Global Travels updates


US Resumes ‘Drop Box’ Visa Processing In Nigeria




The United States (US) Government has announced the resumption of the drop box service or interview waiver in Nigeria.

This is coming 32 months after the US mission in Nigeria, first announced the indefinite suspension of drop box process for visa renewals in all its consulates in Nigeria in May 2019.

The suspension order was disclosed in a statement by the United States Embassy in Nigeria. The Drop Box visa renewal programme allows certain visa applicants who have previously been issued US visas to renew their visas without attending an interview. This means that you can get a US visa stamp without any personal interview by a US visa officer, but rather submit documents.

However, in the outlined criteria, the embassy said to qualify for the interview waiver, “visa applicants must be applying to renew either a B1/B2, an F, an L, or an H visa. The applicants must satisfy all of the criteria for their visa class.”

The statement noted that, if applying as a group or family, all members must fulfil each criterion to use the programme.

The US Embassy in Nigeria, also said that applicants who are 79 years and older automatically qualify for the interview waiver. Although, they are still required to apply and print a copy of their interview waiver letter through the schedule platform.

The statement read in part: “Right now, this service is only available to applicants renewing a B1/B2, C1/D, F, M or J, H and L visa. Applicants must satisfy all the following criteria for their visa class. If applying as a group or family, all members must fulfil all criteria to qualify for interview waiver.

“For B1/B2 or C1/D visa holders: the applicant must possess a full-validity B1/B2 or C1/D visa that expired within the past 24 months or will expire in the next three months.

“The applicant must be a citizen or resident of Nigeria. The applicant must not have been refused a visa since the issuance of the previous visa, or had a visa revoked, or have ever required a waiver.

The applicant possesses all issued passports covering the entire period since receiving the previous visa and the passport with the most recent visa.

“The applicant has never been arrested or convicted of any crime or offence in the United States, even if the applicant has later received a waiver or pardon.

“The applicant has never worked without authorisation or remained beyond their permitted time in the United States. C1/D applicants must possess a letter from the employer outlining the scope, duration, and location of the anticipated work.”

The same criteria also apply to Lagos F or M visa holders and Abuja applicants with F1/F2 visas, while for J visa holders, the embassy said the visa must be for academic purposes.

“The applicant’s DS-2019 must be for an academic program (not summer work travel, au pair, or camp counsellor”, the statement said.

The embassy also instructed applicants to complete their applications using this link.:

“The following documents are to be mailed to the Abuja embassy via a designated document delivery DHL facility: “A printout of your submission letter (printed from ustraveldocs.com/ng/); completed DS-160; an approved I-20; a receipt for your I-901 SEVIS fee; a GTB (MRV) receipt for your visa fee; your passport containing the expired student visa (if that passport is expired, a current valid passport is also required).”

Also required are: “A passport photograph meeting these requirements; proof of continued full-time enrollment (such as transcripts, tuition payment, etc.)”.

The embassy added that only applicants with scheduled appointments can drop off documents at the US Consulate.

Australia could open to tourists before Easter, says country’s prime minister


Australia’s prime minister says he wants to open the nation’s borders to fully vaccinated international travellers “certainly before Easter”.


In a radio interview, Scott Morrison said the restoration of incoming tourism and family visits is “our next hurdle”.


He said: “We’re working away to just get the timing of that right, and I don’t think it’s too far away. I’d like to see us get there soon, certainly before Easter, well before Easter.


“We’re just watching how Omicron is sort of washing over the eastern states at the moment, but with Omicron peaking, that then starts opening up opportunities.”


At present tourist arrivals from the UK and the vast majority of other countries are banned. Even moving around Australia is fraught with problems, with Western Australia keeping borders closed.


The WA premier, Mark McGowan, cancelled the planned reopening on 5 February, saying that to allow in outsiders before boosters had been rolled out across the state would be “reckless and irresponsible”.


Scott Morrison did not refer to Western Australia in the interview, which was with the North Queensland radio station 4CA.


He was speaking on the day that Tourism Australia launched a promotion aimed at luring long-stay working holidaymakers to the country. They are already able to enter the country, even though short-term tourists are not.

 

Anyone who arrives before 19 April 2022 gets their A$495 (£265) visa fee refunded.


The campaign is aimed at young people from the UK, Ireland and five other countries.


Tourism Australia’s managing director, Phillipa Harrison, said: “This new incentive will potentially enable thousands of working holidaymakers to start working and travelling here sooner than planned, while also providing much-needed support to our tourism and hospitality sector with a boost in visitation and some relief to their current workforce pressures. “Our tourism industry is keen to welcome them back.”


