October 22, 2020

Volume X, Number 296

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COVID-19 and International Travel: The Latest Immigration Consequences of the Coronavirus

The global COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact international travel to the United States as well as the availability of U.S. consular services around the world. The following is a summary of the latest updates.

Travel Restrictions—United Kingdom and Ireland

The Trump administration is suspending the entry of foreign nationals from the United Kingdom and Ireland into the United States. The suspension will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. EDT on March 16, 2020 and mirrors the travel restrictions implemented for China, Iran, and the 26 Schengen countries. It is not yet clear how long the suspension will remain in place. Additional information is expected in the coming days.

Travel Authorization

It is important to note that the travel restrictions apply regardless of whether an individual has a valid Electronic System Travel Authorization, more commonly referred to as ESTA. ESTA is an online system used to determine whether a traveler is eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, which allows nationals of 38 countries to travel or be admitted to the United States without a visa.

There have been reports that U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has begun temporarily revoking ESTA registrations to prevent barred individuals from attempting to travel to the United States. The revocations are said to be without prejudice and most travelers will be able to apply for ESTA again in the future when the travel restrictions have been lifted.

CBP is also said to be working on a process to allow individuals who are unable to depart the United States but whose period of ESTA admission will be expiring, to contact ports of entry directly, as opposed to going to local offices, to apply for what is called “Satisfactory Departure.” Under Satisfactory Departure an individual may be granted an additional period of 30 days if there is an emergency circumstance that prevents the individual from departing the United States within his or her period of authorized stay. As long as the individual leaves within the 30-day period, he or she will not be considered to have violated U.S. immigration laws by overstaying the period of authorized stay. Ogletree Deakins will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Interruptions to U.S. Embassy and Consular Services

A number of U.S. embassies and consulates around the world have announced reductions in services and/or cancellations of visa appointments. The table below provides the latest updates.

Country

Consular Update

Argentina

Effective March 16, 2020, all routine visa appointments are cancelled until further notice.

China

Effective February 10, 2020, regular visa services are suspended until further notice.

Denmark

Effective March 13, 2020, all routine visa appointments are suspended until further notice.

France

We have received word that all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments are cancelled until further notice.

Germany

Effective March 16, 2020, there will be limited consular operations. Reduced staff will perform necessary diplomatic functions. Emergency services for U.S. citizens and emergency visa processing will continue to be available.

India

Effective March 16, 2020, all immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments are cancelled until further notice.

Italy

Effective March 11, 2020, only emergency American Citizen Services and emergency visa services are available.

Ireland

Effective March 16, 2020, limited consular services will be available until further notice. Emergency services for U.S. citizens and emergency visa processing will continue to be available.

Morocco

We have received word that all immigrant visa appointments have been cancelled until further notice.

United Kingdom – London

We have received word that all visa appointments have been cancelled until further notice.

Key Considerations for Employers

Employers may wish to consider the prudence and advisability of international travel at this time. The cancellation of visa appointments combined with the U.S. based travel restrictions may mean that a person traveling abroad could be unable to return to the United States for a lengthy period of time.

Even if the employee possesses a valid visa, there are no guarantees the employee will be able to return to the United States if the scope of the travel restrictions continue to expand in the coming weeks.

It is important to remember that employees who were admitted into the United States who possess expired visas, do not need to travel internationally to renew their visa stamp. If the employer timely files an extension, the employee’s work authorization and status remain valid while the extension remains pending.

© 2020, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 76
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About this Author

Associate

Melina has extensive experience in a broad range of immigration law, with a focus on employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visa petitions. Melina’s practice includes partnering with multinational corporations on all types of US migration matters in a wide range of industries including engineering, manufacturing, information technology, oil and gas, and construction. Specifically, Melina counsels her corporate clients on immigration matters before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Department of State.

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919-789-3241
Melissa Manna, Ogletree Deakins Law Firm, Raleigh, Immigration Practice Group Writer
Immigration Practice Group Writer

Melissa Manna is an Immigration Practice Group Writer. Her primary focus is writing and editing legal articles relating to immigration for the firm’s online and print publications, websites, and newsletters.

Prior to joining Ogletree Deakins, Melissa spent 9 years as in-house counsel at TowerCo, one of the largest independent wireless tower companies in the U.S., representing the company in all aspects of commercial real estate. During that time she managed due diligence, advised and implemented risk management solutions, and closed transactions valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Before TowerCo, she was an attorney with Alan Gordon Immigration and Naturalization Law in Charlotte, NC, representing large and small companies, investors, entrepreneurs, and families in all stages of the immigration process. She regularly appeared before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to advocate on behalf of clients, as well as the EOIR Immigration Court in Atlanta to defend clients against removal and deportation.

Melissa received her J.D. from Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law and her B.A. in Journalism from The College of New Jersey. She is licensed by the North Carolina Bar.

919-390-3927
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