Despite fears of Omicron and other strains, COVID-19 is generally seen as declining in terms of a global pandemic.
For most people worldwide who have received one of the more globally recognized vaccines, travel restrictions are slowly being relaxed worldwide. Borders are opening to vaccinated travelers. Many countries remove restrictions altogether or allow freedom of movement for those who can continue to provide negative tests.
All this means that the world is getting ready to be back to business for the most part. Companies can once again realign their focus onto goals related to travel or expansion.
Below is a roundup of changes related to travel and restrictions and how they may affect your plans.
China continues to pursue its “Zero COVID” strategy, occasionally locking down cities or banning all travel from certain countries. While, for the most part, daily life has returned to normal, travel restrictions in the country may be applied quickly and with little warning. Rises in cases may also include localized periods of strict quarantine.
Health codes are still in use throughout the country for most public areas, and many places enforce the use of masks indoors.
China continues to ban most foreign nationals without residence permits from entry into China. Visa restrictions have been temporarily eased during the Olympics, but this may not be extended afterward. Foreigners who have been fully vaccinated with Chinese-produced vaccinations may apply for visas for work or business purposes. Travelers seeking to enter China will need to produce evidence of negative tests taken before a flight, a health certificate, and then quarantine for at least two weeks in a government facility (with additional tests administered during this time).
Since the beginning of the year, Japan has been battling recent surges of new infections and a slow rollout of COVID vaccine boosters. As a result, many restrictions remain in place across large areas of Japan.
Japan’s borders remain effectively closed, although the government is keen to resume standard visa practices as soon as possible. For those Japanese nationals and foreigners who can travel to Japan, proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken less than 72 hours before traveling is required.
Right now, INS Global can offer visa and employment services to Japanese nationals and foreigners with a valid residence permit in Japan.
Taiwan experienced a severe wave of infections in early 2021 and has been slow to remove many of the restrictions it put in place at the time. With a comparatively slow rollout for vaccinations, Taiwan is more cautious than many of its neighbors.
Generally, entry is possible for travelers with a resident card who have been fully vaccinated and can provide negative tests 48 hours before departure. Travelers must still expect to quarantine in specific locations for now.
After a temporary total ban on foreign nationals last year, visa processes are currently unavailable or slower than usual. They are expected to remain so during February.
HK is currently experiencing the highest levels of infection that it has seen since the beginning of the pandemic. After multiple waves of lockdowns and a very slow vaccination rollout, the government is now debating whether to go back into lockdown or “live with COVID” and follow social distancing rules rather than return to the “Zero-COVID” strategy of the mainland.
Travel to HK from Mainland China, Taiwan, or Macau is possible with a quarantine period in a designated place.
Hong Kong currently maintains a list of high-risk countries subject to a flight suspension. However, travel is possible from most countries for fully vaccinated travelers and can provide proof of negative COVID tests.
Importantly, HK remains open as a transit hub thanks to strict measures of Hong Kong Airport.
Despite a recent spike in COVID infections, a robust vaccination rollout and consistent social distancing regulations have meant that Singapore remains viable as a place for business.
COVID regulations remain strict in Singapore, which is likely to continue for the near future due to the Lunar New Year period.
Non-Singaporeans and travelers without a residence permit require entry approval before entering Singapore. Once in the country, travelers need to go into a stay-at-home quarantine period of up to 10 days.
Transit through Singapore remains open for many routes, though not all.
Despite a dramatic rise in infection rates at the beginning of the year and a low overall vaccination rate, The Philippines are eager to return to normal to increase tourism and business.
As a result, all fully vaccinated foreigners from countries with visa-free travel will be allowed to enter the Philippines after the 10th of February. Travelers must show proof of vaccination and testing and register with a local quarantine facility upon arrival in the country. Travelers who can provide a negative COVID test on the 5th day of quarantine will be allowed to continue as usual.
In general, the EU (and Schengen area countries) currently prohibit travel from outside of the area unless in specific circumstances. It is possible to relocate employees to Europe, but most countries require additional permission.
For many EU countries, travelers who are residents now only have to do home quarantine or recommended self-isolation if they are coming from high-risk areas.
Travel within the EU is generally straightforward, meaning business is starting to get back to normal in many respects if travelers can provide an EU digital COVID vaccination certificate.
The Netherlands follows the same rules as the rest of Europe regarding a ban on non-essential travel from non-EU countries.
Vaccination rates in the Netherlands are lower than in many other Western European countries, and cases continue to rise as a result. However, the government has been relaxing many restrictions on daily life, and efforts are being made to reopen the country.
