MIDDLE EAST Immigration Update: Coronavirus

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). As has happened with other recent global health emergencies, governments in many jurisdictions have implemented a range of temporary immigration-related measures in order to contain the spread of the virus. For example:
  • Many jurisdictions have implemented entry or travel restrictions for individuals who are traveling from, or have recently been present in, jurisdictions where the virus has become widespread. Some countries have gone so far as to temporararily prohibit the entry of all noncitizens and nonresidents.  
  • Many jurisdictions are mandating travelers from affected regions to be quarantined upon entry. Even if quarantines are not being mandated, nearly all jurisdictions have introduced additional health screening procedures at their ports of entry. Travelers should allow extra time for such possible screenings, and those exhibiting signs of sickness should be prepared for possible quarantine, even if quarantines are not broadly being mandated.
  • Many countries have temporarily closed consular posts and visa application centers entirely or for non-emergency services. Please check government websites for the latest official information on consular closings and visa application center closings.
  • Most countries’ health officials have issued notices advising against nonessential international travel generally or to specific jurisdictions where the outbreak is more severe. Travelers are advised to check official government websites for specific warning information.
 
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus is being monitored closely by public health agencies around the world, and the governments in many jurisdictions including the Middle East have taken immigration–related measures in order to contain the spread of the virus.  

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus is being monitored closely by public health agencies around the world, and the governments in many jurisdictions including the Middle East have taken immigration–related measures in order to contain the spread of the virus. As of now, the following restrictions have been imposed in the region:
 

 

BAHRAIN

Entry ban:
  • Entry ban for all travellers except nationals of Bahrain, foreign residents in Bahrain, diplomats and passengers with Prior Permission Granted letter issued by the Ministry of Interior; military personnel, airline crew and holders of official, service and UN passports.
Quarantine:
  • For all travellers entering Bahrain, including nationals of Bahrain, foreign residents in Bahrain, diplomats and passengers with Prior Permission Granted letter issued by the Ministry of Interior; military personnel, airline crew and holders of official, service and UN passports who have been to Iran, Iraq or Lebanon in the 14 days prior to travel to Bahrain or arriving from any other country.
Government closures/suspensions:
  • all travellers must have a pre-arranged visa for travel to Bahrain as no visa-on-arrival is issued to nationals of all countries; this does not apply to diplomats; 
  • the endorsement of new residence visa stickers (including residence renewal applications) is limited to foreign nationals in select positions only if the applicant must travel internationally; otherwise paper visa printouts will serve as the permits until further notice;
  • all in-person immigration applications are suspended.
Restrictions:
  • Travel to Iran is not allowed for nationals of Bahrain;
  • Border crossing at the King Fahad Causeway, linking Bahrain with Saudi Arabia, has been closed;
  • All passenger traffic at Bahrain International Airport, including transit passengers, is now restricted to nationals of Bahrain, foreign residents in Bahrain, diplomats and passengers with Prior Permission Granted letter issued by the Ministry of Interior, military personnel, airline crew and holders of official, service and UN passports;
  • Foreign nationals whose residence permit has expired or will expire while outside of Bahrain will not be able to renew their permit, instead, they will have to apply for a new permit.
Concessions:
  • A waiver of government fees for the payment of monthly labour fees and fees for the issuance and renewal of work permits, for three months effective April 1;
  • An amnesty period until the end of 2020, during which foreign nationals may correct their status;
  • In-person immigration applications are now processed electronically through an online immigration portal.

 

EGYPT

Restrictions:
  • Suspension of all commercial flights to/from Egypt until April 23;  
  • Closure of border with Sudan.
Government closures/suspensions:
  • Closure of all government agencies and suspension of the processing of all immigration applications until April 23.

