This GMS Flash Alert provides an update on the restrictions on non-essential travel to/from the European Union (EU). There are new rules around quarantine for people entering or returning to Germany after a stay abroad of several days. There are special rules for those entering or leaving Germany on a daily basis (commuters) -- because they have absolutely necessary reason(s) to enter the country -- and for freight transport.
On 8 April 2020, the European Commission issued a recommendation to the Schengen member states to extend the travel restrictions until 15 May 2020. Germany and other member states have already followed the recommendation and extended the entry restrictions accordingly.
Companies with global presence and individuals operating across borders need to be increasingly aware of the relevant risks associated with travel and new work arrangements consequent to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The travel restrictions currently in force limit international travel already to a significant extent. Given the considerable impact of the travel restrictions on individuals' civil rights and on the global economy, the intention is that the restrictions will be imposed for only a short period of time.
In any case, multinational companies for the near-term are likely to face challenges planning for projects and activities overseas. Assignments to Germany and hiring new personnel from abroad will be significantly delayed due to ongoing travel restrictions and border crossing limitations which will hamper the entry of foreign workers into Germany.
It is important to note that regardless of the possession of a national visa, the KPMG International member firm in Germany recommends not travelling to Germany if the individual’s usual residence is not in Germany already. A high risk exists that the entry will be denied unless the traveler can prove he or she has an essential purpose.
Since the current travel restrictions have proven to be helpful in slowing down the spread of COVID-19, the European Commission invited all Schengen member states and Schengen associated states on 8 April 2020, to extend the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the European Union (EU) until 15 May.1 The European Commission explicitly pointed out that these measures can only be successful if they are implemented jointly by all member states. This is the only way to protect external borders to the fullest extent possible. (For prior coverage, see GMS Flash Alert 2020-106, 24 March 2020.)
The extension of the travel restrictions applies again to the "EU+ area", which includes all Schengen member states (including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania) and the four Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland).
The Commission follows the recommendation of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. In its assessment, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control considers the progress of infection rates, the number of deaths, and the spread of the pandemic in countries outside the EU+ area. A special focus has been placed on the countries from which most travels to the EU occur. The travel restrictions in particular should help to support the national measures taken by the individual member states to prevent or slow down the spread of the pandemic.
Under the restrictions introduced, crossing the border from a non-EU member state is possible for the following groups of travelers and under the following conditions:
Holders of a valid EU Blue Card (in German: Blaue Karte EU), ICT-Card (in German: ICT Karte), Mobile-ICT-Card (in German: Mobiler-ICT-Karte), Settlement Permit (in German: Niederlassungserlaubnis), EU Long-Term Residence Permit (in German: Erlaubnis zum Daueraufenthalt-EU), Residence Permit (in German: Aufenthaltserlaubnis) or national visa can re-enter Germany if they already have a domicile or registered residence in Germany.5
The Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Homeland Affairs (BMI) has formulated, with input from the Interior and Health ministers at the federal and state levels, a "Model Ordinance on Quarantine Measures for Entry and Return Travelers to Combat Coronavirus."6
This implements the decision of the "Corona Cabinet" of Monday, 6 April 2020, which provides for a two-week domestic quarantine for people entering or returning to Germany after a stay abroad of several days.
Following this ordinance, persons who are entering Germany by land, sea, or air from abroad, are obliged to immediately take the most direct route to their own home or other suitable accommodation after their arrival and to stay there in self-isolation for a period of 14 days.
The measure must be implemented by the individual federal states by means of a general decree (Allgemeinverfügung) or an ordinance (Rechtsverorndung).7 The BMI was tasked with formulating a “model ordinance.” Once that was available, the states put in place their respective ordinances and these came into force on 10 April.
Affected persons must inform the competent authorities immediately about their obligation to stay in quarantine. Furthermore, they have to inform the authorities as soon as the first symptoms of the disease appear.
The observance of the quarantine is monitored by the competent health departments. The local regulatory authorities are responsible if the health departments cannot be reached or if they are not able to act in time. The compliance with the quarantine obligations can be checked on the basis of random samples in individual households. Violations of the quarantine measures will be sanctioned accordingly. In justified cases, the health department at its discretion may allow exceptions to the quarantine orders.
During the quarantine period, persons who are resident in Germany, who may have left the country and returned to a state (Land) that is not their usual state of residence, and thus are obliged to serve out their 14-day quarantine there, will not be allowed to work in that state.
The federal states have the freedom to implement their own individual measures for reporting and monitoring quarantine. It will become apparent how this is to be handled in practice by each state. Some further details are expected to be released by the authorities in due course, which we anticipate will help clarify much about the mechanics of the requirements and obligations noted in this newsletter.
Individuals who intend to enter Germany for the purpose of working for at least three weeks must commit to observing for the first two weeks after their entry:
The employer must inform the competent authorities in advance about the upcoming employment in order to enable them to monitor compliance with the quarantine measures.
A general exception to the quarantine requirement applies to persons who are entering or leaving Germany on a daily basis (commuters) or stay here for up to five days a week, because they have absolutely necessary reason(s) to enter the country, and additionally, they have no symptoms of the disease (following the criteria of the Robert-Koch-Institute). The same applies to persons who, for professional reasons, cross borders to transport goods and merchandise by road, rail, sea, or air, and who will subsequently enter or leave Germany, as well as to travelers in transit to their country of permanent residence.
Furthermore, there will be an exemption for individuals whose activities are necessary for the maintenance of:
The absolute necessity has to be certified by the employer in a confirmation letter.
The quarantine regulations do not apply to persons who have been abroad for less than 48 hours.
This Flash Alert is based on the available information on 13 April (at: 20:00 CET).
It is important to point out that the authorities reserve the right to decide changes to travel and border restrictions in a flexible manner to address the country’s public health and economic needs as and when they arise.
In addition, with the planned quarantine obligations, it is anticipated that other measures to combat COVID-19 will be further tightened.
It is the intent of the KPMG International member firm in Germany to issue updates as developments occur.
1 See European Commission press release at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_616 .
2 See Art. 4 (1) of the Directive 2003/86/EC, available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32003L0086&from=DE .
3 See “Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents” at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/ALL/?uri=CELEX%3A32003L0109 .
4 Such as the Directives 2009/50/EC, 2014/66/EC, or 2016/801/EC.
5 See “Wichtige Hinweise zu vorübergehenden Grenzkontrollen und Einreisebeschränkungen”.
6 See (in German) "Model Ordinance on Quarantine Measures for Entry and Return Travelers to Combat Coronavirus" at: https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/downloads/DE/veroeffentlichungen/2020/corona/muster-rv-quarantaene.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=4 .
7 On the basis of § 32 of the Infection Protection Act (IfSG) in conjunction with § 28 of the IfSG.
* Please note that KPMG LLP (U.S.) does not provide any labour law or immigration services. However, KPMG Law LLP in Canada can assist clients with U.S. immigration matters.
The information contained in this newsletter was submitted by the KPMG International member firm in Germany.
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