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Key Immigration Considerations as Various African Countries Prepare to Open Their Economies
| Caroline Kanzara

Key Immigration Considerations as Various African Countries Prepare to Open Their Economies

COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact around the globe. It makes us pause to wonder if anything will ever return to the way it was and what the “new normal” will look like after the pandemic is contained. Immigration represents one of the areas that has been greatly impacted by the pandemic, resulting in travel restrictions and closures of international borders by many African countries in order to slow the spread of the virus.

For many countries on the continent, everything appears to be at a standstill as far as travel and immigration is concerned. However, it must be noted that migrant workers will soon be able to resume travelling, since they are important to the global economy. As migrant workers start remobilising, it is critical for employers to ensure that they have a solid remobilisation plan to avoid delays in getting employees to their work locations and avoid further financial losses.

Africa at a standstill

The pandemic has cost the global economy billions of dollars and most organisations are keen to get their operations running at full capacity once restrictions are lifted. In Africa, several ongoing projects in various sectors came to a halt because of the pandemic. For example, the major projects in Mozambique’s Rovuma basin are currently at a standstill and most of the experts working on the project were repatriated back to their home countries. This obviously means that once borders reopen, the movement of skills from one country to the next will need to also resume. A proactive and consultative approach in assessing migrant populations and determining the requirements and timelines for mobilisation is required, to avoid any delays. This also takes into consideration that some immigration processes are more complex than others and may, therefore, take longer. Some countries, like Angola and Mozambique are also document-intensive. To make these assessments, it is advisable to reach out to your immigration provider to develop a solid and comprehensive approach for efficiently and effectively mobilising employees back to their locations.

One of the effects of the pandemic has been the introduction of restrictive travel regulations to curb the spread of the pandemic. This could mean that even though one may have a valid visa in his or her passport, that visa may be null and void due to the regulations issued in response to the pandemic. Because of travel restrictions, some may find themselves unable to travel back to their work locations to renew their visas, which will subsequently expire, whilst others are stuck in their work locations with expired visas due to closures of government departments. There are many immigration scenarios and each one has several of implications, making it difficult to list all the scenarios. Individuals and organisations conducting business in Africa cannot afford to take anything for granted. As such, it is advisable to ensure that before embarking on travel, individuals and organisations seek the help of immigration experts to avoid any pitfalls.

Additional requirements for travel

In the wake of the pandemic, authorities all over the world have imposed additional requirements. These may be related to the need for additional health checks to ensure that passengers are COVID-19-free before travel as has been imposed by many countries in Africa. It may also mean that travellers will be subjected to quarantine requirements upon arrival at destinations. Companies may also be required to obtain additional authorisation from other government departments, such as the department of health, before mobilising their employees, as has been stipulated in Angola. 

Confused? An immigration audit might help

All these details may be confusing and frustrating as the information and guidance is not always readily available. It may also be necessary for companies to undergo an immigration audit and immigration policy review to confirm that they are currently compliant with respect to the many new directives and regulations issued in order to make it safe and legal to travel. It therefore becomes critical for companies to seek expert advice for the countries to which they are mobilising employees.  In addition to seeking the advice of immigration providers, engaging of business lobbying groups also helps bring to the attention of the authorities the impact of the measures on business, or even on restarting business once measures are eased.

Large numbers of travellers stranded in various countries due to the closure of borders and temporary restrictions placed on international flights has resulted in the need for guidance and assistance regarding repatriation. Being stuck in a foreign country and separated from family is a daunting reality for many. Once again, it is important to seek guidance from experts if organisations have employees in this position.   

The new normal – start planning

Our hope is that, sooner rather than later, COVID-19 will be contained in Africa and business and life in general will start returning to normal—whatever shape that takes. In the interim, now is the time to take key immigration considerations into account and thoroughly plan and consult with relevant stakeholders, to ensure compliance and, therefore, ease the remobilisation process once global travel reopens.

Should you wish to discuss any mobility or immigration related matters for Africa, please reach out to me at [email protected], or your Fragomen immigration professional.

This blog was released on 15 July 2020, and due to the circumstances, there are frequent changes. To keep up to date with all the latest updates on global immigration, please visit our  COVID-19 microsite,  subscribe to our alerts and follow us on  LinkedIn