April 22, 2010

Airspace across Europe was opened again earlier this week after six days of empty skies.  The eruption of the now famous (but still unpronounceable) Eyjafjallajokul volcano just over a week ago caused the ban, due to the large clouds of volcanic ash floating above Northern Europe.  Volcanic ash can cause severe damage to aeroplane engines.  European safety regulations around this have now been revised, and the first flights after a week of silence landed at London’s Heathrow airport on Tuesday night.

What impact could this have on business travelers?  

Obviously, there has been travel disruption on a huge scale, and millions of individuals and families have been affected.  Although the disruption affected flights within Europe only, the impact in terms of immigration is worldwide.

European national travelers who were planning to return home from various worldwide locations upon or before visa or permit expiry may not have been able to do so, and will doubtless face further delays before they can board flights.

Non-European nationals in Europe may have been unable to leave before visa or permit expiry, again, through no fault of their own.  Widespread delays are expected, as airlines battle to catch up and deliver their passengers to their destinations, and it is entirely possible that individuals whose permits or visas have not yet expired but are due to do so in the near future may still be unable to book travel in time

What solutions are different countries offering? 

United Kingdom (UK) 

The UK Border Agency has advised here that foreign nationals in the UK who can prove that they held valid travel tickets for exit before visa or permit expiry(even if they were subsequently unable to travel due to the disruption) will not be penalized. Please see the UKBA link for the exact data below. http://tinyurl.com/2d8qa6v

United States of America (USA) 

If the traveler is at the airport and traveling under the Visa Waiver Program(VWP) and unable to depart timely, as a result of airport closures or flight delays/cancellations, travelers should:

  • Contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office at the airport or;
  • Contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office.

If the traveler is in the U.S. on a Visa, they should:

  • Extend their stay with the USCIS by contacting their Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Professional. 

Australia 

  • If you are a visa holder who may be affected by the disruption of flights to and from Northern Europe, please contact your nearest departmental office which can be found at this link. (http://tinyurl.com/2fdog2o)

Many other countries have simply advised that affected visa or permit holders should contact authorities directly about their specific situation.

What is critical to note for Employees : 

Pro-Link GLOBAL advises all our clients to contact us immediately if employees have been forced to overstay their visas or permits as a result of the volcanic ash travel disruption. Additionally, if you have any employees whose visas or permits expire in the next 5 to 10 days, and who are due to travel to or from Northern Europe prior to expiry, we advise you to contact us directly for further advice. Further, we strongly advise that all employees should retain evidence of travel bookings, even if flights were cancelled. This evidence may be required in order to obtain exit permits, re-entry permits, renewals or even for further renewals in several months’ time, and should not be discarded.

Please contact your Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Professional to discuss your situation if you or your employees are affected by the volcanic ash related travel disruption.

Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change a moment’s notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification.

Pro-Link GLOBAL worked with PLG | KGNM to provide this Global BRIEF alert to you.