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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—the 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 info below provides the latest updates.

 

Argentina 

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

 

The United Kingdom – London

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

 

Key Considerations for EmployersEmployers 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 continues 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.

 

Link to original article: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/covid-19-and-international-travel-latest-immigration-consequences-coronavirus