The Belgian government, with a nod to European Commission recommendations, is adjusting its border restrictions as it assesses the evolving COVID-19 situation in countries around the world, and is alternatively leaving certain restrictions in place and putting measures/conditions in place to allow for travel by certain categories of travellers. The government has agreed to gradually resume visa operations and activities in Belgian Embassies and Consulates abroad to facilitate certain visa applications.
The European Union (EU) is gradually lifting the travel restrictions at its external borders. As explained in our GMS Flash Alert 2020-278 (12 June 2020), the European Commission has put forward an approach for a gradual and coordinated phasing out of the travel restrictions, based on a set of common principles and criteria for identifying those third countries with which it is possible to lift the travel restrictions on non-essential travel into the “EU+ area.”
As communicated in our GMS Flash Alert 2020-318, Belgium decided not to open its borders for non-essential travel by travellers from the “safe country” list of the European Commission until further notice, but agreed to gradually resume visa operations and activities in Belgian Embassies and Consulates abroad to facilitate the visa applications for 10 categories of travellers with an essential function or need.
On 20 August 2020, the Belgian government decided to further lift the travel restriction for individuals in possession of an approval for a Single Permit (annex 46) as a highly-skilled worker (B34).
This GMS Flash Alert aims to provide an update of the restrictions that are still in place for third-country citizens wishing to travel to Belgium and of the new exemptions in respect of the travel restrictions.
Belgium agreed on 17 March 2020, to follow the recommendation of the European Commission to close its external borders for non-essential travel for (initially) 30 days (see our GMS Flash Alert 2020-084, and our GMS Flash Alert 2020-096 in this respect). Belgium has since extended the travel ban multiple times with the last extension expiring on 31 August 2020 (diverging from the recommendation of the European Commission to open the border for non-essential travel for countries that are considered safe, see our GMS Flash Alert 2020-318). Although Belgium resumed its consular activities in July 2020, only certain types of visa are issued.
The various COVID-19 containment measures have had a profound impact on both professional and personal travel. Companies worldwide have had to cancel or postpone business trips and assignments. Companies can now slowly start to resume their international travel plans and prepare for upcoming business travel and assignments – however, in Belgium, such plans may still need to be put “on hold” as the travel restrictions have only partially been lifted.
Belgium has not re-opened its borders for non-essential travel by travellers from countries on the European Commission’s list of safe countries. This will remain the case until further notice. However, visa activities in Belgian Embassies and Consulates abroad are gradually starting up again so as to facilitate visa applications for 10 categories of travellers with an essential function or need.1
Travellers with an essential function or need to travel to Belgium must obtain a visa even if they would fall under the Schengen visa waiver under “normal, non COVID-19” circumstances.
In addition, the Belgian consular authorities accept visa applications for the purpose of family reunification and visas may be issued in the event of a positive decision for certain categories of family reunification (including family members of highly-qualified third-country workers).
Outsourcing partners for visa applications (VFS Global or TLS Contact), have received the necessary instructions from Belgium’s consular authorities in order to gradually resume the delivery of visa services again.
Consular services will first issue visas for previously-lodged applications and visas will be issued in order of applications filed, i.e., first in, first served.
Companies and travellers should be aware that certain consular services are faced with a backlog in their visa issuance process, resulting in delays of several weeks to obtain an appointment to lodge their visa application.
Every passenger on a flight to Belgium from an extra-Schengen country is required to complete the “Public Health Passenger Locator Form” prior to boarding. The form must be handed over to the designated authorities on arrival in Belgium.3
The form will enable public health offices to locate passengers who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Similar to our communication in our GMS Flash Alert 2020-318, every passenger travelling from an extra-Schengen country or from a red zone (as published on the website of the Federal Public of Foreign Affairs) within the Schengen+ area is required to self-quarantine for 14 days when travelling to Belgium and is required to submit to a PCR test.4
Please note that KPMG LLP (U.S.) does not provide any 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 Belgium.
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