Corona entry ban and ban on immigrants

Bild von China U.S. entry and immigration strongly restricted

The U.S. government is increasingly expanding its measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, both entry and immigration to the United States are currently severely restricted. Read below how visa applicants and visa holders are affected.

 

Corona Travel Ban

Entry into the USA was increasingly restricted as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. Meanwhile – with a few exceptions – almost all persons are denied entry into the USA.

Affected individuals

Already from Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at 23:59 Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), the entry ban will be extended to Brazil. Persons who were in Brazil 14 days before the planned entry into the United States will no longer be allowed to enter the United States after this date. Since the time of departure is crucial, USA travelers from Brazil, who are on a plane to the U.S. until Tuesday, 23:59 EDT, may therefore still enter the United States.

Since mid-March 2020 all foreign travelers who are not U.S. citizens and who have stayed in one of the following countries within 14 days before their planned entry into the U.S. are denied entry into the U.S:

  • 26 countries of the Schengen Area
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe)
  • Ireland
  • China (except Hong Kong and Macao)
  • Iran

The entry ban affects both visa holders and persons who wish to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA). Transit travelers are also affected.

The Schengen Area comprises 26 European countries:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • the Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • the Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

The Corona travel ban for the USA, initially valid for 30 days, was extended for an indefinite period of time. According to a White House spokeswoman "there is still no timetable for lifting the ban". Therefore it is currently not clear when the entry ban, which initially should last until mid-April 2020, will end. It also remains to be seen whether the Corona Travel Ban will be extended to other countries – strongly affected by COVID-19 – such as Russia.

Image of EU flag

Exempt individuals

The following groups of persons are excluded from the entry ban:

  • U.S. citizens
  • Green Card holders (lawful permanent residents)
  • Close family members of U.S. citizens or Green Card holders (lawful permanent residents)
    This includes:
    1. Spouses of U.S. citizens or Green Card holders
    2. Parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizens or Green Card holders, provided that the U.S. citizens or Green Card holders are unmarried and under the age of 21
    3. Siblings of U.S. citizens or Green Card holders, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21
    4. Children, foster children, or wards of U.S. citizens or Green Card holders or prospective adoptees seeking to enter the U.S. (IR-4 or IH-4 visa)
    Note: grandparents, uncles / aunts or cousins do not count as immediate family members
  • Crew members of airlines or shipping companies (C-1/D visa)
  • Diplomats, government officials or members of their families (A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO visas)
  • Persons whose entry is of national interest
    The persons covered by the exemption are determined by the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Currently, this includes certain professional athletes and team leaders (P visas) in the Major League Baseball (MLB) or National Basketball Association (NBA), harvest workers (H-2A visas) or certain seasonal workers (H-2B visas).

Certain individuals, such as U.S. citizens and U.S. immigrant visa holders, may still travel to the United States.

Note: Individuals exempt from the U.S. entry ban may still travel to the United States, but the CBP officers conduct stricter controls upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry.

Exempt individuals, such as U.S. citizens and U.S. immigrant visa holders,

  1. who fly directly from China, Iran, Ireland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Schengen Area or Brazil to the United States or
  2. who have stayed in China, Iran, Ireland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Schengen Area or Brazil within 14 days before entering the country

are, until further notice, routinely redirected to selected U.S. airports equipped with special health centres, where the travelers are examined. Provided these persons do not show any symptoms of coronavirus, they may enter the country, but as a precaution they must maintain a 14-day quarantine at home.
If symptoms are detected, the travelers are subjected to quarantine or further treatment in special hospitals.

More information can be found on the official CBP website.

Immigration Ban

On April 22, 2020, immigration to the United States was suspended for 60 days by Executive Order. With the signing of the decree, the issuance of immigrant visas (Green Cards) is stopped to a great extent, but there are also some exceptions. An extension of the measures is not excluded. Besides the U.S. authorities will examine within 50 days whether an extension of the measures or changes are necessary.

Affected individuals

Since April 23, 2020, there is a suspension of entry for immigrants who

  • were outside the United States at the time of signing the Decree AND
  • do not have a valid immigrant visa (I-551) or alternative document (e.g. Travel Document, Advance Parole) issued BEFORE April 23, 2020.