 

IRAQ

Entry ban:
  • Entry ban for nationals of Mainland China and Iran;
  • Entry ban for foreign nationals who have visited Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Iran, Italy, Japan, Macau SAR, Singapore, South Korea or Thailand in the 14 days prior to travel to Iraq. 
Quarantine:
  • For nationals of Iraq and foreign residents in Iraq who have visited Mainland China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Macau SAR, Singapore, South Korea or Thailand in the 14 days prior to travel to Iraq.
Government closures/suspensions:
  • Closure of all government agencies in Federal Iraq, and suspension on issuance of security passes until further notice.
Restrictions: 
  • Suspension of movement between Iraqi Kurdistan and Federal Iraq until the beginning of Ramadan (April 23 or 24) for Iraqi and foreign nationals, excluding diplomats, medical personnel and security forces;
  • Suspension of all passenger flights until the beginning of Ramadan (April 23 or 24).

 

IRAQI KURDISTAN

Entry ban:
  • Entry ban for nationals of Albania, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Ireland, Kuwait, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom;
  • Entry ban for foreign nationals who have visited Bahrain, Mainland China, France, Hong Kong SAR, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Macau SAR, Singapore, Spain, South Korea or Thailand on or after January 1, 2020.
Quarantine:
  • For no less than 30 days for nationals of all countries, including nationals of Iraq.
Government closures/suspensions:
  • Closure of all government agencies and suspension of all immigration processes until May 2;
  • Visa issuance suspended for nationals of Albania, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Mainland China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Kingdom.
Restrictions:
  • Suspension of movement between Iraqi Kurdistan and Federal Iraq until the beginning of Ramadan (April 23 or 24) for Iraqi and foreign nationals, excluding diplomats, medical personnel and security forces;
  • No commercial flights to/from Iraqi Kurdistan until the beginning of Ramadan (April 23 or 24);
  • All travellers who entered Iraqi Kurdistan between February 15 and March 30, 2020 should contact hotline 122 or go to the nearest coronavirus testing clinic or laboratory to obtain a coronavirus test, unless they have been in quarantine or are foreign nationals based inside the oil fields. Individuals who have negative test results will be issued a document of examination and those who test positive will be quarantined. Iraqi nationals who returned during this period and do not have a document proving they have been examined will have legal measures taken against them. Although it is a mandatory requirement, it is not clear what are the sanctions for non-compliance.

 

JORDAN

Government closures/suspensions:
  • Closure of all government agencies until April 30;
  • Suspension of movement between the governorates.
  • As of 19 April, select companies and all government departments have resumed work in the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA), although with limitations. Residents of the Aqaba Governorate are allowed to leave only under humanitarian cases after obtaining an official permit. The curfew in public places will remain active.
Restrictions:
  • Closure of all land, sea, and air borders for all passenger traffic until April 27.

 

KUWAIT

Entry ban:
  • For all travellers, except Kuwaiti citizens, immediate relatives of Kuwaiti citizens and foreign residents in Kuwait.  
Government closures/suspensions:
  • Closure of all government agencies until April 26.
Restrictions:
  • Suspension of all commercial flights to/from Kuwait until further notice;
  • Foreign nationals can leave Kuwait through repatriation flights which have been scheduled to operate until May 7.
Concessions:
  • Expired work and residence permits for foreign nationals outside Kuwait can be renewed by employers in Kuwait;
  • Foreign nationals can renew their residency permits and update personal details on their residence permits through an online portal (the residency renewal service applies only to those whose residency permits expired in March 2020);
  • According to the Ministry of Interior, wives of Kuwaiti citizens, non-Kuwaiti parents of Kuwaiti nationals, non-Kuwaiti children and husbands of Kuwaiti women, non-Kuwaiti widows or divorced women who are the guardians of their Kuwaiti children, domestic workers, and foreign nationals who are in violation of the residency law and are present in the country as of March 1, 2020 will be exempt from overstay fines if they decide to depart Kuwait between April 1 and April 30, subject to coordinating the departure with their embassy; those who decide to remain in Kuwait will be able to regularize their status subject to the payment of prescribed fines and meeting eligibility criteria;

 

LEBANON

Government closures/suspensions:
  • Closure of all government agencies until April 30.
Restrictions:
  • Suspension of all incoming and outgoing commercial domestic and international flights for all travellers until April 26, except inbound repatriation flights for Lebanese nationals.
Concessions:
  • Foreign nationals in Lebanon can renew their work and residency visas; however, applications are subject to case-by-case review at the discretion of the authorities.

