By: Perry & Alznauer, P.C.
As part of efforts to stop the coronavirus (COVID-19) from spreading in the United States, President Trump announced on Wednesday a significant travel ban restricting entry into the U.S. of individuals traveling from most of Europe to the U.S. The announcement prompted many yet-unanswered questions about the impact of the restrictions on travel, business, family, and immigration matters.
Post-announcement, the White House clarified that the travel restriction is effective at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, March 12, 2020, and applies (with limited exceptions) to non-U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry into the U.S. The 26 Schengen countries are: 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, and Switzerland. The Schengen Area is part of a visa treaty that eliminated international borders within Europe which allow their citizens open and unrestricted travel and transactions within the area. Not included in this area are: the U.K., Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia or Cyprus.
The travel restrictions will start on Friday at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. This poses a heavy burden on people travelling to and from Europe with their U.S. passports, green cards, and/or other visas. Who is actually subject to/exempt from these travel restrictions and how does it affect someone’s immigration status? A scramble is underway for many to return to or travel to the United States before the restriction begins.
Many people have numbers of their doctors posted on their refrigerator or programmed on speed-dial on their mobile phones. Similarly, with the fast-changing and unpredictable restrictions being imposed on travel due to the COVID-19 virus, it is equally important to have an easy line of communication and access to a dependable immigration attorney. Travelers are eager to enter the U.S. before the start of the restriction; it is good to be well aware of your rights and how it affects you as a foreign national.
These travel restrictions are not the only thing that affects immigrants. Some cities and countries implemented lockdowns as well. A recent example is Manila, Philippines. People with scheduled interviews or transactions with the U.S. Embassy in Manila are also wondering how it will affect their pending visa applications and scheduled interviews. In a time of uncertainly, it is highly suggested that you speak to an experienced immigration attorney before taking matters into your own hands as it may jeopardize a visa application or ability to enter the U.S.
Experienced and Board-certified immigration attorneys are up-to-date with these developments. They are positioned to identify problematic issues and find the best way through the complexity of new laws and restrictions being implemented on what it seems like day-to-day basis as in the face of the pandemic. Best practices include being prepared to work remotely and most consultations can be conducted via confidential telephone or video conferencing and or e-mail to help safeguard health concerns in the face of widespread uncertainty and community spread of coronavirus.