The suspension of immigration to the United States only affects people who are currently in the Green Card application process. This includes in detail:

  1. Applicants for employment-based immigration
  2. Applicants for family-based immigration
  3. Green Card Lottery applications (Diversity Visa Program)

Note: Nonimmigrant visas are still exempt, but within 30 days of the effective date of the proclamation, the U.S. authorities will review whether measures will be introduced for nonimmigrant categories, if necessary.

Exempt individuals

The Executive Order of April 22, 2020 explicitly excludes certain groups of people from the immigration stop.

  • Green Card holders or Lawful Permanent Residents (within or outside the USA)
  • People who are in the Green Card application process within the USA (e.g. adjustment of status)
  • Immigrant visa applicants of certain professions and their immediate family members (spouse, children under 21 years of age): doctors, nurses and other health professionals, researchers and other professionals directly involved in the containment of COVID-19
  • EB-5 immigrant visa applicants (Investor Green Card)
  • Spouses, children under 21 and adopted children of U.S. citizens
  • Members of the U.S. armed forces and their spouses and children
  • Special immigrant visa holders (SI or SQ)
  • Persons of national interest to the United States

Recent effects

Due to the current situation, we strongly recommend all travelers and transit travelers to check their travel plans to the United States.

U.S. consulates / Visa appointments


Diplomatic missions of the U.S. in the world

U.S. embassies and consulates around the world have restricted their visa services and public access since March 19, 2020. However, emergency services for U.S. citizens and visa applicants will continue to some extent.

According to the U.S. State Department, visa appointments were canceled from March 25, 2020 in all countries with a so-called Travel Advisory Level of 2, 3 or 4 (Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions, Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution, Level 3: Reconsider Travel, Level 4: Do Not Travel). Initially 14 countries were affected. In the meantime all countries have been set to level 4 "Do Not Travel".

However, since the end of March 2020, U.S. consulates worldwide have been required to allow the following applicants to attend visa interview appointments in any case:

  1. Medical professionals who have an approved USCIS petition and require a U.S. visa to enter the United States. This applies to H, J oder Green Card applicants. They should contact the respective consular offices directly.
  2. The same applies to H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers, who are urgently needed to maintain agricultural operations in the United States.

It is currently not known when the visa services will be resumed. For specific information please visit the official websites of the U.S. embassies and consulates in your home country.
At the same time, we will of course keep our customers informed about further consulate closures or cancelations of appointments.

Image of a U.S. consulate

U.S. consulates worldwide work with limitations

U.S. consulates in Europe

Several U.S. consulates in Europe have canceled all regular visa appointments for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas until mid-July 2020. Visa appointments in Germany and Switzerland are currently possible from mid-July 2020.

The U.S. consulates worldwide will probably have to follow suit and cancel appointments until mid-July. Therefore, visa applicants in the entire Schengen area, the United Kingdom and Ireland should be aware that appointments already made at the U.S. consulate may be canceled again or that further delays may occur. However, visa applicants have been and will be informed of the cancelation of their visa appointment by e-mail and / or SMS from the consulate.
For urgent matters applicants can contact the U.S. consulate in their respective home country to request an emergency appointment. Please note that travel regulations can still not be waived.

Note: It is sometimes possible to reschedule visa interviews to a later date. This varies in the respective U.S. consulates worldwide. Visa appointments in Germany for instance are now only available again from about mid-July 2020. And it is not even sure that these appointments will not have to be canceled at a later date.The U.S. consulates recommend the following procedure for postponing the visa interview:

  1. Postpone the interview appointment until 14 days after leaving one of the countries concerned
  2. Postpone the interview appointment by at least 14 days if one has flu-like symptoms or had possible exposure to the coronavirus

Postponement of appointments are free of charge and the visa fee or proof of payment is valid for one year in the country where the fee was paid.

We recommend all travelers to the United States or visa applicants to be prepared for further changes at short notice and to inform themselves comprehensively about the current regulations and the legal situation before entering the country or applying for a visa.

