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Immigration Law

Travel Restrictions!! The Effects of the Covid-19 Travel Ban

Can I Apply to Come to the U.S. to Work?

President Trump issued a proclamation in April 2020 seriously restricting which foreign workers may apply to work in the United States for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic. He has since extended this proclamation multiple times. Travel restrictions that were set to expire are now extended to March 2021.

Under these rules, Immigration (USCIS) will not issue any of the following visas for any of the following categories of people to come to the United States:

(1) specialist workers (H-1B visas);

(2) temporary non-agricultural workers (H-2B visas);

(3) exchange visitors working as interns, trainees, teachers, or workers (J visas);

(4) people who are transferring within their company to a new branch (L visas).

Workers who are considered essential to the food supply chain may still be granted permission to come to the United States. In rare cases, people whose admission would be in the “national interest” may be granted exceptions by the Secretary of State.

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.

I Have Travelled to a Country with Covid-19 Travel Restrictions. Am I Stuck?

Currently, there are restrictions limiting travel from China, Iran, the European Schengen area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and Brazil. The CDC provides a full list of impacted countries. You may not enter the U.S. if you have been in one of the listed countries within the past 14 days, unless you qualify for an exception.

If you belong to any of the following categories, you may enter the United States even if you have been in 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.

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.

Before Covid-19, I had a visa to work in the U.S. Can I Still Use it?

The ban on issuing visas for most workers to enter the United States does not revoke visas for workers who have already been issued visas.

If, at the time the proclamation was issued, you already had a nonimmigrant visa allowing you to live and work in the United States, or a travel document allowing you to re-enter, that visa or travel document remains valid for the length of time listed on the visa.

San Mateo Immigration Lawyer Serving San Francisco Bay Area