Please note: while we address some country-specific updates related to the COVID-19 outbreak, the below contains information regarding global restrictions and closures as they stand today. Given the constantly changing nature of this situation, we highly recommend reviewing any global mobility inquiries on a case-by-case basis, including any consulate-specific or immigration authority resources, in "real-time" before traveling internationally. Please reach out to our Global Mobility Team in advance of any international travel.

Australia - Entry Restrictions Lifted for Fully-Vaccinated Visa Holders and Processing of Visa Applications

The Australian authorities have announced that, as of December 1, 2021, fully vaccinated eligible visa holders will be able to travel to Australia without needing to obtain a travel exemption.  Eligible visa holders include holders of TSS 482 work visas and 400 Short-Stay Work Visas.  Japanese and South Korea citizens will benefit of this rule only as of December 15, 2021.

Due to concerns regarding the recently-discovered Omicron virus variant, the authorities will likely review and amend the lessened restrictions.  Travel restrictions are now in place for people who have been physically present in South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, or Malawi in the last 14 days prior to travel.

Australian citizens, permanent residents, or their immediate family members entering Australia who have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, or Malawi in the last 14 days prior to travel must enter supervised quarantine for a period of 14 days in line with state and territory requirements, irrespective of their vaccination status.

Any other travelers who have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, or Malawi in the last 14 days prior to travel are not permitted to enter Australia, even if they hold a travel exemption, eligible visa, or are seeking to enter under a Safe Travel Zone arrangement.

We anticipate commencement of processing of TSS applications for travelers from other countries that were pending for the last months and processing of new TSS applications without having to have an approved travel exemption in place.  Projected processing times for TSS 482 visas are nine to eleven months for short-term stream TSS visas, and six to nine months for medium-term stream TSS visas.

Since May 2020 the Australian borders have been closed for most foreign nationals and visa holders, and only restricted numbers of citizens and permanent residents were permitted to enter the country.  For more information about the updates to the Australian travel restrictions, please see here.

Canada - Updated Entry Rules for Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents

Effective November 30, 2021, fully vaccinated Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or individuals registered under the Indian Act who depart and re-enter Canada within 72 hours of leaving Canada will not have to present a PCR Molecular COVID test upon re-entry to Canada.  This exemption is only for trips originating in Canada, for travelers who depart and re-enter by land or by air and can demonstrate that they have been away from Canada for less than 72 hours.  This exemption extends to accompanying children under 12, and individuals with medical contraindications to vaccination.  This exemption does not extend to individuals in Canada on a work permit status.

Also effective November 30, 2021, Canada has expanded the list of COVID-19 vaccines that travelers can receive to be considered fully vaccinated for the purpose of travel to Canada. The complete list of acceptable vaccinations includes:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty, tozinameran, BNT162b2)
  • Moderna (Spikevax, mRNA-1273)
  • AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria, COVISHIELD, ChAdOx1-S, AZD1222)
  • Janssen /Johnson & Johnson (Ad26.COV2.S
  • Bharat Biotech (Covaxin, BBV152 A, B, C) (New)
  • Sinopharm (Beijing) BBIBP-CorV (Vero Cells) (New)
  • Sinovac (CoronaVac, PiCoVacc) (New)

Germany - Entry Requirements  for Vaccinated Travelers Entering from High Risk Countries

While in general travel is eased for vaccinated travelers, it is important to note that travelers should confirm up-to-date requirements prior to each trip as entry requirements continue to change.   It is notable that the German government added several countries to the list of high-risk  travel countries this month.  Vaccinated travelers entering Germany from designated high-risk areas need to complete an online registration prior to arrival to avoid quarantine upon arrival.  Please see the online registration site here which allows users to review current and applicable information using drop down menus to provide the travel details and to complete the online registration.

Each EU country has individual rules and requirements, and travelers should review the specific regulations for each country prior to travel by accessing the re-open EU site here.

Ireland - Immigration Re-Entry Procedure Changes

The Irish Department of Justice announced that foreign nationals who hold Irish Residence Permits (IRP) covered by the current extension of permissions to January 15, 2022 may use their IRP cards to re-enter Ireland prior to this date even if the IRP card has expired. Additionally, the re-entry visa requirement for children under 16 years of age has been suspended until January 15, 2022.  The Irish authorities previously issued an automatic extension of all residence permits until January 15, 2022 to accommodate those who were unable to return to their home countries or process renewal applications due to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.  In anticipation of increased travel during the winter holidays, the authorities confirm that expired IRP cards may be used to return to Ireland from abroad prior to January 15, 2022.  Please see the Irish Department of Justice announcement here for more information. 

Kindly also keep the entry requirements due to the pandemic in mind and please review these here prior to travel.  You may find a link to the COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form on this site as well which needs to be completed prior to travel.

Japan - New Border Closure Announced

As of November 30, 2021 Japan will close its borders again, and foreign nationals will in general not be permitted to enter the country.  The implementation of applications for Certificates of Completion of Screening, a new measure designed to assist work visa applicants with completion of the entry visa process and travel to Japan that was announced on November 8, 2021, is suspended for at least one month.  We expect the Japanese authorities to make further announcements regarding the newly-imposed restrictions in the coming weeks.