USCIS Service Center

From March 18, 2020 until at least June 3, 2020 all USCIS offices worldwide will be closed to the public. However, there will still be emergency appointments and processing. A further extension of these measures cannot be excluded at this time.

The "regular" business of the USCIS Service Centers in the United States will otherwise continue. This means that applications such as L petitions can still be submitted for processing. However, since March 20, 2020, the Premium Processing Service has been suspended for I-129 (e.g. H or L) and I-140 applications (employment-based Green Card). This means that these applications can now only be submitted on a regular basis. Depending on the USCIS Service Center, processing times vary around 4 to 8 months.

No public access means, conversely, no more personal interviews or walk-in appointments at the USCIS offices. This concerns in particular:

  1. Green Card applicants
    Persons who already have an appointment for their personal interview in one of the USCIS field offices in the mentioned period will be notified that these appointments will be canceled. They will then receive new appointments from the U.S. authorities.
  2. Persons who have entered visa-free with ESTA
    Visa Waiver Program travelers whose 90-day residence status is about to expire and who are unable to fly back should contact the USCIS (+1 800-375-5283) or the Deferred Inspection Sites. There you will receive further instructions. Usually, such clarification is made by making a personal appointment at one of the USCIS field offices.
  3. Persons with visas who are in the process of renewing or changing their status
    The Application Support Centers (ASC) are also affected. Among other things, these offices handle biometrics appointments that become necessary for certain extension of stay or change of status applications. Persons who already have an appointment in the period are notified that these appointments are canceled. They will then receive new appointments from the respective U.S. authorities.

You will find detailed information on this topic in our recommendations for action.

Anyone who, due to the current situation, does not appear for an appointment with the USCIS through no fault of their own or does not react in time to notifications from the USCIS (such as RFEs) should not have any disadvantages. Provided one is able to prove that it is directly related to the Corona crisis (travel restrictions, illness, internal company problems, etc.). In particular, the USCIS allows more time to respond to RFE letters (Request for Evidence) in the context of petition-based requests (e.g. L-1). Until now, queries had to be answered within 90 days, otherwise there was a risk of rejection. Now the USCIS allows a further 60 days if companies are unable to submit all the required documents in time due to the crisis.

Note: Which restrictions and exceptions apply should be checked daily on the USCIS website, as there may be constant changes.

Departure from the United States

Foreigners who are currently in the United States (with a U.S. visa or ESTA) are uncertain about leaving the U.S. in time or about a possible overstay in the USA.

First of all it is important to differentiate between the status you have in the United States (e.g. visa-free entry with ESTA under the Visa Waiver Program, B visitor visa, L work visa etc.). Do not confuse visa and status here. The I-94 entry form indicates the date on which you must leave the United States at the latest.

Should your status expire soon, your departure be delayed due to the current events, or you wish to extend your stay in the United States we recommend the following:

  1. Contact the appropriate U.S. authorities
    You can reach the USCIS at +1 800-375-5283 or the CBP at +1 202-325-8000.
    Alternatively, you can contact a CBP office directly at the airport or the Deferred Inspection Sites.
  2. Extension of stay / Change of status
    Check whether a status extension or change of status is possible in the United States. Note: The application must be submitted before your I-94 expires.
  3. Keep records of your overstay
    If the granted period of stay has already been exceeded or will be exceeded as none of the above measures will take effect, please make sure you have the best possible documentation. In other words, collect receipts for flight cancelations etc., in order to be able to document the not self-inflicted overstay for later entries into the U.S. It cannot be forseen how the U.S. authorities will deal with these overstays at a later date. If the documentation is correct, however, there should be no disadvantages for foreign persons.

Note: Whether leaving the U.S. is advisable depends on several factors and should always be examined on a case-by-case basis. Especially if family members with derived visas are involved, a thorough consideration of pros and cons is required. Please also note that especially status extension applications can involve a considerable amount of work and time. We recommend that companies check the status of their foreign employees in the United States and take timely action. We would be happy to assist you in assessing and implementing these measures. Please geht in touch with our visa consultants.

J-1 visa program changes

For the J-1 visa category, which allows for example a stay in the United States as intern or au pair, concrete changes have already been made in the implementation of the programs as a result of the measures taken by the U.S. government.

