What is the change? Christmas and New Year’s will slow immigration processing across much of the world at the end of the year and in early 2017.

What does the change mean? Applicants should anticipate closures of government and private offices for at least two days on and around Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. Many countries celebrate longer breaks and shut down for several weeks.

  • Implementation time frame: Now through early January.
  • Visas/permits affected: All immigration-related services.
  • Impact on processing times: Processing times will be longer and a backlog of cases may develop immediately following the New Year when offices reopen.
  • Business impact: Travelers should factor in longer wait times and limited visa appointments when estimating processing times and planning business schedules.

Below is a summary of closures by region with noted countries that observe longer breaks.

Africa: Christmas and New Year’s coincide with the traditional summer holiday in much of Africa.

  • Immigration authorities in many African countries, notably Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa, retain only a skeleton staff between Dec. 19 and Jan. 9.

Europe: Longer breaks of one week or more are typical.

  • In the United Kingdom, official bank holidays will be observed Dec. 26 (Boxing Day) and Dec. 27 (in lieu of Christmas) and visa application centers may close or work reduced hours in the surrounding days and through the New Year.
  • Irish labor and immigration offices will be closed Dec. 26-27 and Jan. 2.
  • In Switzerland, most government immigration offices will close from Dec. 26 to Jan. 2, but schedules vary according to the canton. In Zürich, immigration offices will close Dec. 23 through Jan. 2.
  • Russian government offices will be closed Dec. 31 to Jan. 8.

Latin America: Most government immigration offices will close Dec. 26 and Jan. 2.

  • Mexico observes a longer holiday break, and government offices are expected to close Dec. 19 to Jan. 6, although official dates have not been released.
  • Costa Rica’s Migration Bureau will be closed from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2.
  • In Chile, government offices will close at 10 a.m. Dec. 23 and Dec. 30. 

Asia: Most countries will observe one or more days for Christmas and New Year’s.

  • China does not officially mark Christmas as a public holiday but will close Jan. 1 for New Year’s Day and the week of Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 for lunar Chinese New Year celebrations.


  • Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection offices will be closed Dec. 26 through 28 as well as Jan. 1. DIBP offices in Australia are expected to operate with skeleton staffs for the period between Dec. 19 and Jan. 9.
  • In New Zealand government immigration offices are expected to be closed starting the afternoon of Dec. 23 and reopening Jan. 4.
  • Papua New Guinea government labor and immigration offices will be closed starting Dec. 22 or 23 and are expected to reopen on Jan. 4 or 5. 

Middle East: Christmas and New Year’s are not observed as public holidays, but some private offices may close.

  • In the United Arab Emirates, for example, many private offices will close on Sunday, Dec. 25, which would normally be a working day.

BAL Analysis: Applicants should plan to file any time-sensitive applications as early as possible before the holiday break to avoid additional delays.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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