COVID 19 Closure of EU Borders – Impacts for workers

Prepared by Davide Marco Mangano and Paolo Lucarini

EU Member States have unanimously decided to ban the entry of people from non-EU countries within Europe for 30 days to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

This was declared by the President of the European Council Charles Michel at the end of the meeting of the leaders of the 27 EU Member States. The agreement was reached by videoconference and has been in force since Tuesday 17 March 2020.

He also stressed that the 30-day ban could be further extended if the emergency health situation across the continent does not subside.

Travels within the European Union, albeit limited, remain at least for the time being authorized. EU Member States must admit their citizens and residents to their territory and facilitate the transit of other EU citizens to return home. They can however decide independently to take measures (i.e. individual quarantine) on condition that they do the same for their citizens.

The following categories of people are currently exempt from the block and can enter the Schengen Area (compatibly with the availability of flights): doctors and health workers, elderly care workers, scientists, researchers, goods and people transporters, citizens in possession of long-term EU permits, family members of EU citizens, citizens forced to travel for serious and proven family reasons.

However, no restrictions are imposed on the movement of goods, especially in the case of essential products (food, drugs, sanitary materials, animal feed, agricultural tools).

Foreign citizens who are currently in one of the countries of the European Union and wish to return to their country of origin must firstly contact the Embassies or Consulates of their countries of origin to obtain information on how to behave.

Normally a third-country national must leave the Schengen area after the Schengen visa expires (this type of visa allows a foreign citizen to stay in Italy or in a member country for a maximum period of 90 days within 180 days) but Art. 33 of the European Schengen Visa Code provides that in the event that someone is unable to leave before the expiry of the visa for reasons of force majeure, humanitarian reasons or serious personal reasons, an extension of the Schengen visa can be requested.

The visa extension request must be submitted before the expiration of the visa itself to the authorities of the Schengen State in which the foreign citizen resides at the time of the request. With reference to the specific case of Italy, the request (at the moment managed by sending a certified email -pec) must be submitted to the police office (Questura).

Finally, according to the law, it is not possible to convert a short-term visa stay (for tourism / work) into a long-term permit directly in Italy. However, if a third-country national is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of origin for reasons connected with an emergency and insecurity situation, it’s possible to consider submitting a temporary residence permit application for “natural disaster “.

This type of residence permit can be issued only when there is an exceptional disaster situation in the country of origin which does not allow for a safe and healthy stay. The disaster permit is valid for 6 months but can be renewed for an additional 6 months if the emergency is still ongoing in that country.

This residence permit allows you to work but on the expiry date it cannot be converted into a long-term residence permit.

Finally, there is a last important news for foreign citizens currently in Italy whose residence permit expires by April 15, 2020. In fact the Decree reads 17.03.2020 n. 18 (c.d. Cura Italia) art. 103 paragraph 2 states that all certificates, permits, concessions, authorizations and authorizing acts however called, expiring between 31 January and 15 April 2020, shall remain valid until 15 June 2020. This extension shall also apply to residence permits expiring in that period.

Let’s Talk

For a deeper discussion please contact:

Paolo Lucarini

PwC TLS Avvocati e Commercialisti

Individual Tax – Partner

Davide Marco Mangano

PwC TLS Avvocati e Commercialisti

Immigration – Manager