U.S. Immigration update on COVID-19

(Current as of March 16, 2020)

6 minute read
16 March 2020


The rapid global spread of COVID-19 has unprecedentedly affected international travel and mobility. In an effort to curb the proliferation of the virus, the U.S. President has issued Presidential Proclamations implementing travel bans. The U.S. President also issued a Presidential Proclamation on March 13, 2020 declaring a national emergency concerning the novel coronavirus disease outbreak.

COVID-19 Travel Ban

The U.S. government issued a COVID-19 Travel Ban for China, Iran and countries in the Schengen Area. As of March 16, 2020, the travel ban has been extended to the UK and Ireland. As a result of the COVID 19 Travel Ban, ESTA applications in the affected countries are being denied and existing registrations are being revoked. Such denials and revocations are on a without prejudice basis so as not to affect the individual's ability to enter the U.S. in the future.

The most recent Presidential Proclamation involving the COVID-19 travel ban was issued on March 11, 2020, titled: "Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus". Pursuant to this Proclamation, and in conjunction with two previously issued Presidential Proclamations (on January 31, 2020 and February 29, 2020), entry into the U.S. is suspended indefinitely for foreign nationals (with limited exceptions) who have been in China, Iran or in the Schengen Area at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the U.S. There are 26 countries in the Schengen Area: 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. As of March 16, 2020, the UK and Ireland have been added to the list along with China, Iran and the Schengen Area (collectively defined as the "banned countries").

Also effective March 13, 2020, all flights to the U.S. carrying individuals who are not otherwise banned  as outlined above, but who have been in the banned countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the U.S. ("permitted entrants"), will be redirected to 1 of the following 13 designated airports to undergo health screening: Atlanta Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, New York JFK, Los Angeles International Airport, Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, or Washington-Dulles International Airport. Modifications may be made to this list, view updates on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.

Upon arrival at one of the 13 designated airports, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") staff will evaluate permitted entrants if they exhibit symptoms of fever, cough, or trouble breathing. If any of these symptoms are exhibited, permitted entrants will not be allowed to complete their travel itinerary and will be taken to a medical facility for further evaluation and care. If permitted entrants do not exhibit symptoms, they should be allowed to reach their final destination but are urged to self-quarantine and monitor their health for 14 days. Permitted entrants that have visited Hubei Province, China in the last 14 days that do not exhibit symptoms will be placed under a mandatory federal, state or local quarantine order for a 14-day period, and may not be able to complete their travel itineraries until the 14-day period has elapsed.

Public Charge Determinations

On Friday, March 13, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a statement on its website that medical treatment and preventative services with respect to COVID-19 will not negatively affect foreign nationals as part of a future Public Charge analysis. More details on inadmissibility on public charge grounds final rule and specific details relating to COVID-19 can be found here.

USCIS Appointments

USCIS has included a statement on its website that any individual that is ill for any reason should not attend appointments with any USCIS office. Appointments should be rescheduled if an individual has:

  • Has traveled internationally to any country outside the U.S. within 14 days of the appointment;
  • Believes he or she may have been exposed to COVID-19; or
  • Are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

More details can be found on the USCIS's website.

What this means for Individuals and Employers

As the COVID-19 situation is quickly evolving, individuals traveling internationality or seeking to enter the U.S. should remain up-to-date, diligently keeping abreast of all travel restrictions. Individuals who have immigration appointments should also regularly check for updates and reschedule appointments as needed. We recommend speaking to a U.S. immigration attorney if you have specific questions.

CDC has created a page devoted to COVID-19. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's response to COVID-19 can be found here.

NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.