Non-resident foreigners are calling on Morocco for clarification over the August 10 deadline to depart the country without fines and legal consequences.
Rabat – Some foreign embassies in Morocco are sending mixed messages to their citizens who are unsure if it is necessary to leave the country by August 10. The conflicting information is causing mounting confusion and concerns regarding non-resident foreigners’ legal immigration status.
The United States Consulate and German Embassy in particular have sparked panic after notifying their citizens that they would need to leave Morocco by August 10 or face legal consequences.
At the onset of the pandemic, both diplomatic missions informed their citizens in Morocco of crisis-specific visa extensions. However, the extensions were never set to be permanent.
On July 29, the US embassy reminded its citizens through an email that “Foreign citizens in the country without a visa who were unable to depart Morocco within the normal 90-day limit will be permitted to exit without a fine until at least August 10.”
The email then states, “The government has not announced whether foreign citizens will be unable to continue to depart without a fine after August 10.”
This recent notice contradicts a July 13 post on the US diplomatic missions in Morocco’s website, which read, “According to the Ministry of Interior, non-resident foreign citizens who were unable to depart Morocco within the normal 90-day limit will be permitted to exit without a fine until August 10.”
Not only did the earlier memo reference the Ministry of Interior, which had not made any public announcement on the matter, it also stirred confusion by stating that non-resident foreigners would be permitted to exit without consequences “until August 10” rather than “until at least August 10.”
Similarly, on July 17, the German embassy’s website stated the need for Germans in Morocco without residency status to leave the country or face legal complications.
“According to the Moroccan government, the goodwill regulation for tourist and short-term visas that have been overdrawn due to the closure of the border ends on August 10. From this date, the overdrawing of visas will again be punished in accordance with the applicable regulations. Affected persons should act accordingly by August 10.”
The German embassy suggested its citizens try to extend their visas, regularize their status with the Moroccan authorities, or depart the country on one of the upcoming available flights or ferries.
The back and forth between embassies and Moroccan local authorities
Meanwhile, a number of embassies have remained silent or unable to offer concrete information.
The Hungarian embassy, for example, affirmed that they have not received any official information regarding the August 10 deadline. However, they urged their citizens to leave before August 10 or fix their legal status with the local authorities.
In addition to receiving divergent information from embassies, foreigners report an ability to receive information from officials at the Ministry of Interior and other Moroccan government officials such as Rabat’s service des etrangers (service for foreigners).
Local authorities have repeatedly directed non-residents to their embassies, who direct them back to the local authorities, as some who experienced this told Morocco World News.
Some Moroccan officials are confirming the rumors of the August 10 deadline to leave. At the same time, others report there will be no consequences if non-resident foreigners continue their stay, according to the same sources.
Fears of traveling during COVID-19
Due to Morocco’s border restrictions, foreigners who found themselves stuck in Morocco at the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown were forced to spend at least four months in the country.
The high expense of repatriation flights combined with the risks associated with travel deterred many foreign visitors from returning to their home country. As a result, many who got stuck in Morocco have settled in and made Morocco a new temporary home.
Although Morocco introduced its special flight operations earlier this month, many foreigners say that packing their bags and leaving is no longer an easy option. Some are unable to afford the cost of a return flight after months being stranded without an income, while others express concern that the higher cost of living outside of Morocco will leave them in a precarious situation once they return. A number of foreigners also cite the fear of jeopardizing their health.
Compared to a number of American and European countries, Morocco’s swift and proactive response to the pandemic kept the confirmed COVID-19 case count low.
April Hope, a US citizen and travel writer who arrived in Morocco days before the airspace closed shared her fears with Morocco World News. She has severe anxiety surrounding the poor management of the pandemic in the United States.
“The woman who was watching my dog in my apartment in the US got Coronavirus. I am a diabetic and this makes me extremely immunocompromised. If I was in New York City right now during this time, I would be absolutely terrified to even breathe.”
Similarly, Marion, a German citizen, is scrambling to make sense of the discordant information shared by various embassies and Moroccan officials. She said she feels overwhelmed by the thought of returning to Europe.
“I don’t want to leave [Morocco] because I feel much safer here,” she told Morocco World News. “I don’t want to get on a plane during Corona[virus].”
Non-resident foreigners who call Morocco home express concern over where they would go if their visas expired
For some, Morocco was their home before the COVID-19 crisis. Many note that they moved to Morocco before COVID-19 restrictions, intending to pursue residency. Due to the crisis, they have not yet had the opportunity to obtain their legal residency permits.
Another German woman who goes by the initial L., called the situation “cruel.” She explained that she has been in the process of obtaining her residency permit in Morocco and if she leaves the North African country, she has no place to go.
“I have no place to go back in Germany and no health insurance — which is really a big problem there,” she said. “It’s like getting kicked out of my home. My whole life is here.”
With no information regarding when Morocco will open its borders to non-residents and citizens, L. said she worries. She may need to sleep on friends’ couches for months until she can return to her home in Morocco and complete her residency permit process.
Non-resident foreigners seek clarity
Morocco normally permits foreigners on a tourist visa to stay in the country for 90 days. Those who stay beyond the 90-day limit may need to go through a legal process of fixing their immigration status and could be subject to fines or other consequences.
After closing the airspace on March 15 and enforcing strict lockdown measures, Morocco addressed the issue. The government announced that foreigners who entered the country and were unable to depart Morocco within the 90 days due to border closures would be permitted to exit without a fine when the borders and airspace reopen. The same rule applied to foreigners whose residency cards expired during this period.
In mid-July, Morocco opened its airspace under an exceptional flight operation that would permit Moroccan citizens and residents stranded abroad to return home. In addition, outbound flights were scheduled in order for foreigners to leave the country.
The Moroccan government did not indicate whether the exceptional flight operation coincides with a termination of the exceptional visa rules.
Foreigners await official announcements, noting that the information transmitted by embassies is secondary to direct news from the Moroccan government. Morocco World News remains committed to sharing the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the latest developments.