United Arab Emirates has lifted its travel bank on Nigeria and 11 other African countries.

United Arab Emirates has lifted its travel bank on Nigeria and 11 other African countries.


The UAE officials said all inbound flights from Nigeria and 11 other countries would resume after the indefinite ban that was triggered by the Omicron variant of Covid-19.


The 12 countries affected by the ban were Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.


According to the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Emergency Management Authority, starting 2.30 pm on Saturday, January 29, entry measures for travellers coming in from three other African countries: Uganda, Ghana and Rwanda have been updated


It, however, said inbound passengers from the listed countries would be required to present negative Covid-19 test results, obtained from approved laboratories not longer than 48 hours prior to their departure, on arrival in UAE.


Also, the passengers will be required to undergo a Rapid PCR test at the airports of departure as well as another PCR test upon arrival.


Emirates Airlines, one of the UAE carriers, had also suspended flights to many African cities due to the earlier directive.

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Covid-19 tests scrapped for England arrivals


Travellers touching down in England will no longer have to take Covid-19 tests if they are fully vaccinated against the virus, the government has confirmed.


The changes will be introduced from 04:00 on February 11th.


The travel sector welcomed the move as a welcome boost ahead of the half-term holiday next month.


Rules have also been eased for unvaccinated travellers, who will no longer have to take a day eight test.


However, they will still need pre-departure and day two tests.


Everyone arriving in England, regardless of vaccination status, will still need to fill in a passenger locator form - although these would be made “simpler and easier” to complete, transport secretary Grant Shapps said this afternoon.


Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have previously followed the lead of England, but any changes are for them to decide.


Commenting on the changes, prime minister Boris Johnson said although people had to be “cautious,” “you can see the figures are starting to get better”.  The move will be welcomed by the travel and tourism industry, one of the sectors most badly affected by coronavirus lockdown measures.


Julia Simpson, World Travel & Tourism Council chief executive, said: “WTTC welcomes the government’s decision to scrap testing for those who are fully vaccinated travelling to England.


“There is no longer any need for testing, and we urge ministers across the UK and countries around the world to follow England’s lead and allow the fully vaccinated to travel freely.


“After a gruelling 18 months for the UK tourism sector, this will provide a massive boost to businesses up and down the country.”

European Countries Travel Restrictions: Vaccination, Covid-19 Booster, Testing and Quarantine Rules

European Countries Travel Restrictions: Vaccination, Covid-19 Booster, Testing and Quarantine Rules

On Wednesday January 5 Europe recorded 1.02 million new cases of Covid-19, up from 900,000 cases reported across the European Union the day before–both were daily records. To battle these record-breaking infection rates, many EU countries are contemplating making vaccination mandatory. France passed a law (which still needs to go through the Senate) to turn its current health pass into a vaccine pass–this would require everyone to be fully vaccinated to be able to eat out, go to a bar or visit a museum (a negative test result would no longer suffice). Italy made vaccination mandatory for the over 50s, approximately 28 million people, and Austria is planning to make vaccination compulsory for everyone over the age of 14 from 1 February 2022.

Here is the list of booster, vaccination, testing and quarantine requirements for EU countries for January 2022.

1.            Austria— tourist travel open to vaccinated with booster or PCR test result Since 20 December, anyone wanting to enter Austria must follow the 2G rule where in addition to showing evidence of having been vaccinated or recovered, you must also either show a negative PCR test result or evidence of having had the booster jab. Internally, the country is following Covid-19 restrictions based on what is being called the 3G rule–Geimpft (vaccinated), Genesen (recovered), Getestet (tested negative). Some venues are asking for 3G proof, others 2G and some 2.5G, depending on the region and venue.

 

2.            Belgium—most unvaccinated not allowed. Belgium is color-coding countries to determine travel restrictions as per ECDC recommendations and much of the EU and Schengen area are currently red, as well as most third-party countries. Updates are done on Saturdays. Travelers arriving from green or orange zones do not need to quarantine or test. Anyone arriving from a red zone in the EU/Schengen area or a red zone White List country–if they are vaccinated, they do not need to get tested or self-isolate. Anyone unvaccinated will need to arrive with a negative PCR test result, head into isolation and test out after a negative test on days 1 or 2. Anyone arriving from a red zone from outside the EU/White List is only allowed if they are vaccinated, or can prove they are traveling for essential reasons.

