The European Council previously proposed guidance for a unified approach to restricted travel during the Covid-19 pandemic for EU countries to follow. As the worst of the pandemic seems to be passing, they have now proposed a further approach to relaxing some of the restrictions on non-essential travel within the European zone.
As a result, the European Commission has published guidelines for EU member states to reopen borders for internal free movement by June 15th, while simultaneously extending the external border restrictions for non-essential travel until June 30th, 2020.
What has changed?
While the European Council issued guidance for the unified approach to restricting non-essential travel during the pandemic, members countries were still free to implement these and move towards a gradual relaxation of the restrictions in their own way. Now the European commission is proposing a common approach to the reopening of borders in an effort to maintain some consistency through the region. The below are their proposed points:
- The commission has recommended lifting the internal border restrictions permitting free movement between the member states by June 15th
- From July 1st, gradual lifting of external border restrictions into the EU and Schengen state should commence. This process should be subject to set criteria considering the state of the pandemic in each member state, the response to the pandemic in the 3rd country in consideration, possibility of containment methods during travel, and reciprocal entry agreements for EU nationals.
- From July 1st, expansion of the categories of travelers exempt from entry bans to include: EU citizens, citizens of Schengen Associated States, and the third-country nationals legally residing in an EU Member State and their family members. These individuals should be permitted to enter European Union for any purpose, not just restricted those returning home.
- Expansion of essential travel to include those travelling for study, highly qualified individuals who can perform a role considered necessary for the economic interests of the country and cannot be postponed or completed remotely.
- The European Commission has also issued guidance on the coordinated reopening of overseas visa processing so that this ties in with the relaxation of travel and external border restrictions.
At this stage, it is for each country to implement these recommendations individually. By the end of June, the European Commission should issue a list of those third countries for which the travel restrictions will lifted from July 1st. For all other countries, the existing restrictions for non-essential travel will continue to apply.
For further information on the easing of EU border restrictions and/or specific information relating to a particular member state, please contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team at firstname.lastname@example.org.