Mexico - Visitor Period of Stay Changes

The Mexican immigration authorities have announced they will apply a new policy going forward for the period of stay granted to visitors.  The Multi-Purpose Immigration Form (FMM), which is issued for visitors upon arrival in Mexico and which determines the period of stay granted, will no longer automatically be granted for the usual 180 day-period.  Instead, immigration officers will have increased discretion to determine the appropriate period of stay based on the interview and documentation (i.e. travel itinerary) for each traveler.  The 180-day period has always been the maximum period of stay; however, in the past this has typically been granted for most visitors automatically.  Going forward, visitors entering Mexico should be prepared to show round-trip flight documents and hotel reservations upon entry and to only receive a period of stay based on the intended date of departure.  For business travelers, it is recommended that they carry a letter of support from the employer to present to immigration officials.  For more information please see the Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM) website here.

Switzerland - Announcement of Work Permit Quotas for 2022

The Swiss Federal Council has published the permit quota numbers for the upcoming year (2022).

Work permit quotas for Assignees from the EU/EFTA are as follows:

  • L permits: 3,000
  • B permits: 500

 Work permit quotas for Non-EU/EFTA Nationals:

  • L permits : 4,000
  • B permits : 4,500

Implementation of Specific Quota for Skilled Workers from the United Kingdom:

Due to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union, the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons between Switzerland and the UK no longer applies as of January 1, 2021.  The Swiss Federal Council published the following separate quotas for employed UK nationals for the upcoming year, which Swiss companies must keep in mind when recruiting skilled workers from the UK in 2022:

  • L permits: 1,400
  • B permits: 2,100

These quotas for 2022 are considered to be a transitional solution until a possible preferential immigration agreement between Switzerland and the UK may be implemented.

UK - COVID Travel Updates, Visa Category Changes and Announcements

Updates to COVID-19 Travel Rules

Starting at 4 am GMT on November 30, 2021, the updated rules for travelers entering the UK from non-red list countries will take effect.  Currently, all vaccinated travelers arriving in the UK must book a day-2 PCR COVID test, as opposed to previously accepted lateral flow tests.  The passengers must self-isolate at home until receiving a negative test result, or isolate for 10 days in case of the positive test result.

Notably, the red list of countries was updated to include 10 African countries which have been added to the latest list.  All arrivals or transits who have been in those countries during the last 10 days prior to travel must follow mandatory hotel quarantine rules.

Global Business Mobility, High Potential, and Scale-Up Visas:

The Autumn Budget 2021 announced that the UK government plans to launch three new visa categories in Spring 2022:   (1) the Global Business Mobility route, (2) the high Potential route, and (3) the Scale-Up visa route.

The Global Business Mobility visa is intended to incorporate and restructure the existing visa routes, including Intra-Company Transfers (ICT), Graduate Trainee routes, Representative of an Overseas Business, and certain types of business visitors focused on export and contractual services.  In 2020, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) conducted a study on the ICT visa route and some additional questions, such as an investigation into routes for overseas business founders.  The full report was published in October 2021 and the Home Office is now considering the recommendations in order to implement them in new visa system reforms in spring 2022.

The High Potential Individual visa route is a new self-sponsored visa option, designed for those who have graduated from a top global university.  Qualified entrants would be permitted to come to the UK without a job offer and work without restriction with the potential to settle in the UK if the applicants meet certain requirements.  The visa is similar to the former High Skilled Migrant visa (Tier 1 General), which was discontinued after 18 months due to concerns over abuse of the immigration rules.  

The proposed Scale-Up visa will require a "high skill" job offer from a UK employer, English language proficiency, and a proposed salary of at least £33,000 per annum.  The route will be unsponsored, but the employing company would need to demonstrate that it is "scaled-up" by showing an average annual rate of growth of more than 20% over a 3-year period. "Growth" may be demonstrated through revenue or employment, and the company should have at least 10 employees at the start of the 3-year period to qualify.

More details about the requirements for these routes should become available by Spring 2022 ahead of the implementation of the new visa categories.

Global Talent Network Announcement:

In addition to the Scale-Up visa, the UK Budget also announced the launch of a new Global Talent Network.  According to the Autumn Budget 2021, this network will "bring highly skilled people to the UK in key science and technology sectors."  This network will work with businesses and research institutions to identify UK skills needs and source talent from overseas campuses, innovation hub, and research institutions to bring to the UK.  A concierge service will also be available to support people moving to the UK.

The Global Talent Network will launch in 2022 in the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston in the US, and Bengaluru in India.  The government will also maintain the expanded Department for International Trade (DIT) Global Entrepreneur Programme.  This will allow the Programme to continue to expand its global footprint and bring an extra 100 innovative, highly skilled entrepreneurs to the UK each year.

Existing visa routes will be available for applicants through the Global Talent Network with the intention for them to be supported by DIT.  More information about the Network is expected next year prior to its launch.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.