On 30 June 2020, the European Council issued a recommendation with a number of guidelines for the EU as a whole, making it possible for Member States to open their borders to travellers from outside Europe as of 1 July. Within this European framework, it is up to each Member State to decide when, under what conditions and from which countries travellers will be allowed in again.
Nothing will change in Belgium on 1 July: the government will develop this European framework further.
List of 14 countries: non-essential travel is also possible
Non-essential travel for residents of a list of 14 countries is possible provided a number of criteria are met. These criteria pertain to the epidemiological situation in the other country and to measures taken to prevent further infection (e.g. social distancing) on the one hand, and to economic and social considerations on the other.
This means that there would no longer be any travel restrictions for travellers from Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. Belgium can therefore decide to return to the situation prior to the coronavirus crisis for these countries. For countries which are subject to visa requirements, the Belgian Consulate in the respective countries will be able to re-issue a visa.
Travel from China will only be possible if that country admits travellers from Europe again. Turkey and the United States are not on the list for the time being.
From now on, the European Council will re-assess every two weeks whether further adjustments can be made.
Attention: if there is a new COVID-19 outbreak in a country that is currently on the list, entailing a change in the epidemiological situation, a re-entry ban may be imposed.
What if a country is not on the list?
The current re-entry ban will remain in force for people coming from countries other than those on the list. The Belgian Consulate in those countries is still unable to issue visas. Travelling from those countries remains possible only to a very limited extent, but Member States may extend the exceptions somewhat. Belgium will thus also be able to decide to allow highly qualified workers from third countries if their employment is necessary from an economic point of view and the work cannot be postponed or carried out abroad. The same applies to third-country nationals who have to travel here for study purposes.
What is an essential journey?
Each country has its own definition of "essential travel". The European definition of "essential travel" is much more restrictive than the Belgian definition. Belgium must adhere to the limited categories as described in the European framework.
Belgium is very pragmatic: every commute to work is an essential journey. As soon as the federal government decides, foreign nationals will be authorized to work in Belgium on condition that they are allowed to enter the territory (either on the list of authorised countries or one of the categories of the European framework) and that they can also get here (air traffic is still seriously disrupted, measures taken by airlines).
Read the Recommendation of the European Council here.
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