UN related missions. All visas, e-visas and overseas citizen of India cards rendered invalid till April 15, 2020.
- European Union has restricted all non-essential travel for 30 days.
- The United States has barred all foreign nationals from China, Iran and certain European countries. This ban extends for anyone who visited these countries within the 14 days prior to their planned US trip.
- Bangladesh has suspended most passenger movements through all immigration land check posts At India-Bangladesh borders from 12 am, March 15 till further orders.
- UAE has ended visa on arrival scheme while travellers already in UAE can extend visas in line with existing procedures.
- Australia will close all borders closing from March 20, and could be closed for at least 6 months (to non-citizens and non-residents), unless they are direct family members of Australians.
- Canada beginning from March 16, is denying entry to persons who not Canadian citizens, US citizens or permanent residents.
- The United Kingdom, in an order issued on March 17, warned its citizens against all "non-essential travel" to any part of the world for a period of 30 days.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had, on March 12, declared coronavirus a "pandemic" which means that it is affecting all nations around the globe. Subsequently, several countries went into a self-quarantine mode to prevent the virus from further spreading. By the time this report was published, the worldwide toll of infected cases crossed 200,000, whereas, the number of fatalities reached the 9,000-mark.