On Mar 16 2020 by Jordan J. Gonzalez
Client Alert: Coronavirus Disrupts Inbound U.S. Travel and Immigration-Related Government Functions
Over the last few weeks, and in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. has implemented a flurry of policies that have disrupted inbound U.S. travel and immigration-related government functions. The current environment is volatile, which has until now made it difficult to track all changes. This Alert provides a summary of the travel restrictions and immigration-related changes that have been implemented to date.
I. Consular Service Suspension
The U.S. Embassies/Consulates in London, Paris, Brussels, Rome, Milan, Naples, Florence, Rome, Stockholm, Beirut, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv are amongst the latest posts to suspend non-emergency visa services. As the pandemic continues, it is expected that more U.S. Embassies/Consulates will limit visa services. If you have an urgent matter and need to travel immediately, please follow your preferred consulate’s guidance regarding emergency nonimmigrant visa appointments. More specific information is available here.
II. Implementation of Travel Bans
On March 11, 2020, President Trump issued a proclamation that forbid certain individuals who have traveled to the Schengen Area in the last fourteen days from entering the U.S. The Schengen Area includes the countries of 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, and Switzerland.
Later, on March 14, 2020, the travel ban was expanded to include the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The travel bans do not apply to:
- U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (“LPRs”);
- Spouses of U.S. citizens or LPRs;
- Parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizens or LPRs, provided the child is unmarried and under the age of 21;
- Siblings of U.S. citizens or LPRs, provided both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
- Children who are under the legal custody of U.S. citizens or LPRs; and
- Other certain foreign governments and health officials.
These bans are in addition to existing travel bans for Mainland China (effective January 31, 2020) and Iran (effective February 29, 2020). Similar exemptions as listed above are available for travelers from Mainland China and Iran.
A reassessment of all COVID-19 related travel bans will likely occur on April 11, 2020.
III. ESTA Cancellation for Individuals Who Attempt to Circumvent Travel Bans
Travelers with a valid ESTA who are subject to the travel bans and who attempt to travel to the U.S. in violation of the travel ban will have their ESTA canceled. These revocations are reportedly without prejudice, meaning that those travelers will be able to apply for ESTA in the future.
IV. All Inbound U.S. Air Traffic to be Redirected to 13 Airports
Individuals who are exempted from the travel bans and who are traveling to the U.S. from affected areas will be redirected to one of the thirteen designated U.S. airports where the U.S. government is focusing public health resources. These airports include JRK, ORD, SFO, SEA, HNL, LAX, ATL, IAD, EWR, DFW, DTW, BOS, and MIA.
V. USCIS Office and Immigration Court Closures
USCIS is gradually limiting access to its facilities. While there are only a few offices nationwide that have completely shut their doors, USCIS is requesting that anyone who (1) has traveled internationally to any country outside the U.S. within 14 days of their appointment, (2) believes they have been exposed to COVID-19, or (3) is experiencing flu-like symptoms to not attend their appointment. Furthermore, if you have an appointment with USCIS within the next two weeks, it is highly possible that your appointment will be rescheduled.
Similarly, immigration judges across the U.S. are limiting access to their courts. While the courts have yet to close en masse, the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ), the American Federation of Government Employees Local 511 (the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Professionals Union), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association recently called upon the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to close the courts indefinitely. The DOJ has yet to respond to this call, though it is expected that many courts will be rescheduling hearings.
We advise all clients who plan to travel overseas within the next three months to monitor any health-related travel restrictions for your destination(s), and for travelers from your destination back to the United States. As coronavirus travel restrictions in different countries have been changing with little-to-no notice, you should regularly check whether there are any travel restrictions on your destination and your return to the United States that may apply to you before you depart.
Our firm will continue to keep you abreast as to any developments relating to inbound U.S. travel bans.
Please contact your Klasko attorney if you have any questions about this client alert.
The material contained in this article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only. An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation. The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.
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