COVID-19 TRAVEL UPDATE – 03/13/2020

What You Need to Know about the Most Recent Restrictions on Reentry to the U.S. and Quarantine Procedures

By: Immigration Attorneys Grant W. Godfrey, Donald W. Parker and John Gallini

international airport

On December 31, 2019 an outbreak of a novel coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China. The virus, which has since been renamed “SARS-CoV-2”, causes the disease COVID-19. The virus is now a global pandemic and has spread to 118 countries, territories and areas, with well over 125,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 4,600 deaths caused by the virus reported worldwide.

On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (“WHO”) initially declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.”

On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared that COVID-19 is now a global pandemic, yet emphasized that “[i]f countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission.”

Between the WHO’s initial declaration and its recent declaration on Wednesday March 11th that that COVID-19 is a global pandemic, the President of the United States has issued three separate Presidential Proclamations to try to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 into the U.S.

  1. On January 31, 2020, President Trump issued a Proclamation ordering the suspension of entry of certain foreign nationals into the U.S. if they had traveled to China within the past 14 days. The order went into effect at 5:00pm EST on February 2, 2020 and remains in effect until the President terminates the order.
  2. On February 29, 2020, President Trump issued a second Proclamation suspending the entry of certain foreign nationals from entering the U.S. who had traveled to Iran within the past 14 days. The order went into effect at 5:00pm EST on March 2, 2020 and remains in effect until the President terminates the order.
  3. On March 11, 2020, President Trump issued a third Proclamation expanding the reentry ban to certain foreign nationals who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the U.S. This new restriction applies to anyone who departs the Schengen Area after 11:59PM EDT on March 13, 2020. Like the prior Presidential Proclamations, the order remains in effect until the President terminates the order.

Understandably, these Presidential Proclamations and the increasing impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic are making international travel confusing at best and more often than not a gamble. While U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents are exempted from these reentry restrictions, if they are deemed a risk of transmitting COVID-19 they may be prevented from boarding a plane to enter the U.S. or placed in quarantine upon arrival. Further, other countries may impose similar restrictions on foreign nationals seeking entry into their countries. Thus, no person should assume that other countries throughout the world will allow entry of international travelers, even if a visa has been issued or the traveler is exempt from needing a visa to enter.

I. Individuals Who Are Temporarily Barred from Entering the United States following Travel to/Stay in the Following Countries

Unless otherwise exempted, the following is a summary of who is currently barred from entering/re-entering the U.S. and for how long:

CHINA

Temporarily Barred
All foreign nationals seeking to enter the U.S. as Immigrants or Nonimmigrants who were physically present in China during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. Physical presence in SAR Hong Kong and Macau are exempted.

IRAN

Temporarily Barred
All foreign nationals seeking to enter the U.S. as Immigrants or Nonimmigrants who were physically present in Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

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, San Marino and Vatican City.

Temporarily Barred
All foreign nationals seeking to enter the U.S. as Immigrants or Nonimmigrants who were physically present in any of the Schengen Countries during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

Foreign Nationals Who Are Exempted from the Temporary Bar

  1. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) of the U.S.;
  2. Spouses of U.S. citizens or LPRs;
  3. Parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizens or LPRs who are under the age of 21 and unmarried;
  4. Siblings of U.S. citizens or LPRs, if both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  5. Children or Foster Children, or wards of a U.S. citizen or LPRs, provided the child is under the age of 21 and unmarried;
  6. Prospective adoptees seeking to enter the U.S. pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  7. Persons traveling at the invitation of the U.S. Government who are helping to contain or mitigate the spread of the virus;
  8. Crewmembers or any foreign nationals otherwise traveling to the U.S. as air or sea crew under a C or D temporary visa;
  9. Persons seeking entry into or transiting the U.S. under an A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), an E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 visa;
  10. Persons whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement;
  11. Persons whose entry the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director, or his designee, deems would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the virus;
  12. Persons whose entry the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee deem would further important United States law enforcement objectives;
  13. Persons whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees; and
  14. Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Please note: President Trump has already imposed separate entry restrictions on foreign nationals of certain countries seeking to come to the U.S. (Travel Ban 3.0) and these restrictions could bar entry into the U.S. regardless of whether the individual had traveled to one of the designated countries significantly impacted by SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.

With the exception of Travel Ban 3.0, one’s country of citizenship is irrelevant to the analysis of whether one may be temporarily barred from entering the U.S. For example, a Chinese national who holds a temporary visa and who traveled to a country that is not included in the temporary reentry bar may still be able to return to the U.S. The primary question is whether the individual who is returning to the U.S. entered one of the affected countries during the 14 days preceding their return to the U.S. – and unless otherwise exempted that individual would be denied entry into the U.S.

The net result is that if an affected foreign national can gain entry into a third-country that is not subject to a bar, and remain there for at least 14 days, they could conceivably then travel to the United States. Similarly, if one traveled through several countries over the course of 14 days, none of which is subject to the bar, this would also qualify. Ironically, South Korea is a not subject to the bar but has been given a Level 3 Travel Health Notice (“widespread, ongoing transmission”) just like China, Iran and Italy.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) is currently listing other countries where travel to them could possibly result in the future in a temporarily ban that would prevent a foreign national from returning to the United States – this list can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html. Note that as of publication of this article the only country in the Schengen Area that has been issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice is Italy.

II. Individuals Who May Be Subjected to Quarantine

U.S. citizens, LPRs, and other foreign nationals who are otherwise exempted from these temporary bars to reentry will be assessed and may still be subjected to quarantine procedures upon their return to the U.S. for up to 14 days from when they left an affected country.

U.S. citizens, LPRs and other exempt foreign nationals who are returning from a trip where they have been physically present in one of the designated countries from which re-entry to the U.S. is barred will be redirected to one of a limited number of airports (currently 11) where the CDC has quarantine stations. The CDC will screen the individual for signs of sickness and collect information about their health and travel. Depending on the results, the government may place restrictions on their movement for a period of 14 days from when they departed from one of the affected countries. It is not clear what those restrictions will be – though they likely could range from home quarantine, home quarantine with monitoring/tracking, to forced quarantine at a government location, or other designated facility.

Additionally, the CDC has stated that all individuals who are returning to the U.S. from Italy or South Korea, both of which have a Level 3 Health Travel Notice issued by the CDC, will be requested to self-quarantine at home for 14 days from the time they left either of these countries. Individuals who are returning from China and Iran, which also have Level 3 Health Travel Notices, are subjected to higher scrutiny as return travel will be redirected to one of the limited number of airports. As of the date of publication, the countries in the Schengen Area (other than Italy) have not yet, as noted above, been added to the Self-Quarantine list, though we expect that they may very well be added in the near future. It is also possible that they will be subjected to the same heightened scrutiny that individuals who traveled to China or Iran currently receive. Finally, U.S. citizens and LPRs traveling to other countries that have a Level 3 Health Travel Notice, may also be made subject to this self-quarantine requirement.

We caution that information is changing daily and encourage you to check the websites provide in this article before, during, and after any contemplated international travel to remain up-to-date on current procedures. Below are additional resources to access for more information and updates:

These rules are complicated and are changing on a frequent basis. The immigration attorneys at Parker Gallini LLP are available to answer questions you have on the U.S. implications of foreign travel.

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Posted in Immigration Law

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