On 8 May 2020 the European Commission invited the Schengen Member States and Schengen Associated States to extend the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the “EU+ area” until 15 June 2020. According to the Commission, prolonging the travel restriction a second time since 17 March 2020 is necessary to reduce the risk of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading further.
The travel restriction, as well as the invitation to extend it, applies 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.
The EU Member States (except Ireland) and the non-EU Schengen countries had agreed to implement the travel restriction on March 17, initially for a 30 days period, as well as the current (first) extension until 15 May.
The travel restriction does not apply to EU citizens, citizens of non-EU Schengen countries and their family members, and non-EU nationals who are long-term residents in the EU for the purpose of returning home.
For non-EU nationals this means that only in case they already have a valid residence permit or a long stay visa D they can return or travel to the EU+ area. Travelling on the basis of passport (if visa exempted eg. Japanese, US, Australian, Canadian, …) or a visa C (eg. Indian, Chinese, South African, …) is currently not allowed.
The temporary travel restriction should also not apply to persons with an essential function or need, including:
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’.
Thus, if you fall under this category, you could apply for a Schengen visa C or D/ travel on the base of your passport ( eg non-visa required nationals). It is however advisable to check upfront with the authorities whether they also consider you as a person with an essential function or need.
UK nationals are still to be treated in the same way as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit
transition period (31 December 2020). Therefore, during that time UK nationals and their family members are also exempt from the temporary travel restriction.
Belgium also applies the travel ban, as described above, and the air and sea carriers offering extra Schengen travel to Belgium have been informed of this and will refuse boarding in the state of departure to:
For the time being and until further notice, Belgian embassies and consulates no longer accept any visa applications and no longer issue visas, except in exceptional cases (essential travel). In most countries, the Visa Application Centres are also closed.
For single permit holders, being allowed to work and reside in Belgium for periods exceeding 90 days, the Immigration Office applies the administrative practice that the final approval (“Annex 46”) remains valid for 6 months before the visa D is requested (taking into account the postponement of the actual arrival to Belgium due to the COVID-19 situation).
Any further prolongation of the travel restriction beyond 15 June 2020 would need to be assessed again, based on the evolution of the epidemiological situation.
The European Commission’s press release of 8 May indicated that the lifting of travel restrictions should be phased: internal border controls will need to start being lifted gradually and in a coordinated manner before restrictions at the external borders can be relaxed in a second stage.
If you have any questions regarding the above or require additional guidance on this topic, don’t hesitate to contact us.