 

3.            Croatia—proof of paid accommodation required. Anyone arriving from an EU/Schengen area country can enter if they can show one of the following: proof of vaccination in the past 365 days, proof that they have had Covid-19 (between 11 and 365 days before arrival), or proof of a negative test taken no more than 48 to 72 hours before arrival at the Croatian border.

 

4.            Czech Republic—rules tightened for foreign nationals. Rules were tightened on 27 December for all foreign nationals. Anyone who has been fully vaccinated but not had a booster will need to have a negative PCR test result to enter the country, if they are on the right list. Unvaccinated people will need to also take a PCR test on days 5 and 7 after arrival. Anyone arriving must fill in the arrival form.

5.            Denmark—vaccinated need negative test results. From 27 December, the government requires anyone arriving to have a negative Covid-19 test result, even if vaccinated. The test must be a maximum of 48 hours with a rapid antigen test or 72 hours with a PCR-test at the time of entry. Anyone arriving from a high-risk country must also self-isolate for 10 days after arriving in Denmark. People may ‘test out’ of quarantine on day 6 with a negative PCR test result.

6.            France—testing for all non-EU arrivals. France is operating a green, orange, red and a scarlet list of countries, from which different travel restrictions apply, the main difference being if people are vaccinated or not. As of 4 December, anyone arriving from the EU/Schengen area will only need to take a test if they are not vaccinated (taken up to 24 hours before arrival). However, everyone must now test if they arrive from outside the EU+ bloc, even if they are vaccinated. These tests must be PCR (some antigen tests are allowed) and taken no more than 48 hours before arrival. For unvaccinated travelers, the color codes determine if they are allowed to travel. The U.S. is on the red list meaning that unvaccinated travelers must have a pressing reason for travel. Arrivals might be subject to random testing and everyone must self-isolate for 10 days.

7.            Germany—travel ban in place as unvaccinated restricted. Every traveler must fill out a Digital Registration Form and there is testing taking place upon arrival. Fully vaccinated travelers from anywhere can enter Germany, as can those who have had Covid-19, children under 12, anyone in transit and anyone who is resident in the EU/Schengen area. For most other situations, there is a travel ban currently in place where there must be an urgent need to travel.

8.            Greece—every arrival must test. There is a list of countries from which travelers can visit, which includes the U.S. and the U.K. Until at least 10 January, all arrivals must have a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival or a rapid-antigen test taken no more than 24 hours before arrival, regardless of vaccination status.

9.            Ireland—vaccinated doesn’t need to test. From 6 January 2022, anyone who is vaccinated or can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 in the past 6 months does not have to test before arrival. Anyone else can enter with a negative PCR test result.

10.          Italy—unvaccinated need to quarantine for 5 days. Italy is running a series of lists, where countries are subject to very different travel restrictions. Travelers from Safe List countries for instance do not need to undertake the current 5-day quarantine that many other unvaccinated travelers must.

In many cases, even vaccinated travelers must arrive with proof of a negative Covid-19 test result. Unvaccinated travelers are allowed to visit but must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test result and must quarantine for five days (this includes the U.S.). At the end of the five-day quarantine, they are also required to take an antigen or PCR test to leave self-isolation. Everyone must fill out a Digital Passenger Locator Form.

11.          The Netherlands—entry ban in place from outside EU. Travelers are allowed into the Netherlands from the EU/Schengen area but there is a travel ban effective from all travelers arriving from outside this area with some exemptions for people traveling from safe countries (and these people would need to arrive with a negative test result). Vaccinated people fall into this exemption category. Anyone arriving from high-risk areas are not allowed to enter, unless they fall into the exemption categories (and then must show negative test results and quarantine). Everyone must fill in a Health Declaration Form.

12.          Spain—vaccinated, EU and EU safe list can visit. Since 17 July, Spain has been open to vaccinated travelers, EU residents and anyone from an EU safe-list country (Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Kuwait, New Zealand, Peru, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the UAE and Uruguay). Aside from some specific categories of people, non-essential travel is not allowed for the unvaccinated from third party countries outside the EU/Schengen area.

13.          England–travel restrictions eased. The government announced the relaxation of travel restrictions in England at the beginning of January where vaccinated travelers are now allowed entry, without the need for pre-departure testing. However, they must take a lateral flow test on day 2, booked before arrival. For unvaccinated people, there is a need to arrive with a negative Covid-19 test result, enter quarantine for ten days and then take a PCR test on Day 2 and Day 8.


UAE Announces Travel Ban On Unvaccinated Citizens, Booster Dose Required For Travel.

