Virginia, US
Potential Travel Impacts Pre- and Post-COVID-19 Pandemic
| Nikhil Bande

Potential Travel Impacts Pre- and Post-COVID-19 Pandemic

Travel, globalization, immigration and pandemic—these four phenomena together in the context of travel for business or pleasure showcase potential new challenges to overcome and create critical waves of fresh policies and procedural requirements for those traveling around the globe.

Some of the travel requirements owing to COVID-19 pandemic—which is impacting travel in more than 200 countries around the world—are already in place, while others may occur soon.

In this blog, I will look at what could possibly be expected once the world emerges from this unprecedented situation, which has left travelers stranded and has halted the usual worldwide movement of people. Among some of the possible impacts travelers may experience:

Health Check/Medical Report Requirements: COVID-19 spread throughout the world with travelers carrying it across borders. Almost none of the countries currently impacted required medical reports for short-term travelers prior to the emergence of COVID-19. We could fairly presume that, moving forward, visa applications worldwide, irrespective of the visa type, may demand medical test results to be submitted (COVID-19 or other tests) to ensure that the travelers are free from any communicable disease/s in order to safeguard countries’ borders. The pandemic has proved to be a threat to national security worldwide, as undetected virus carriers traveled unnoticed.

Travel History Declarations: This may be in practice for many countries already. However, it is possible that travel history details may need to be declared in relation to any movement to or from COVID-19 major “hot-spots” in future visa applications. In the event that this does happen, travelers will be advised to be fully truthful and forthcoming about disclosing their travel history in the visa paperwork, as passport stamps will reveal previous travel history information, as well any of the advanced security screening systems countries will engage to scrutinize travel following the pandemic.

Returning Nationals or Legal Residents Registration: We can assume that global immigration systems, in tandem with local ministries and consular posts, will require registrations for those nationals and legal residents who are currently stranded abroad via online portals, which will facilitate their safe return home through evacuation flights during any travel restrictions related to COVID-19.

Visa, Passport Applications Surge and Delays: One of the most imminent effects post-COVID-19 crisis could be a sudden surge in consular visa or passport applications, and the potential delays on such approvals. Consular posts may not be necessarily prepared for the larger volume of cases. With reduced staff in many offices, this could lead to longer delays.

Emergency Visa or Travel Documents: Certainly, there are travelers stranded overseas with expired or expiring visa and travel documents (including passports). There could be potential solutions being offered by the local immigration and Foreign Affairs offices to ensure that travelers are able to embark on the journey back to their home locations, based on humanitarian channels, to ensure there are no cases of statelessness and financial burden on such travelers.

Travel Bans: Immigration authorities worldwide may reach the conclusion to classify travelers from COVID-19 “hot-spots” for certain periods of time and may impose travel bans until the pandemic is completely over. Later, such bans may be lifted in phases as the health trends improve and return to a state of normalcy. This will certainly hinder crucial business travelers, long-term immigrants and foreign jobseekers immensely in the times to come.

Airport Health Check Counters: Along with immigration check counters, we may start to see quick health check counters for all domestic/international travelers. It is too early to predict the availability of test kits globally, but these additional health check counters may start appearing on airports.

Landing Country Registrations: Once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, we may anticipate immigration authorities of various countries to implement registrations requirements upon landing within specified days at the approved health centers governed with local immigration/police to ensure monitoring the whereabouts of travelers until they remain in their country. Any failure to do so may result in fines and travelers being placed on no-fly lists.

Airport and In-flight Screenings: Thermal screenings are already in place at most of the airports’ arrival and departure areas and it is possible that this will continue for the foreseeable future. Currently, even on evacuation flights, airline staff has been asked to monitor any change in the body temperatures of passengers, and this could become a reality for regular passenger flights until the crisis is over. Any health issue a traveler may encounter could spur further checks and possible quarantine upon arrival at the airport.

Limited Flight Capacity and Mandatory Safety Gear: Further, in line with the current social distancing efforts worldwide, airline industry may also start to limit flight seat booking to combat the pandemic. This may be clubbed with mandatory requirements of carrying safety gear (gloves, masks and hand sanitizers) by the travelers during the journey.

Quarantine or Self-isolation Requirements: The immediate effects of COVID-19 travel have already been felt by recent travelers where they are forced to quarantine or self-isolate, whether they have symptoms or/are asymptomatic or healthy. This trend may continue to impact travelers and businesses alike. Each country is likely to continue or ease such requirements based on the local conditions.

Spot-Checks: Countries may start to impose spot-checks for travelers with the help of local police and immigration officials while they are in country to ensure their well-being. While it is very challenging to trace travelers once they leave the airport, it may remain a constant endeavor of governments to conduct such spot checks to ensure the health and safety of not only the traveler(s), but for those in their respective jurisdictions.  

For all of our global immigration alerts and, importantly, the most currently available COVID-19-related immigration information for more than 150 jurisdictions, please visit our website at www.fragomen.com.

From wherever you are reading this blog in this world, please stay safe and I wish everyone returns soon to their traveling days!

To discuss this topic, or any other issue related to global mobility and immigration, please reach out to me at [email protected], or your Fragomen immigration professional. Additionally, we have examined the current environment by evaluating several evolving political, economic and cultural factors and scenarios to identify key themes of recent immigration policy changes. We have outlined these in great detail in our Worldwide Immigration Trends Report Q1 2020 Supplement.

NOTE: This blog is for informational purposes only and is current as of the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice or give rise to an attorney-client relationship between any reader and our firm. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.