At the end of January, it was announced that public spaces and events could be reopened, such as shops and spectator sports. Social distancing and face masks are still mandatory on public transport and are suggested in public spaces.
After a rise in cases at the beginning of the year, France has announced that it will end many restrictions on daily activities in February. This includes the wearing of masks outdoors and capacity limits. A vaccine pass is still necessary for some daily activities.
Working from home will no longer be required after the 2nd of February.
Travel from outside the EU is still limited as per EU regulations but can be allowed with an entry permit showing a full vaccination record and negative tests. Travel from within the EU is permitted without restrictions, including the need for negative tests.
Due to a successful vaccination rollout and a significant drop in cases since the start of the year, many restrictive measures have been dropped in Spain. Facemasks and social distancing are still standard and advised, but much of daily life has normalized.
As with other EU countries, non-essential travel to Spain may be prohibited depending on the country of departure. The government continually updates a list of non-EU countries from which travel is restricted or prohibited here. For all travelers, proof of a vaccination certificate is required.
While infection rates remain high in Germany, a strong vaccination rollout has meant that daily restrictions are largely being lifted within the country. Experts have been surprised to see the number of employees working from home has generally been far less than expected, with many Germans eager to return to the office.
The government continues to remove countries from its list of high-risk countries, making international travel more accessible. However, for travelers from non-EU countries, proof of vaccination is required upon entry.
The government continues to update a list of high-risk countries (found here). Travel is prohibited from these countries, with exceptions for emergencies or in the case of German citizens.
Despite over 90% of the population being fully vaccinated, Portugal follows the EU and Schengen rules about a travel ban on non-essential travel from non-EU countries. There is a list of non-EU countries exempt from this ban which is updated regularly.
All travelers to Portugal must have proof of a negative COVID test before arrival.
Face masks and vaccination certificates are still required in most spaces, although the relaxation of these rules is being discussed. For the time being, Portugal has some of the tighter COVID restrictions left in Western Europe.
The UK’s vaccination program has largely been successful, and the government is ready to remove most if not all restrictions related to travel and daily life for those who are fully vaccinated.
Fully vaccinated travelers will be able to confirm their status via an online form. As of the 11th of February, they will no longer need to take COVID-19 tests before or after entering the country.
INS Global is now able to offer our full range of services in the UK once again.
Switzerland has announced that many of its restrictions, both internal and related to international travel, will soon be over. Work from home mandates and the necessity for travelers to present a special Swiss COVID vaccination certificate have already dropped.
Currently, the government is debating whether to drop all COVID regulations in Switzerland by the 17th of February.
Foreign travelers to Switzerland from countries not considered “high-risk” no longer need to present negative tests or isolate so long as they can provide proof of vaccination. Travelers will also have to fill in an entry form on arrival.
Positive steps have meant that restrictions are being entirely lifted within the Nordic countries in February, despite rates of infection remaining high.
These countries also follow the EU guidelines on travel restrictions from countries outside of the EUR/EEA, and a list of countries with restricted travel can be found here.
COVID regulations in the USA remain highly diverse depending on the state and may change rapidly depending on the situation. Overall, the US saw a significant spike in cases this year, but this appears to be tailing off.
As of November 2021, all travelers to the US are required to show proof of a negative test within 24 hours of departure. All non-US citizens or those without residency status must be fully vaccinated before entering the US.
Visa processes remain open but are experiencing delays due to the lasting effects of the pandemic.
All travelers to Canada must apply for an entry permit via the Electronic Travel Authorisation website.
Canada is open to travel for anyone fully vaccinated and can provide proof of a negative COVID test (taken less than 72 hours before departure). Travelers who are not vaccinated or are told to do so at the border will be required to quarantine for up to 14 days.
Canada has a high vaccination rate, but depending on the provincial regulations, face masks and social distancing mandates may still be in effect in public spaces.
How INS Global Can Help You
As the world moves back to normal, international expansion and recruitment reappear as a critical concern for many companies, and INS Global has the necessary tools and strategies to help.
For example, while travel remains problematic between some countries, having the right people in-country can be challenging to ensure continuity regarding payroll or HR regulation compliance issues. INS Global can offer all the HR services outsourcing services you need to continue as usual in every market worldwide.
Whether you are looking to restart plans for expansion into a new market that was shelved for the pandemic period or whether you want to hire employees in a foreign country to avoid the continued restrictions around travel that exist there, we have solutions to meet every need. We can provide you with outsourcing services in every HR area, from recruitment strategies to PEO and EOR solutions.
INS Global has over 15 years of experience helping companies in over 80 countries to meet their global expansion and operation goals. Contact our team of experts today to learn more about how we can help you.