With Europe experiencing the highest number of COVID-19 infections outside of China, European countries have collectively taken drastic measures to protect their borders and curb the spread of the virus. Border closures and flight cancellations, however, have left a number of foreign nationals stranded in European territory, wondering what to do next.
Following a week of piecemeal border closures in Europe, on 17 March 2020, Schengen Area member states approved the European Commission’s plan to close the external borders of the territory to non-essential travellers for at least 30 days.
The Schengen Area encompasses 26 European countries, including 22 European Union member states and 4 non-European Union states. Schengen Area member states are party to a series of Schengen Agreements, abolishing all passport and other border checks at their internal borders and presenting united policies at their external borders.
With the closure of the Schengen Area’s external borders and the subsequent cancellation of many inbound and outbound flights, foreign nationals legally present in Europe’s Schengen Area run the risk of overstaying their Schengen visas or visa-free travel periods.
What does this mean for me?
Are you a foreign national in Europe on a Schengen visa?
If you entered a European territory with a Schengen visa and are now unable to leave “before the expiry of the period of validity of or the duration of stay authorised by the visa,” Article 33 of the Visa Code provides for an extension free of charge “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.”
Holders of short-stay Schengen visas (including single-entry visas, double-entry visas, and multiple-entry visas) who are present in the Schengen Area are generally permitted to extend their visas up to a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period. Further, you may apply for a visa extension in the territory of the Schengen country you are currently in, even if that country did not issue your original visa.
Are you a foreign national in Europe with visa-free stay?
If you entered European territory without a visa because you are from a country whose nationals are visa-exempt, the principle of force majeure continues to apply. In most cases, Schengen Area visa waivers are valid for short stays of 90 days within a 180-day period. However, it is possible to apply for a long-stay visa at the competent authority of the country you are currently in to cover your extended stay.
How can I find out more?
If you have any further questions, please contact CS Global Partners at [email protected].