On 11 June 2020, the European Commission recommended the Schengen member States and the Schengen Associated States to extend the temporary travel restriction to the “EU-area” until 30 June 2020. At the same time, they have also proposed to lift these travel restrictions as from 1 July 2020 via a progressive approach. These proposals have been made in light of the latest developments of the COVID-19 pandemic in the “ EU-area”.
The travel restriction, which was initially implemented on 17 March 2020, as well as the invitations to extend it, apply to the “EU+ area”, which includes all Schengen Member States (including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania) and the 4 Schengen Associated States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) – 30 countries in total : Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Normally, the current travel ban for travel from outside the EU would remain applicable until 15 June 2020, but as expected, the European Commission recommended the Member States to prolong the travel restrictions until 30 June 2020. The Commission stated that at this epidemiologic stage, it is not possible to lift the travel restriction in a general way, and therefore proposed a gradual and coordinated phasing out of the travel restrictions to the EU+ area. This will happen as follows: During the next two weeks, the Member states are invited to create a list of third countries for which travel restrictions can be lifted as from 1 July 2020. Non essential travel from countries that will not be placed on this list, will still not be possible after 1July 2020.
At the same time, the European Commission also recommends to fully already lift the travel ban for the following countries, as from 1 July 2020:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Yesterday’s communication from the European Commission has also extended the list of exemptions to the travel ban.
First of all, the EU citizens, the citizens from the Schengen associated states, the third country nationals legally residing in the European Union and their family members, should be exempt from the travel restriction, regardless whether or not they are returning home.
Secondly, the list of specific categories of travellers with an essential function or need, who are exempt from the travel ban, has been extended. This list now contains the following categories:
healthcare professionals, health researchers and elderly care professionals;
seasonal workers in agriculture;
transport personnel engaged in haulage of goods and other transport staff ‘to the extent necessary’;
diplomats, staff of international organisations, military personnel and humanitarian aid workers;
passengers in transit;
passengers travelling for imperative family reasons;
persons in need of international protection or for other humanitarian reasons respecting the principle of ‘non-refoulement’;
Third country nationals travelling for the purpose of study;
Highly qualified third country workers if their employment is necessary from an economic perspective and the work can not be postponed or performed abroad.
With regards to the highly qualified third country workers, PwC Legal is currently in contact with the Belgian immigration authorities as to how the necessary employment requirement will be interpreted. It is, however, already known that even the visa exempt nationals ( for example US citizens) who want to travel to Belgium as a Highly qualified third country worker, can only travel to Belgium after obtaining a visa D.
Until now, the embassies and diplomatic posts were only providing “minimum visa services” for those essential travellers. However, in order for the travel ban to be gradually lifted after 30 June 2020, the European Commission has also advised yesterday that Member States should restart their visa operations again abroad. This of course also depends on the confinement measures in the specific third countries and it’s therefore not yet certain how this will look like in the different third countries.
PwC Legal is monitoring the reopening of the visa operations per country and more information can soon be found on this topic on our website.
As far as the internal borders are concerned, the Commission repeated its earlier recommendation to lift the internal border controls as from 15 June. This means that EU nationals and third country nationals holding an EU residence permit will be able to freely move inside the EU area and the United Kingdom. Most of the Member states, including Belgium, have already confirmed and announced the reopening of the internal borders. This is, however, not applicable to all Member States. Therefore, before travelling to a country, it remains necessary to verify the situation in the country.
France has not confirmed yet when the borders will reopen. In Spain the borders will reopen from 1st of July.
Notwithstanding the above, if the authorities might suspect that a traveller could be a risk for the public health ( for example, symptoms of sickness ), at any time when travelling, the access to the “EU-area “ could still be denied, regardless of whether the traveller falls under one of the exemption categories or whether he/she comes from a country mentioned on the lifted travel ban list.
If you require more information about the above or its impact on your mobile workforce, don’t hesitate to reach out.