As COVID-19 vaccines continue to get distributed in the U.S. and across the world, global business activity is rebounding, but a number of pandemic-related restrictions are still impacting workers who routinely cross borders.
Per the Wall Street Journal, ongoing travel bans and visa backlogs are still slowing down employees who travel internationally often, such as seasonal workers or foreign executives and professionals. They note that the U.S. is still restricting travel from 33 countries, and 63 American consulates abroad are currently not accepting appointments for visa processing.
This all comes while many companies continue to struggle to fill open positions, despite the economy showing positive signs. Job openings in the U.S. hit a new record-high of 9.3 million in April, up from around 5 million last spring at the beginning of the pandemic.
Clearly, a lot of businesses would benefit from an increased flow of international workers to help fill these open positions, but the key word right now seems to be “patience.” The COVID-19 recovery has not been even across the globe — as my colleague Chris Pardo recently pointed out, parts of Latin America and Asia have dealt with virus surges in recent weeks — so it makes sense that global business travel is making a staggered recovery as well.
Mobility teams should remain prepared for an increase in activity, even if it’s unclear when exactly all travel restrictions will be lifted. Focusing on short-term planning and taking an agile approach seems like the best bet for the rest of 2021.
Although federal officials have eased Covid-19 restriction guidelines, the U.S. still has kept travel bans on 33 countries, including the U.K., much of Europe, China and India. Citizens of those countries for the most part aren’t being granted work visas even if they are vaccinated or test negative for Covid-19. In countries that aren’t banned, monthslong backlogs at consulates make it difficult for foreign workers to get visas. Of the 223 U.S. consulates that normally process work visas, 160 are currently accepting appointments, the State Department said.