 

MOROCCO

Government closures/suspensions:
  • Closure of all government agencies until May 20.
Restrictions:
  • Suspension of all commercial domestic and international flights;
  • Suspension of repatriation flights for foreign nationals.
Concessions:
  • It is expected that foreign nationals with expired visas in Morocco, including visit visas, will be exempt from overstay fines once the situation stabilizes and government authorities resume their work.

 

OMAN

Entry ban:
  • Entry ban for all travellers except Omani citizens.
Government closures/suspensions:
  • Suspension on the issuance of all in-country and out-of-country visas (except applications submitted on or before March 17 and Residence Cards applications);
  • Suspension of all immigration operations, including services related to civil status, passports and residency until further notice.
Restrictions:
  • Travel outside Oman is not allowed for nationals of Oman;  
  • Suspension of all commercial domestic and international flights for all travellers until further notice.
Concessions:
  • It is expected that foreign nationals in a visitor status whose visas have expired due to the current situation will be allowed to extend them.

 

PAKISTAN

Government closures/suspensions:
  • Closure of all government agencies (including the federal government and the provincial governments of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan) until April 30.
Restrictions:
  • Suspension of all commercial flights to/from Pakistan until April 21.
Concessions:
  • Visas of foreign nationals who had entered Pakistan before the suspension of commercial flights was imposed, have been extended until April 30. It is not clear whether this applies to all or only select categories of visas.

 

QATAR

Entry ban:
  • Entry ban for all foreign nationals, except for Permanent Residence card holders;
  • Passengers transiting through the airport in Doha can continue their journey, provided that have valid documents for their next destination.
Quarantine:
  • 14-day quarantine for Qatari nationals entering Qatar.
Government closures/suspensions:
  • Suspension of processing for new entry visa applications (i.e.: work visa, business visa, family visa) for applicants of all nationalities in Qatar Financial Centre Free Zone (QFC);
  • Suspension of processing of new residence permit applications for applicants of all nationalities in QFC;
  • Suspension of processing of all new and amendment labour quota applications, including those that are in progress;
  • Closure of all Qatar Visa Centres until further notice;
  • Suspension of all in-person immigration application submission.
Restrictions:
  • Nationals of Qatar must use their passport for entry;
  • Travel outside Qatar is not allowed for nationals of Qatar until further notice.
Concessions:
  • Foreign nationals whose residence permit has been cancelled may, subject to immigration approval, be able to remain in Qatar for up to 90 days as opposed to the usual 30 days.

 