On March 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of State, which regulates and monitors all J-1 programs, announced that new J-1 programs or entries with J-1 visas will be suspended for 60 days. Consequently, a program start would be possible again at the earliest on May 11, 2020. There may be changes in this matter.

Planned J-1 programs

The exchange organizations, which are certified by the U.S. Department of State and act as visa sponsors for the J-1 category, offer in many cases the postponement or cancelation of already planned J-1 programs. In such cases, everyone concerned should contact the visa sponsor in order to clarify the exact possibilities for continuing the program.

J-1 visa holders

J-1 visa holders already in the United States are also encouraged to regularly check the travel warnings of their respective home countries and, if necessary, to return home earlier than planned. Updated information on the handling of the J-1 programs can be found on the official J-1 website of the U.S. Department of State.

Image of J-1 exchange visitors in the USA

Immediate ffects for J-1 Exchange programs

Note: Many J visa holders have mistakenly received a Stimulus Check payment. However, these are intended exclusively for U.S. citizens and Green Card holders, in other words not for nonresident aliens such as J-1 visa holders. Due to the fact that J-holders have inadvertently filed false tax returns, in many cases the wrong Stimulus Check payments have been made. It is strongly recommended to contact the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and return the money. Especially considering that such misdemeanours could have a negative impact on a job, green card application or entry into the United States in the future.

Student visas (F and M)

The effects of COVID-19 on the F and M visa categories, which, for example, enable stays for highschool or studies in the USA, are currently being closely monitored by the SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program), which administers all educational institutions, students and their relatives on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This ensures that all F and M visa holders can continue to carry out their studies in the United States in accordance with the legal requirements.

It is important for students to document all changes to their respective programs (e.g. e-learning, changes in lecture schedules, etc.) so that they can be presented to the SEVP upon request. At the same time the SEVP is currently trying to be as flexible as possible in order to be able to make special adjustments and recommends following official updates on the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) COVID-19 information page.

Theoretically, students currently have the possibility to stay in their home country and attend the online courses offered by their American university in order to retain their student status. However, you should always discuss closely with the responsible school in advance how to proceed.

In addition, it is also very important that the respective F or M nonimmigrant status remains valid, even in emergency situations. This means that all visa holders must continue to take all necessary steps that are possible under the given circumstances to maintain their status. Visa holders must also contact their Designated School Official (DSO) to discuss, for example, emergency plans for school premises or changes. If you stay in the U.S. is for a practical training (e.g. OPT), we strongly recommend that you speak with your U.S. employer to ensure that the training agreement is maintained. The Department of Homeland Security provides important information on maintaining status.

Should the current developments regarding COVID-19 or other unforeseen circumstances result in financial difficulties (Severe Economic Hardship) in the USA, there is the possibility to apply for a General Work Permit (EAD) for activities off-campus. The USCIS provides more detailed information on the possibilities in special situations as well as additional instructions for international students.

Business activity US Visa Service

You can be assured that our entire US Visa Service team is there for you and your needs as usual. Our employees are also already mainly working remotely, but this does not mean any restrictions for you. In addition, an emergency team will now be on site in our Berlin office.

Especially in these challenging times we will continue to provide you and your employees with the best possible support and case handling. We are also working hard to find solutions for companies and their employees

Of course, we will continue to keep you informed about the latest developments.

Updated on 26.5.2020


Post your comment

Comments

  • Hallo, auch ein Umsteigen am Flughafen bzw. ein kurzer Transitaufenthalt bedeutet defacto eine Einreise in die USA. Somit können auch Transitreisende vom US-Einreiseverbot betroffen sein, wenn sie sich in den betroffenen Ländern aufgehalten haben bzw. direkt von dort in die USA reisen möchten.

  • Müssen us Bürger bei der Rückkehr in den nächsten 10 Tagen in die USA einen Corona Test vorlegen? Wird ein Test bei der Einreise durchgeführt oder wird unmittelbar vor der Rückreise ein Test verlangt?

  • Wird ein Umsteigen an einem Flughafen auch als Einreise bewertet? Man verlässt den Transitbereich ja nicht.