On May 24, 2020, the president signed a new proclamation that enacts travel restrictions for any foreign nationals who have been present in the Federative Republic of Brazil within 14 days of arrival in the United States. The Brazil restrictions are the newest addition to a roster of travel restrictions that prohibit entry of foreign nationals who have been present in most of Europe (26 countries of the Schengen Area), the United Kingdom, Ireland, China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), and Iran within 14 days prior to arrival in the United States.
To Whom do the Restrictions Apply?
This proclamation suspends the entry of all foreign nationals who were physically present in Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. The proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. EST on May 26, 2020, and does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to that time cut-off.
Who is Exempt?
The newest proclamation provides for exemptions identical to those enacted in previous rounds of travel restrictions. It does not apply to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs), individuals whose spouses are U.S. citizens or LPRs, individuals whose children (unmarried and under age 21) are U.S. citizens or LPRs, the children of U.S. citizens or LPRs, or individuals who have a sibling who is a U.S. citizen or LPR (if both are unmarried and under age 21).
The restrictions do not apply to air or sea crew (C-1 or C-1/D visa holders), members of the U.S. Armed Forces (and their spouses/children), or individuals who hold visas designated for diplomats, government officials, or employees of NATO and other international organizations, including A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (individuals seeking entry as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), E-1 (individuals seeking entry as an employee of TECRO1 or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members), and G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, and NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 (individuals seeking entry in one of the NATO categories).
There are also exemptions for health professionals who serve as part of efforts to combat virus spread and for those whose entry would be “in the national interest,” as well as for “any alien whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the virus, as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.”
What Other Travel Restrictions Are in Effect?
To date, four previous proclamations enacting travel restrictions (generally barring foreign nationals physically present in those countries within 14 days of admission) remain in effect:
Restrictions on the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders remain in effect and have been extended through June 22, 2020. These restrictions differ from the travel proclamations because they expressly allow for “essential travel” at land ports of entry and passenger rail and ferry terminals along the border. The U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico restrictions do not apply to air travel or freight. Per the respective announcements for Canada and Mexico, “essential travel” has been interpreted to include travel for medical purposes or treatment, travel for attendance at educational institutions, travel for work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in farming or agriculture), travel for emergency response/public health purposes; lawful cross-border trade, official government travel, diplomatic travel, travel by member of armed forces, and individuals engaged in military travel.
In terms of visa processing restrictions, U.S. consulates remain closed for routine visa stamping and other appointments (providing emergency appointments only). No opening date has yet been announced for consulates. USCIS continues to process in-country petitions (such as for extensions and changes of status). USCIS has announced it plans to reopen offices (for biometrics and other in-person visits) in the United States on or after June 4, 2020, depending on the extent of public closures.
New Exemption for Professional Athletes
On May 22, 2020, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf signed an order that exempts certain foreign professional athletes who compete in professional sporting events organized by certain leagues, including their essential staff and their dependents, from proclamations barring their entry into the United States. The order states that it is in the national interest to except aliens who compete in professional sporting events organized by certain professional sporting groups, including their professional staff, team and league leadership, spouses, and dependents, from entry restrictions laid out in Proclamations 9984 (China Travel Restrictions), 9992 (Iran Travel Restrictions), 9993 (European Travel Restrictions), and 9996 (United Kingdom and Ireland Travel Restrictions).
What Does this Mean for Employers?
In view of the evolving state of travel restrictions, employers should continue to monitor employees’ travel abroad. Foreign nationals (including individuals with employment-based U.S. visas) may be unable to return depending on whether the travel extends to one of the impacted countries, Brazil now included. Where applicable, employers should seek to utilize in-country extension or change-of-status visa options to avoid consular processing for individuals with statuses set to expire soon.