How do Chile and Venezuela’s travel restrictions compare right now?
The covid-19 pandemic has dramatically changed global mobility and companies have had to adapt quickly. In the second article of a series on this topic, LACCA turns to member firms of Ius Laboris, the world’s largest HR and employment law firm alliance, to provide guidance on the impact on travel, mobility and immigration in Venezuela and Chile.
Partner Marcela Salazar of Chilean law firm Munita & Olavarria and associate Biba Arciniegas of Venezuelan law firm D’Empaire, both member firms of Ius Laboris, explain the key guidelines affecting their country on matters concerning quarantine, travel and visas.
How has the situation in Venezuela developed over the past few weeks?
Biba Arciniegas: The first cases of covid-19 in Venezuela were confirmed on 13 March. Subsequently, the first stay-at-home orders were announced on 15 March and were extended the next day across six states and the Caracas area. There are exceptions for transportation, health, and delivery of food, however. Following the recent announcement of yet more new cases, President Nicolás Maduro extended the quarantine to the entire country. This has now been extended until 12 June.
President Maduro announced new economic measures on 23 March, including measures to deal with unemployment, the assumption of wage payments by the state for medium and small businesses, the suspension of rent and credit interest payments, a prohibition on cutting telecommunication services and the guarantee of supply of basic goods by Local Committees for Supply and Production.
What travel restrictions are in place?
Arciniegas: Following the National State of Alarm Decree [on 13 March], and the public health and security risks deriving from coronavirus, all national and international flights (commercial or private) were suspended as of 17 March until further notice, except for overflight, air cargo and airmail operations. Certain flights to repatriate Venezuelan nationals from abroad are also permitted. Such flights must be previously authorised by the local aviation authority.
What’s happening at the borders?
Arciniegas: Neighbouring countries Brazil and Colombia have announced the closure of borders with Venezuela (the Venezuelan Executive has not done so officially). However, cooperation channels for exit and entry between land borders of Colombia and Venezuela are currently in place with restrictions, in compliance with World Health Organisation (WHO) health and safety regulations.
Are visas still valid?
Arciniegas: All visas and accreditations issued on or before 13 March, including entry stamps for tourists or visitors, will be automatically extended until the national emergency decree in place related to the coronavirus pandemic is officially lifted.
Do people have to self-isolate in the country?
Arciniegas: Home isolation is now in place for all individuals in Venezuela until 12 June. Anyone arriving in Venezuela (nationals and residents) must isolate at home for at least 14 days. Only essential workers are exempted from complying with this measure.
There are also social and community-wide quarantine measures in place: there are bans on interstate travel, with roadblocks in place [to stop people going from one state to another]. Schools, universities and all non-essential shops have remained closed since 16 March until further notice. Public gatherings have also been prohibited and people have been instructed to wear face masks when outdoors. Individuals are only allowed to go outside of their home to access supermarkets or pharmacies.
What’s the situation like in Chile?
Marcela Salazar: The Ministry of Health confirmed that the covid-19 pandemic reached Chile in March and, since then, there have been a considerable number of cases. This made the country the fifth in Latin America to report coronavirus cases after Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador and Argentina.
What travel restrictions are in place?
Salazar: On Wednesday 18 March, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera announced a 90-day “State of Catastrophe” and closed the country’s land, sea and air borders to non-Chilean citizens. All Chilean nationals and permanent residents in Chile coming from abroad may enter the country by submitting themselves to Sanitary Customs and a mandatory 14-day quarantine. As there is an ongoing outbreak of covid-19 in Chile, the Chilean authorities have introduced some measures to limit the spread of the virus including travel restrictions, curfews and quarantine requirements.
How strict are these travel restrictions?
Salazar: A curfew has now been put been in place across the whole country since 22 March and is in force from 10pm to 5am. Since 15 May, a mandatory quarantine applies to all adults over 75 years old. Also, 32 neighborhoods in the province of Santiago will be under quarantine until 22 May, which could be extended further. Since 17 April and until further notice, the wearing of masks is compulsory in public places such as public transport and taxis, elevators and funiculars, as well as any place where 10 or more people are gathered such as in supermarkets, health centres, pharmacies, and closed workplaces.
Are there any exceptions to these rules?
Salazar: Those under mandatory quarantine who wish to leave their residence for food supplies or medical reasons must apply online to the Comisaria Virtual for a permit.
It is not possible to leave or enter any area under quarantine without a “salvoconducto” (police authorisation), also obtained via the Comisaria Virtual. Foreign nationals may use their passport number to access the system (which is only available in Spanish).
How is the government enforcing these rules?
Salazar: Checkpoints for health inspections are in force at various points around Santiago and elsewhere. In addition to checking the health of persons passing through, these checkpoints will also be used to confirm that specific individuals who have been ordered to quarantine by medical authorities are not violating these rules. A "health passport" is required before travel and is to be presented at any checkpoint.
Can non-Chileans enter the country?
Salazar: On 18 March, the Chilean Government introduced a prohibition on entry into the country for non-Chileans. This applies to all nationalities, except for non-nationals with valid residency visas for Chile. The Chilean authorities have also closed all ports to cruise liners.
Can Chileans travel to and from Chile by air?
Salazar: Airlines are operating minimal domestic flights. The only international routes that are currently operating are Santiago to São Paulo (Brazil) and Santiago to Miami (US).