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The Administration, in attempting to reflect concern about the spread of the Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19, has imposed travel restrictions on individuals (nonimmigrants and certain others, but NOT US citizens or green card holders) who have been present in most of Europe within the last 14 days before entry. Theoretically, an individual who is a national or citizen of a qualifying country, but who has been living elsewhere for at least the two weeks before traveling to the US, remains admissible.
It would typically fall to airlines to assess admissibility before allowing someone to board a plane; it will likely prove somewhat difficult for airline boarding personnel to asses travel history of people from qualifying countries when boarding from non-qualifying countries.
The impacted area involves the Schengen area of Europe, specifically 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 UK is not included in the travel restriction.
There are numerous exceptions listed beyond citizens and permanent residents:
- People on flights already airborne at midnight on March 13, 2020;
- Spouses of a U.S. citizens or permanent residents;
- Parents or guardians of under-21 and unmarried U.S. citizens or permanent residents;
- Siblings of U.S. citizens or permanent residents (both are unmarried and under 21);
- Children, foster children, or wards of U.S. citizens of permanent residents (or prospective adoptees seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications);
- Individuals traveling at the invitation of the U.S. Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
- Individuals traveling pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crew member or any alien otherwise traveling to the U.S. as air or sea crew;
- Anyone (A) seeking entry into or transiting the U.S. pursuant to one of the following visas: A-1, A2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), 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 (or seeking to enter as a nonimmigrant in one of those NATO categories); or (B) whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement;
- Anyone whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the virus, as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the CDC Director or his designee (while it’s clear who determines this, it is unclear whether a negative test – or perhaps something less -is sufficient as the basis for the determination);
- Anyone whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee;
- Anyone whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees; or
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
As the virus doesn’t recognize US citizenship, permanent residence, or most of the exceptions, it’s difficult to understand how this would have any real impact on discouraging the spread of the contagion within the US beyond a reduction on the number of entries. It’s also unclear whether this will be limited to the initial 30-day period or will be extended.
At this writing, consulates are still processing visa applications for Europeans wishing to travel to the US even where there is no immediate ability to actually use the visa. Visa stamps granted would – again, as of this writing – remain valid for when this travel ban is lifted.