The National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) of the UAE on Saturday announced a travel ban on its citizens unvaccinated against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) starting January 10.


Moreover, according to the national protocol booster doses vaccinated citizens are required to obtain the booster dose for travel.


However, unvaccinated citizens from the following categories are permitted to travel;


Individuals medically exempted from taking the vaccine.

Humanitarian Cases.

Individuals traveling for medical and treatment purposes.

Justin Trudeau laid out the federal government's priorities in a mandate letter written to immigration minister

Trudeau laid out the federal government’s priorities in a mandate letter written to Fraser on December 16. Fraser took office as the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Trudeau’s cabinet on October 26.

In the letter, Trudeau has outlined 13 measures that the immigration department is meant to focus on. They cover varied objectives, from increasing the immigration quota for refugees to addressing delays in the system due to Covid-19. Strengthening of family reunification programs and welcoming skilled workers to high-demand sectors like medical fields find a mention too.

These guidelines are expected to drive the changes to the immigration processes in the upcoming days at both federal and provincial levels.

Canada should reduce processing time for immigration applications and focus on expanding permanent residency opportunities for international students, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said in a letter to Canada’s new immigration minister Sean Fraser.

Canada lifts travel ban on Nigeria and nine other African countries.
Canada announced Friday the lifting of a ban on foreign travellers from Nigeria and nine other African countries.

The country also reimposed testing, warning that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 risks quickly overwhelming hospitals.

Apart from Nigeria, the travel restriction on flights is also lifted on South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Malawi and Egypt.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos was quoted as announcing this at a news conference on Friday.

He said the lifting of the travel ban would take effect from 11:59 pm on Saturday.

The restriction had been announced last month “to slow the arrival of Omicron in Canada and buy us some time,” he said.

“But with Omicron now spreading within Canada it is no longer needed,” he added.
UK Lifts Suspension On Processing Visa For Nigerians
The British High Commission has resumed the issuance of visitor’s visas to citizens of countries previously on its red list, including Nigeria.

In the wake of the Omicron variant fears, the UK government had placed Nigeria and some other countries on a ‘red list’, restricting travel and entry to the UK. But, it has now retracted that decision removing Nigeria from the list which had generated a public outcry.
UK's latest Covid travel rules on PCR tests
The UK's red list has once again been left empty after 11 countries were removed from it at 4am from December 15 in a move that paves the way for Brits hoping to escape for some winter sun, although there are still key factors to consider when booking a holiday during Omicron.

Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe have all been taken off the red list.

This means that currently anyone returning to the UK from abroad will not be required to stay in a quarantine hotel, with costs of up to £2,285 for adults.

In fact, under the latest Covid travel rules, anyone arriving into the UK will be required to take a pre-departure Covid test - PCR or lateral flow - within 48 hours before departure. Once you arrive in the UK, the rules on tests and self-isolation depend on your vaccination status.

If you're fully vaccinated against Covid (aka two doses of an approved jab), you'll need to self-isolate at home for the first two days, and take a PCR test on day two. A negative result will release you from your self-isolation.

If you're unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, you'll need to self-isolate at home for 10 days, taking PCR tests on days two and eight.

Travellers will need to pay for the PCR tests themselves, although there are a lot of travel firms offering discounted PCR tests including the likes of TUI, easyJet, Jet2, Ryanair and British Airways.

Travel rules can change quickly during the pandemic, so you should always check the latest Foreign Office advice for a destination before booking or going on a trip as this will include any updates for entry requirements and other Covid rules you'll need to be aware of.

Following the Omicron outbreak, a number of countries have already tightened up their entry rules.

For example France has introduced new Covid test requirements for Brits, while Spain changed its entry requirements meaning that UK arrivals now need to be fully vaccinated if they want to visit for holidays.

Other popular holiday spots such as Greece, Turkey and Cyprus remain open to tourists with their existing restrictions.
Britain set to lift travel ban as deadline of Nigeria’s planned sanction nears
The United Kingdom is about to scrap the travel ban imposed on countries after the detection of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Nigeria is among the countries that UK added to its red list over Omicron.

The Nigerian government had warned the UK authorities to remove the country from the list to avoid taking a similar measure.

Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, had said if by Tuesday, the UK and other countries that took action against Nigeria over Omicron fail to review the policy, Nigeria would have no choice but to ban travellers from UK, Saudi Arabia and Argentina.

However, in a report, Daily Mail said the UK is about to scrap the travel red list and replace it with tests even for the fully vaccinated.
 
