The coronavirus pandemic has led to a large number of travel restrictions. Closed borders, canceled flights, and suspended visas have greatly limited global movement.
Many people have been stranded in a foreign country, unable to return home. Individuals in this situation may be worried about what happens when their visa expires.
Many governments have put measures in place to allow overseas visitors to remain legally in the country if they are unable to leave. Some have automatically extended visas, while others require the foreign national to apply for an extension.
The novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, was first documented in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019. It quickly spread around the world in the first few months of 2020, with large numbers of cases occurring in the USA, Italy, Spain, the UK, and Iran, among others.
A number of countries, such as Italy and Spain, closed their borders completely, while other nations chose to allow foreign nationals to enter under certain conditions, such as having a medical certificate verifying that they were free of the virus.
Many passenger flights around the world have been canceled until further notice. This has resulted in many foreign nationals being left in a position where they cannot leave the country they were visiting with a visa that is soon to expire or has expired already.
Because of this, many governments have made provisions to extend visas for foreign nationals already in the country, while suspending visas for foreigners currently outside the sovereign state.
Others have assured stranded travelers that they will not face a penalty for overstaying their visas due to the circumstances.
The COVID-19 pandemic means that worldwide visa information is constantly changing, so it is important to keep up to date.
Last update: July 14th, 2020.
Can I Extend My Stay in the US After 90 Days?
Under normal circumstances, foreign nationals visiting the United States of America must leave the country before their visa or ESTA expires.
US visas grant a maximum stay of between 1 and 6 months, while the ESTA allows travelers on the visa waiver program to visit visa-free for up to 90 days.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the US government recognizes the fact that visitors from overseas may be unexpectedly forced to remain on American soil due to canceled flights or other factors.
Nonimmigrant foreign nationals are advised to apply for an extension of stay (EOS) or change of status (COS) in advance of the expiration date of their US visa. This can be done by contacting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Many of the required forms can be completed online.
If an application for an EOS or COS has been filed before the expiration date, but is still pending when the visa or ESTA expires, this is not usually regarded as unlawful presence in the US for the foreign national.
If the EOS or COS request is filed late due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the applicant’s control, such as cancellation of flights due to COVID-19, USCIS will make allowances at their own discretion.
For foreign nationals in the visa waiver program, the situation is similar. However, if emergencies prevent the visitor from leaving on time, USCIS may allow them a further 30 days. Travelers in this situation should call the USCIS Contact Center.
How to Handle Visa Overstays in the EU
Travelers wondering how to handle visa overstays in the EU and Schengen Area will find that the rules are similar to in the US.
According to Chapter V Article 33 of the EU Visa Code regarding Extensions, extenuating circumstances mean that EU countries are obliged to grant a free Schengen visa extension:
“The period of validity and/or the duration of stay of an issued visa shall be extended where the competent authority of a Member State considers that a visa holder has provided proof of force majeure or humanitarian reasons preventing him from leaving the territory of the Member States before the expiry of the period of validity of or the duration of stay authorised by the visa. Such an extension shall be granted free of charge.”
The coronavirus pandemic falls under the category of “force majeure”, meaning that tourist visas are being extended for foreign nationals stranded in EU countries.
Travelers worried about overstaying are advised to contact the relevant authorities or the nearest embassy of their own country.
Immigration offices have begun to reopen in some EU countries for in-person services, although at a reduced capacity and visa services may not yet be available for some destinations.
How Do I Extend My Visa in the UK?
Foreign nationals currently in the UK who are unable to leave the country due to travel restrictions or self-isolation will be able to extend their stay until July 31, 2020.
In order to extend a UK visa due to COVID-19, the visitors who do not plan to stay in the long term must update their records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT).
Alternatively, foreign nationals can change their UK visa to a long-term one. Travelers who would normally have to apply from their home countries will be able to do this from inside the UK.
Applications for these extensions can be completed online. UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) and Service and Support Centres (SSCs) have now reopened after being temporarily closed. However, only a limited number of appointments are available at present and only for existing customers.
