In order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, many countries have imposed both inbound and outbound restrictions on international travel. These restrictions can affect the ability of foreign national residents to reenter their host countries after even brief trips abroad. With the holidays approaching, resident foreign nationals who wish to travel outside their host countries must plan well in advance to ensure compliance with all departure and reentry requirements. Failure to do so could negatively affect their immigration status.

Departure and Reentry Restrictions Vary by Country

Inbound and outbound travel restrictions related to COVID-19 vary widely by country. Testing, vaccination, and quarantine requirements are common, but the details—e.g., how long a test is valid for, where and how long an individual must quarantine—differ from one country to the next. In some cases, foreign nationals must obtain advance permission to depart the country in order to reenter it later. A few notable restrictions include:

  • Australia: Temporary visa holders are allowed to leave Australia at any time. However, in order to return to Australia, a temporary visa holder must first apply for an individual exemption to the country’s Inward Travel Restrictions before leaving. In addition to other requirements, this includes demonstrating a “strong compassionate or compelling reason to leave Australia,” such as essential business travel or attending a close family member’s funeral. Temporary visa holders who do not obtain an individual exemption before departing will generally not be able to reenter the country. Depending on the national vaccination rate progressing to the desirable levels established by the Australian government, these rules may be relaxed in the near future.
  • Canada: As of October 30, all individuals departing the country by air or rail will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. During a transitional period through November 30, individuals in the process of becoming vaccinated may present a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travel. In order to reenter Canada, all individuals must upload health and travel information to the ArriveCAN mobile app or website within 72 hours of arrival.
  • Chile: In addition to quarantine and testing requirements, vaccinated non-resident foreign nationals may enter Chile by securing a Mobility Pass (Pase de Movilidad) through the Chilean government’s website, which may take about a month. Exit restrictions apply to foreign residents who do not have a valid Mobility Pass. They must request extraordinary authorization for urgent and qualified travel abroad for (a) humanitarian reasons; (b) travel essential to the applicant’s health; (c) for essential purposes “for the proper progress of the country”; and (d) to reside abroad.
  • South Korea: Foreign nationals who are long-term residents must obtain a Reentry Permit before departing the country. Otherwise, their Alien Registration Card (ARC) will be canceled. To obtain a Reentry Permit, foreign nationals must submit documents including their passport, Alien Registration Card, and Application and Consent forms. In most cases, foreign nationals may apply for the Reentry Permit online. However, in other cases (such as when the destination country is on a quarantine watch list), the foreign national must apply for the Reentry Permit in person at an immigration office, which requires an appointment. In either case, issuance of the Reentry Permit will take several business days.

Plan Ahead to Ensure Compliance—and to Avoid an Immigration Emergency

 Resident foreign nationals who are planning to travel abroad over the holidays should begin checking departure and reentry requirements now in order to facilitate both their international travel and their safe return to their host country.

Some individuals will need to schedule immigration appointments weeks in advance. Others will need to request or gather paperwork that could take time to assemble. Still others will need to locate and receive a full course of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, which typically takes several weeks. Some will need to execute these processes not just for themselves but also for their family members.

The best way to manage the risks involved in the departure and reentry process—and to avoid any unpleasant surprises at immigration control—is to plan ahead. Check (and recheck) the websites of the immigration and health authorities in your host country to make sure you know what steps are required for departure and reentry and how long each step will take. Consult with your employer and legal counsel to obtain any necessary documentation or to schedule any required appointments. Speak to your doctor about COVID-19 vaccination and testing. Monitor the rates of COVID-19 infection in your home country and in any country through which you might transit.

By beginning this process early, foreign nationals can manage and mitigate the risks associated with international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the holiday travel season draws near, make sure you have the information and documentation you need for a safe and smooth departure and return.

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