SAUDI ARABIA

Entry ban:
  • Entry ban for all travellers except Saudi citizens until further notice (Saudi nationals willing to return to Saudi Arabia must register through an online system to request an approval to return).
Government closures/suspensions:
  • Closure of all government agencies except those related to public health and security or the military sector until further notice;
  • Suspension of processing of all categories of visa applications at Saudi consular posts (some consular posts remain open, including the embassies in Australia, Canada and the US).  
Restrictions:
  • Suspension of all commercial flights to/from Saudi Arabia until further notice;
  • Closure of land borders for all passenger traffic, including the King Fahad Causeway, linking Bahrain with Saudi Arabia;
  • Temporary suspension of travel between all governorates in the country;  
  • Travel is not allowed for nationals of Saudi Arabia and foreign residents in Saudi Arabia travelling to Bahrain, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Concessions:
  • Foreign nationals whose residence permit and/or exit-re-entry visa expired while they are outside Saudi Arabia are expected to be able to renew their permits through one of the electronic portals Absher or Muqeem (this option is currently unavailable but expected to be activated shortly);
  • Foreign nationals whose visit visa for business has expired or is due to expire, may extend the allowable duration of stay in Saudi Arabia for a period similar to the period printed on their initial visa (the extension can be processed electronically through the Muqeem portal);
  • The validity of the visit visa for tourism will not be affected by the current immigration and travel restrictions, and it is expected to be extended (this applies to unused visas and visas of foreign nationals who are currently in Saudi Arabia);
  • Residence permits of foreign nationals (in or outside Saudi Arabia), that expire anytime between March 20, 2020 and June 30, 2020 have been automatically extended by three months;
  • Employers of foreign nationals with a final exit visa and exit re-entry visa can obtain a special permit allowing the workers to depart Saudi Arabia (the request can be submitted once every 14 days and it should include a list of employees who wish to depart);
  • Government authorities announced a waiver of fees for the renewal of residence permits;
  • The validity of exit re-entry visa has been automatically extended by three months for foreign nationals who are inside Saudi Arabia and whose visas expire anytime between February 25 and May 25, 2020 (this applies only to exit re-entry visas that have not been used due to existing travel restrictions).

 

TUNISIA

Entry ban:
  • Entry ban for all travellers except Tunisian citizens due to the closure of borders.
Government closures/suspensions:
  • Suspension of issuance of all residence permit applications until further notice;
  • Suspension of commercial and international flights until further notice;
  • Closure of government agencies and borders until April 20 (it is subject to renewal by government authorities).

 

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Entry ban:
  • Entry ban for all travellers (including GCC citizens and foreign nationals with valid UAE residence permit), except UAE nationals and diplomats.
Government closures/suspensions:
  • Suspension of processing of the following applications: a) all new employment entry permit applications for foreign nationals who are outside of the UAE; b) all new residence entry permit applications for foreign nationals who are outside of the UAE; c) all new mission entry permit applications; and d) all new applications for a visit visa (for tourism, etc.). The suspension includes all pending applications;  
  • Closure of the General Directorate of Residence and Foreigners Affairs (Immigration Office);
  • Closure of Amer service centers until further notice;
  • Online processing of applications continues, although with some limitations (e.g.: due to issues with the processing of payments);
  • Suspension of all in-person applications, including the amendment of personal details and the ability to obtain and/or amend Unified Identity Numbers;
  • Government service offices at major free zones in the UAE, including DAFZA, DDA, DIFC, DMCC and JAFZA are closed until further notice. Online applications continue to be processed (although with some limitations in select free zones);
  • Closure of Tasheel, Tadbeer and Tawjeeh service centers until further notice. The processing of online applications continues, but all out of-country applications and labor awareness training is suspended;
  • Medical centres remain closed until further notice (with some exceptions);  
  • Emirates Identity Card centres remain closed until further notice (with some exceptions);
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC) offices are closed until further notice;
  • Suspension of the endorsement of residence visa stickers.

Restrictions:

  • Suspension of all inbound and outbound passenger flights (including transit flights) to and from all airports in the UAE, except repatriation flights operated by the UAE carriers;
  • Travel outside the United Arab Emirates is not allowed for nationals of the United Arab Emirates.
Concessions:
  • Temporary waiver of medical examination requirement for renewal of residence permits for all employees in the private sector, including domestic workers;
  • The validity of residence permits with an expiry date on or after March 1, 2020 has been automatically extended until December 31, 2020;
  • The validity of residence permits issued for foreign nationals in the Emirate of Dubai, regardless of the expiry date, has been automatically extended by one month (in addition to the extension reported above);
  • The validity of mission work permits has been automatically extended until December 31, 2020;
  • It is expected that foreign nationals whose 30-day grace period post the residence visa cancellation has expired on or after March 1, and who are unable to obtain a new visa due to existing immigration restrictions, will not face immigration penalties. Further details of this provision are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
 
Source: https://www.fragomen.com/