April 3, 2020

COVID-19 Government support

While it is reported some of the first countries to suffer with the pandemic Covid-19 such as China and South Korea are starting to see a decline in the number of new confirmed cases, we continue to observe that for the majority of countries, retaining or increasing restrictions on travel and movement remains in place. Both to control the initial spread and to reduce the risk of a second wave if restrictions are lifted or softened.  In order to ensure foreign nationals can remain compliant while unable to leave the country and / or complete the necessary formalities to extend their documentation giving them the legal right to work, many governments are offering auto-extensions and relaxed regulations relating to the renewal process.

What has changed?

As mentioned in last week’s update, as the implications of national lockdowns become apparent, governments are starting to offer flexibility and relaxed processes to ensure that both their own nationals and foreign nationals can remain compliant in country. The UK and US have recently rolled-out measures enabling individuals to remotely evidence right to work documentation during the recruitment process, until it is possible to provide and verify these items in original and in person.

We receive daily updates regarding jurisdictions granting the auto-extension of work and residence permits for specific time periods, to ensure foreign nationals do not break immigration regulations during their assignments and overstay beyond their legal authorisation to work and reside. The latest countries to introduce these measures include France, where the authorities are granting automatic extension of long-stay visas, residence permits, temporary residence permits and receipts due to expire between March 16th and May 31st by 90 days. A full renewal or change of status application will have to be submitted as soon as Prefectures reopen.

In Costa Rica, although new applications will not be accepted, tourist visas that expire before May 17th will be extended to this date and documents such as criminal record and birth certificates that expire before May 17th will be extended to July 17th.

In India, foreign nationals who remain in country due to Covid-19 related travel restrictions and whose visas have expired or are due to expire between Feb 1st and April 30th, 2020 can be extended to April 30th at no cost following an online application.

Not only is it recognised that we need to support foreign national employees residing in our jurisdictions, countries are also recognising that they may also be critical in both the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic and the rebuilding of our economies as the burden of it eventually eases.

Foreign nationals make up a large part of the medical services in many countries. The UK is keen to ensure immigration constraints do not impact the ability of the NHS to continue fighting this disease therefore have granted doctors, nurses and paramedics whose visas are due to expire before October 1st 2020 with an automatic extension, free of charge, for one year. This will impact an expected 2,800 NHS workers and will include automatic extension for their dependant family members. Further to this, pre-registered overseas nurses will have their skills test deadlines extended to the end of the year to give them more time to pass the exam and permit them to spend the immediate term working on the frontline.

Who is affected?

All foreign nationals who may have been expecting to depart their current place of residence and whose documents are due to expire during the Covid-19 pandemic or those who intend to remain but whose documents are also due to expire and needed to be extended.

For further information regarding your obligations as an employer in documenting your workforce’s right to work and / or extending foreign national’s documentation authorising them to work and reside in their country of assignment, please contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team.


Leanne Cottrell

Leanne Cottrell

As Head of Immigration with Sterling Lexicon, Leanne leads a team of specialists who are responsible for ensuring the entire immigration process is smooth and stress-free for clients, assignees and their accompanying family members. She brings over ten years of experience in strategic immigration management, planning and consultation to her role, and has cultivated invaluable knowledge and experience in processing countless global migration applications. As a trusted partner, she consults with clients on everything from policy considerations and cost or efficiency improvements, to the impact of opening offices in new locations. Leanne is a frequent presenter and author on global immigration topics and trends.

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