What is the change? The Christmas and New Year’s holidays will slow immigration processing across much of the world at the end of the year and in early 2018.

What does the change mean? Applicants should anticipate closures of government and private offices for at least two days on and around Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. 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. 18 and Jan. 5.

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

  • In the United Kingdom, official bank holidays will be observed Dec. 25 (Christmas Day), Dec. 26 (Boxing Day) and Jan. 1 (New Year’s Day). 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 for public holidays Dec. 25 and 26 and Jan. 1.
  • In Switzerland, most government immigration offices will close from Dec. 25 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 Jan. 1 to Jan. 8.

Latin America: Most government immigration offices will close Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.

  • Mexico observes a longer holiday break, and government offices will be closed Dec. 20 to Jan. 5. Offices will reopen Jan. 8. The closure will affect travel as well as processing.
    • Travelers entering Mexico with a stamped Mexican visa for exchange during the dates above will not be able to leave the country until the immigration office reopens. This is due to the fact that it is necessary to either apply for the final step of the process and wait for the final immigration document (residence card) to be issued or to obtain a special permit in order to leave Mexico.
  • Costa Rican government Immigration Offices will be closed from Dec. 15 to Jan. 8.
  • In Venezuela, SAIME, Ministry of Labor, SAREN and notaries will be closed Dec. 24, 25 and 31 and Jan. 1. Most offices will begin working part time from Dec. 15 through the New Year.

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 Feb. 15 to Feb. 21 for lunar Chinese New Year celebrations.


  • Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection offices will be closed Dec. 25 and 26 as well as Jan. 1. DIBP offices in Australia are expected to operate with skeleton staffs for the period between Dec. 18 and Jan. 8.
  • In New Zealand, government immigration offices are expected to be closed starting the afternoon of Dec. 22 and reopen Jan. 3.
  • Papua New Guinea government labor and immigration offices will be closed starting Dec. 21 or 22 and are expected to reopen on Jan. 3 or 4. December is not considered as a processing month for any work permits and visas.

Middle East: Christmas is not observed as a public holiday, but some private offices may close.

  • In the United Arab Emirates, for example, many private offices will close on Dec. 25.
  • Bahrain’s government immigration offices will close Dec. 17 for Bahrain’s National Day and Dec. 18 for His Majesty the King’s Accession Day. Business will resume as usual Dec. 19.

North America:

  • While the United States only observes Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 as official holidays, some foreign consulates and embassies may be closed for longer periods following the holiday schedules of the country in which they are located. Applicants should confirm holiday closures directly with the appropriate embassy or consulate.
  • In Canada, government offices will be closed for federal holidays Dec. 25 (Christmas Day), Dec. 26 (Boxing Day) and Jan. 1 (New Year’s 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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