Immigration and COVID-19 - Update

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled the COVID-19 virus a “public health emergency of international concern.” On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a “pandemic.”

The ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted countries differently and prompted some governments, including the United States, to implement new travel restrictions and policies. The situation is still very fluid and subject to change at any time.

As of August 3, 2020, the United States continues to impose certain restrictions on all travelers to the United States who have visited any of the following countries within the past 14 days:

  • China
  • Iran
  • European Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City)
  • United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Brazil

U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents (“LPRs”), and certain qualifying relatives who have visited any of the above countries within the past 14 days should be allowed to return to the U.S. but must travel through 1 of 15 designated airports.  The U.S. does not currently require or enforce any mandatory quarantine period, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival.

With a few country-specific exceptions, non-LPR foreign nationals seeking to travel to the U.S. after visiting any of the above-listed countries within the past 14 days are barred from entering the U.S.

In addition to the restrictions above, the U.S. and Canada continue to impose a mutual ban on “non-essential” travel between the two countries that has been extended until August 21, 2020.  U.S. citizens and LPRs seeking to travel to Canada should consult with the Canadian immigration authorities before doing so. U.S. citizens and LPRs may travel to the U.S. from Canada without restriction, but non-LPR foreign nationals may be denied entry unless their travel is deemed “essential” or they hold a valid travel document (preferably authorizing employment in the U.S.). Please visit: https://ca.usembassy.gov/travel-restrictions-fact-sheet for more information.

Finally, as described in a separate dedicated announcement, the U.S. has also imposed restrictions on certain categories of temporary non-immigrant visas.

U.S. citizens and LPRs considering travelling abroad should first check with the embassy of their destination country to find out if there are any visa or travel restrictions in place that might impact travel plans. Also check the U.S. Department of State’s website for country-specific information related to COVID-19.

Foreign nationals seeking to travel to the U.S. who require a visa should be aware that most U.S. embassies and consulates around the world continue to limit their services. Most consular posts are not currently issuing any kind of visa except in extreme emergencies. U.S. companies that have sponsored non-immigrant employees such as L-1 or H-1B (and especially employees who might need to apply for a new visa before returning to the United States) should consider limiting their travel abroad. Alternatively, plan for the possibility the employee will be stuck abroad for an extended period of time as U.S. consular posts remain shut and the U.S. is specifically barring the issuance of employment-based visas. For current information, check the U.S. Department of State’s COVID-19 page.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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