July 2020 Travel Advisory, U.S. Embassy/ Consular Services, and COVID-19 Movement Restrictions

As economies worldwide begin to re-open, some companies and individuals are thinking about resuming international travel. If international travel is required for your work or other reasons, be prepared for strict restrictions and potential last-minute cancellations. This updated GT Alert provides considerations with respect to international travel amid the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

1. President Trump’s Executive Orders

On April 22, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order entitled Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak. This executive order is in effect until Dec. 31, 2020, and only affects the issuance of immigrant visas (green cards) at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

Furthermore, on June 24, 2020, executive order entitled Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak went into effect. This executive order suspends the issuance of H-1B, L-1, H-2B, and J-1 visas, as well as the corresponding dependent visa categories. Unless extended, this executive order is also in effect until Dec. 31, 2020. Individuals may qualify for an exception if they can evidence that they are entering the United States to provide temporary labor or services essential to the U.S. food supply chain or their entry would be in the national interest, among other reasons. Canadian nationals are exempt from this proclamation. For details, see our Inside Business Immigration blog post.

Finally, depending on where an individual is coming from, they may also need to comply with the Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Novel Coronavirus. Specifically, an individual, unless an exception applies, may not enter the United States if they were physically present in Brazil, the People’s Republic of China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe), and the Republic of Ireland for a 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. Individuals planning to re-enter the United States from one of these areas may either apply for a waiver or spend the 14-day quarantine period in a third country. However, individuals who decide to spend required quarantine periods in a third country may need visas to enter those countries, and other movement restrictions may apply, as outlined below.

2. Movement Restrictions Within the United States

New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have issued a travel advisory for anyone travelling from states that have a significant degree of community-wide spread of COVID-19. As of July 1, 2020, these states include: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah, among others. Any individual coming into New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut from one of these states must self-quarantine for 14 days. Please refer to the New York State Department of Health website for the most comprehensive and up-to-date regional travel restrictions. Individuals who do not comply with self-quarantine requirements may be subject to steep fines.

In addition, municipalities are also starting to impose quarantine requirements for travelers from areas with high COVID-19 infection rates. For example, Chicago will impose a mandatory 14-day quarantine periodfor individuals who travel to Chicago from COVID-19 hot spots.

3. U.S. Embassies and Consulates Begin to Offer Limited Services Worldwide

U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide are resuming services on a limited basis. Although there is no official guidance from the Department of State, to get in queue, visa applicants should schedule their visa appointments as soon as calendars are opened, as there may be long processing and wait times due to case backlog. However, these visa appointments may be rescheduled by the embassy with little or no warning, as the COVID-19 situation remains fluid. In most cases, a visa appointment will be re-scheduled at no additional cost, with DS-160 forms remaining valid for one year.

Most embassies and consulates are granting emergency visa appointments if an applicant qualifies under one of the exceptions listed in the executive orders. Furthermore, if a waiver is necessary, the Department of State is the primary source for issuing such waivers. Waivers are typically issued for emergency situations or for individuals who are required to return to the United States for essential purposes. Exception and waiver requests are highly discretionary and are granted at the discretion of the consular officer at the visa appointment. If the exception or waiver is not granted, the applicant is not entitled to a refund of the visa appointment fee and must complete the DS-160 form again for any subsequent appointments.

Specific U.S. embassies/consulates are implementing the following:

4. EU Travel Restrictions

As of July 1, Europe is slowly reopening its borders. However, travelers coming from countries that have not contained COVID-19 will be barred. The list of banned countries includes the United States. A complete list of banned countries, as well as enforcement provisions, can be found here.

5. Country-Specific Entry Requirements and Movement Restrictions

As the COVID-19 situation remains fluid on a global scale, all international travelers should remain flexible with their travel plans. Current travel bans and restrictions notwithstanding, most nationals can return to their home countries. In some cases, a non-immigrant visa applicant may not be required to appear for a visa appointment in their home country. However, if it is decided that the applicant will travel to a third country (not their home country) to obtain a visa, consider that the country may be restricting foreigner entry. If allowed entry, the applicant may be required to self-quarantine for 14-30 days before being permitted to appear for a visa appointment. Also, depending on the visa applicant’s nationality, the visa applicant may be required to obtain a visa to enter the third country. Following are country-specific entry requirements and movement restrictions.

6. Bottom Line

Travel restrictions, embassy/consulate closures, and health restrictions are being implemented and updated by governments on a regular basis. If international travel is required, confirm required documentation and information for each country before departure. Also, remain flexible and be prepared for delays. View country-specific information here.

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National Law Review, Volumess X, Number 190