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  • Janna Glavan, CP

COVID Travel Bans: What You Need to Know

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a flurry of policy changes in many areas, including international travel. President Trump has talked about “closing the borders” and “suspending immigration” to contain the spread of the virus. But what do the new policies actually say about who can enter the U.S. during this pandemic?

There are three main travel restrictions currently in place impacting international travel to the U.S. First is the health-related travel ban, which bars entry into the U.S. for people who have been physically present within 14 days in various COVID hot spot countries, including China, Iran, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Schengen area of Europe (which includes most continental European countries). This ban does not apply to U.S. citizens, green card holders, or other individuals with permanent ties to the U.S. (such as the parent, child, or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen). This is not a ban on entry by citizens of those countries; rather, it is a ban on people who have been physically present in those countries within the last 14 days. No termination date has been set for the health-related ban. It will continue indefinitely until lifted by the President. There are limited national interest exceptions available to this ban, which can be granted on a case-by-case basis by U.S. Consulates abroad.

Second is the restriction of non-essential travel to the U.S. from land borders with Canada and Mexico. Non-essential travel includes trips that are for tourism or recreation. However, essential travel is still allowed, and includes entry by U.S. citizens, green card holders, international students, business travelers, and people seeking medical care.

Third is the economic-related travel ban, which suspends entry into the U.S. by people in specific visa categories who did not already have a visa as of June 22, 2020. This ban applies to:

- H-1B visas, which are for specialty occupation workers;

- H-2B visas, which are for temporary workers;

- L visas, which are for intracompany transferees;

- J visas for internships, training, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs, or summer work travel programs (J visas for students are still allowed); and,

- Family members of the above visa holders.

The economic-related ban is currently set to expire on December 31, 2020. Limited national interest exceptions are available for this ban as well, with different criteria for each visa category. Again, national interest exceptions are decided by the local U.S. Consulate abroad on a case-by-case basis.

If you have any questions about how these travel bans could impact you, your employees, or your family members, contact Best Law Offices for a consultation.

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