Beginning on March 17, 2020, the Schengen Member States as well as the four Schengen Associated States (collectively the “Member States”) temporarily restricted all non-essential travel from third countries into the European Union. These restrictions extended until July 1, 2020, when the EU Council recommended that Member States begin to permit entry from travelers residing in a designated list of third countries. The United States was not included on this list of permitted countries as the country continues to report the highest number of new COVID-19 cases.
In addition to the EU Recommendation, on July 3, 2020, England relieved travel restrictions for a new list of “travel corridors.” Effective July 10, 2020, travelers from the list of fifty-nine nations and the fourteen British Overseas Territories will no longer be required to self-isolate upon arrival in England. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will announce alterations to travel restrictions in the coming days.
Similar to the EU Recommendation, the United States was omitted from the list of travel corridors. Travelers from the United States will continue to be required to self-isolate for fourteen days upon arrival in England.
What is the Impact of the EU Recommendation?
The European Union continues to restrict the majority of non-essential travel to Member States by third-country residents, including the United States. The EU Council’s Recommendation details an initial action plan for a gradual lifting of travel restrictions. Significantly, the EU Council identified fourteen countries for which any non-essential travel restrictions into Member States should be lifted, including Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay. China may be included in the list, pending confirmation of the country’s reciprocity. The Recommendation is directed at all Member States. However, Denmark and Ireland will not take part in the collective efforts to lift restrictions.
In consultation with the European Commission and other relevant EU agencies and services, the EU Council crafted the list of countries based on the epidemiological situation in all third countries. Further considerations include whether a country imposed reciprocal travel restrictions and general economic and social considerations for prospective travelers from each third country. In particular, the EU Council recommends third countries must meet the following criteria prior to lifting non-essential travel restrictions:
- Close to or below the EU average of new COVID-19 cases over the past fourteen days and per 100,000 inhabitants;
- The trend of new cases over the same period in comparison to the previous fourteen-day period is stable or decreasing; and
- The overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic (i.e., testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment and reporting, reliability of information, and total average International Health Regulations score).
The EU Council has recommended that residence, rather than nationality, serve as the determining factor in applying travel restrictions. As such, a national of a restricted country who lives in a non-restricted country would not be restricted from travel to the Members States due to nationality. For example, if Italy lifts its travel restrictions for travelers from Algeria but not for travelers from Uruguay, a Uruguayan national that resides in Algeria would not be restricted from travel to Italy. By contrast, an Algerian national who resides in Uruguay would be restricted from travel to Italy.
Will the EU List of Non-Restricted Countries Change?
On a rolling, two-week basis, the EU Council will review and update as necessary the list of countries for which Member States should consider lifting non-essential travel restrictions. As the recommended list of countries continues to change, each Member State will adjust its restricts to its own travel policy based on the criteria listed above.
Will Ongoing EU Travel Restrictions Remain Consistent Across the European Union?
The EU Council has left implementation of the Recommendation to individual Member States, which means each Member State will enforce its own policy for lifting travel restrictions on the listed countries. However, Member States will not be permitted to unilaterally lift travel restrictions on countries that have not been included in the June 30 version or any subsequent version of the published list. Further, the EU Council noted that travel restrictions may be totally or partially lifted or reintroduced for a specific third country given any changes in the criteria listed above. If a listed country were to see a sudden growth in new cases of COVID-19, a Member State may reintroduce travel restrictions on residents of that country. Accordingly, decision making will occur rapidly and Member States may lift travel restrictions progressively, which will likely leave an uncoordinated approach to restrictions across the European Union.
Are There Exceptions to the EU Travel Restrictions?
Ongoing travel restrictions will remain in place for all non-essential travel to the EU by third-country residents until each individual Member State lifts the restriction for a given third country. Where ongoing travel restrictions apply, the EU Council recommends that exemptions apply to:
- All citizens of the European Union and their family members
- Long-term residents of the European Union and their family members; and
- Travelers with an essential function or need.
Member States also will continue to enforce additional safety measures, such as self-isolation, on exempt travelers upon their return from a restricted third country. The Recommendation allows for these additional measures when those measures are also imposed on the particular Member State’s own nationals.
Who is Impacted by England’s List of Travel Corridors?
England’s list of travel corridors for which the self-isolation rule has been lifted can be found here. Beginning on July 10, 2020, travelers arriving in England will no longer be required to self-isolate, if they:
- Are travelling from one of the countries or territories on the travel corridor list; and
- Have not traveled to a country or territory that is not on the travel corridor list in the past fourteen days.
The UK Department of Transport will continually review international travel conditions, expanding the list of travel corridors and reintroducing travel restrictions as appropriate.
What Does This Mean for Employers?
Multinational companies must monitor the differences in how each EU Member State and the United Kingdom are imposing travel restrictions, particularly in the next several weeks and months. Employers should be mindful of reciprocal travel restrictions that may be imposed for nationals coming from each EU Member State or the United Kingdom, if such restrictions arise because of reported spikes in COVID-19 cases in a given EU Member State, particularly in the Mediterranean during the summer holidays. For a heat map of countries which have travel, quarantine or health checks, or visa restrictions and for which travelers are impacted by those restrictions, see our Global Traveler Navigator tool.
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And for any legal questions related to this pandemic, please contact the authors of this Legal Update or Mayer Brown’s COVID-19 Core Response Team at FW-SIG-COVID-19-Core-Response-Team@mayerbrown.com.
 Long-term residents include those individuals who have gained long-term resident status in the European Union under the Long-term Residence Directive of 2003. Generally, individuals may gain long-term resident status after having lived legally in an EU Member State for an uninterrupted period of five years, as well as having a regular source of income, health insurance, and, when required by the EU Member State, complied with integration measures.