Some healthcare workers (both NHS and private) whose visa is due to expire before October 1, 2020 will receive an extension of one year for both themselves and their families.
Can I Extend My Stay in Australia Due to Coronavirus?
Foreign nationals currently in Australia with a visitor visa or Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) are advised to return to their home country as soon as they can.
If unable to leave the country and the visa or ETA is set to expire, the visitor must apply for a new one. In accordance with Australian migration law, neither the visitor visa nor the ETA can be extended.
The overseas traveler must apply for the new visa or ETA before the current one expires if possible.
If the current visa or ETA expires before the new one is issued, the visitor may be given a bridging visa to make their stay lawful until the new visa or ETA application has been processed.
If the old visa or ETA has already expired, the foreign national should apply for a bridging visa immediately.
For foreign individuals who have been working in Australia, the Australian Department of Home Affairs announced the introduction of a new type of visa – the COVID-19 pandemic Temporary Activity (subclass 408) visa in the Australian Government Endorsed Event (AGEE) stream.
This allows eligible holders of temporary visas to extend their stay if unable to leave the country due to COVID-19. It will be available to workers in sectors considered to be of vital importance, such as agriculture, childcare, healthcare, care of the elderly or disabled, and food processing.
Can I Extend My Visa in New Zealand Due to Coronavirus?
New Zealand has announced that all visitor visas, work visas, student visas, limited visas, and interim visas that were due to expire between April 2 and July 9, 2020 will be automatically extended to September 25th.
Foregin citizens holding a temporary work visa which expires between July 10th and December 31st, 2020 will be automatically granted granted a 6-month extension, including those whose visas were previously extended to September 25th.
All current visa holders should receive confirmation of this by email. The New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) is valid for 2 years.
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) offices have now resumed processing new temporary entry and residence visa applications. However, priority will be given to foreign nationals already in New Zealand.
Canada: How Long Can I Stay After Applying for a Visa Extension?
Foreign nationals in Canada whose visa is due to expire may request an extension of stay.
Visitors to the country who hold a visitor visa or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) for Canada can apply for a visitor record. This document is not classified as a visa, but allows the foreign national to stay in the country.
After successfully applying for an extension of stay, the traveler can stay until the expiry date specified on the visitor record for Canada.
Foreign workers and students in Canada can extend their work and study permits, respectively, if they fulfill the necessary criteria. However, if the work or studies have come to an end, but they are unable to leave the country due to coronavirus, foreign nationals can apply to change their status to visitor.
If a foreign national’s visa or eTA has already expired, they may apply to restore their visitor, work, or study status as long as it has been less than 90 days since the expiration of their previous authorization.
Canadian authorities have now resumed processing existing visa and ETA applications to reduce the backlog, although even if one of these documents is issued, the holder will still be subject to current travel restrictions and border closures.
How to Extend a Visa for India
India is no longer granting visas for overseas travelers who plan to visit the country and all visas that have already been issued have been suspended.
The exception is those foreign nationals who are already in India, whose visas remain valid. These Indian visas can be extended or their status changed by contacting the nearest FRRO (Foreigner Regional Registration Office) in India or by applying online. The extension will last until 30 days after India lifts its current restrictions on international travel.
The extension will last for 30 days after India lifts its current restrictions on international travel, on July 15th.
What Happens if I Overstay my UAE Visa?
The United Arab Emirates has now resumed charging fees for visa services and allowing new visa applications.
Although authorities of the UAE previously announced that overstay fines would be waived until December 31st for foreign nationals whose visas expired after March 1st , this policy has now changed.
On July 12th, a 1-month grace period for all holders of expired UAE visit visas and tourist visas was implemented, effective until August 10th. Those with expired visas must now leave the country by this date or pay fines for a visa overstay.
Foreigners with residency in the UAE whose visas expired between March 1st and July 12th have been given a 3-month grace period to either renew their visa or leave the country, which will end on October 10th.
Various other countries have adopted similar rules with regards to visa extensions for foreign visitors. It is advisable to consult global visa information to check the requirements for your particular situation.