Emirates Airline on Friday announced the suspension of its flights to Nigeria.

1.       Ihram

·         Take a bath (Ghusl) which showcases an act of washing away all impurities with the intention for Ihram.

·         Change into Ihram sheets – Men should change into the two fabrics known as Ridaa and Izaar, whereas women can wear any form of clothing which covers the body and head.

·         Perform the obligatory prayers or offer two rakaat of Sunnah prayer.

·         Face the direction of the Qibla and officially enter Ihram – You must enter Ihram before you leave for the Meeqat in Makkah.

·         At the Meeqat, make the Niyyah (intention) to perform the Hajj.

·         Recite the Talbiyah and it is advised to keep reciting it from the moment Ihram is entered until the performance of the

 

2.       Tawaaf

·         Upon arriving at the Kaabah, stop reciting the Talbiyyah and you must be in Wudu (ablution).

·         Touch the Black Stone (Hajr e Aswad) and start the Tawaaf. Ideally, touch it with your right hand and then kiss it. If, however, you are unable to kiss it directly, you can touch it with your hand then kiss your hand. If  you are not able to touch the stone with your hand, face your hand in the direction of the stone and say “Allahu Akbar”.

·         Make rounds around the Kaabah with the Kaabah being on your left. Men must keep the right shoulder uncovered during the Tawaaf, which is known as Idtibaa. This is done by placing the Ridaa beneath the right armpit and taking it up on the left shoulder. Men must also practice ‘Raml’ in the first three rounds of Tawaaf, which is essentially walking fast while taking small steps and walk normally during the other four rounds.

·         Upon finishing the seven rounds of Tawaaf, go to the station of Ibrahim (Maqaam e Ibraheem) and recite:

وَاتَّخِذُوْا مِنْ مَّقَامِ إِبْرَاهِيْمَ مُصَلًّى

       (And take you (people) the Maqaam (place) of Ibraheem as a place of Prayer. [Quran; 2:125])

·         Perform two rakaat of prayer behind Maqaam e Ibraheem. If that is difficult, you can offer the prayers in any spot of the mosque.

·         Upon offering the prayer, head back to the Black Stone and touch it if possible.

 

3.       Sa’i

·         Head for the place of Sa’i and when you near the hill of Safa, the following should be recited:

 

إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِنْ شَعَآئِرِ اللَّهِ فَمَنْ حَجَّ الْبَيْتَ أَوِ اعْتَمَرَ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِ أَنْ يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَا وَمَنْ تَطَوَّعَ خَيْراً فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ شَاكِرٌ عَلِيْم

 

(Verily, As‐Safaa and Al‐Marwah are from the symbols of Allah. So it is not a sin on him who performs Hajj or ‘Umrah of the house (ka ‘bah) to perform the going (tawaaf) between them. And whoever does good voluntarily, then verily, Allah is the All‐Recognizer, All‐Knower. [Quran; 2:158])

 

·         Ascend upon Mount Safaa, face the Qiblah, raise your hands and recite 3 times:

اللّهُ أكبر، اللّهُ أكبر، اللّهُ أكبر

 

(Allaah is the Greatest, Allaah is the Greatest, Allaah is the Greatest.)

 

لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَه، لَهُ الْمُلْكُ وَ لَهُ الْحَمْدُ يُحْيِي وَ يُمِيْتُ وَ هُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيْر؛ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَه، أَنْجَزَ وَعْدَهُ وَ نَصَرَ عَبْدَهُ وَ هَزَمَ الأَحْزَابَ وَ حْدَه

 

(There is nothing worthy of worship except Allah, Alone. He has no partner, To Him belongs the kingdom, & all praise belongs to Him, & He has power above all things, There is nothing worthy of worship except Allah, He fulfilled His promise, Granted victory to His servant, And alone He defeated the allied army.)

 

·         Descend down to Marwah and the men are to run between the green lights. The distance is marked by two green markers – the men should run till the second marker and then walk up normally to the hill of Marwah and climb up.

·         Face the Qibla and recite what you have said at Safa.

·         Descend again and head towards Safa. Upon reaching Safa,  repeat what you did the first time and repeat the same when you go back to Marwah for seven circuits (One circuit is from Safa to Marwah).

 

4.       Shaving the head/cutting of hair

·         Upon the completion of the seven circuits, men should get their head completely shaved, or get their hair clipped. While women are forbidden to shave their heads and only allowed to have a lock or strand of their hair clipped. The act of cutting the hair symbolizes one’s detachment from physical appearances and complete subjection to Allah.

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