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Immigration Law

Exceptions to the Limits on Travelers from the UK, Ireland, and the Schengen Area

Due to Covid-19, the U.S. government has restricted travelers from the UK, Ireland, and the Schengen area. However, there are several exemptions to this restriction. The following exceptions apply:

1. If you have an F-1 or M-1 student visa, you automatically qualify for an exemption.
2. If you are travelling for business, to invest, for academics, or to trade, and you have the appropriate visa (including a J-1 visa), you may qualify for an exemption.
3. If you have a valid H-1B, H-2B, L, or J worker’s visa, you qualify for an exemption.
4. If you are travelling for humanitarian, public health, or national security reasons, you may qualify for an exemption.

I Have Traveled to Another Country With Travel Restrictions. Am I Stuck?

In addition to the limitations on travelers from the UK, Ireland, and the Schengen area, there are restrictions limiting travel from China, Iran, South Africa and Brazil. The CDC provides a full list of impacted countries.

If you belong to any of the following categories, you may enter the United States even if you have been in any one of the travel-restricted countries:

(1) if you are a lawful permanent resident or a U.S. citizen;

(2) if you are married to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident;

(3) if you are the parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is not married and who is younger than 21;

(4) if you are the sibling of a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident, and you are both unmarried and younger than 21;

(5) if you are the child, foster child, ward, or prospective adoptee of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;

(6) if you are traveling with the permission of the U.S. Government to help with the government’s response to the virus;

(7) if you are a member of a crew on a plane or a boat (in this case, you would have a C-1, D, or C-1/D visa);

(8) if you are a foreign government or UN official, an immediate family member of a foreign government official, or work for a foreign government official or their immediate family;

(9) if you are serving or are the spouse or parent of someone who is serving in the U.S. armed forces

In very limited cases, the Secretary of State may make exceptions for people deemed necessary for national security or the national interest. Even if you are from one of the restricted countries, you still can apply for asylum in the United States if you would otherwise be eligible.

If you are not in one of the exception categories, and you have been in one of the restricted countries, you may re-enter the U.S. if you quarantine in a non-restricted country for 14 days.

I Am a Lawful Permanent Resident or a U.S. Citizen. Can I Come Back to the U.S.?

Yes. None of the Covid-19 restrictions prevent the return of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

I Have a Close Relative in the U.S. Are There Any Special Exceptions for Me?

If your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is your: spouse, unmarried child under the age of 21, unmarried sibling under the age of 21 (and you are under the age of 21 and unmarried), parent, guardian, or prospective adoptive parent, you are exempt from the rules limiting admissions from certain countries. If you are the spouse or child of a United States citizen, you are exempt from the rules limiting visas for foreign workers.

However, if you do not yet have a visa and your situation is not an emergency, you may have to wait until your local U.S. embassy is once again open to receive a visa interview appointment.

The U.S. Embassy Isn’t Processing my Visa Case. Is there Anything I Can Do?

Due to Covid-19, many of the U.S. embassies have halted their processing of all Visa cases except for emergencies. If you are waiting for a routine Visa to be processed, you are unfortunately unlikely to see any action on your case until the local Embassy resumes their visa services.

U.S. Embassies may recognize the following situations as valid emergencies: medical emergencies; illness or injury of a family member; death or funeral for family member; a serious business emergency (note that most routine business trips would not qualify). If you are a medical professional, entering the U.S. to provide medical aid for Covid-19 may also be considered a valid emergency.

If the embassy recognizes your situation as an emergency, they will process your visa application despite Covid-19 restrictions. If you think you may have a valid emergency, contact Attorney Jon Wu for help or visit the Department of State website to submit a request for an emergency appointment.

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