Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
NOTE: Because the COVID-19 situation is dynamic, with new governmental measures each day, employers should consult with counsel for the latest developments and updated guidance on this topic.
On March 11, 2020, the president signed a proclamation, Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus, that implements additional travel restrictions for any foreign nationals who have been present in certain European countries within 14 days of arrival in the United States. The announcement follows similar restrictions issued on January 31, 2020 and February 29, 2020, respectively, for foreign nationals who had been physically present in the People’s Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) and Iran. The restrictions are expected to last for 30 days.
To Whom Do The Restrictions Apply?
The proclamation will restrict the entry (as immigrants or nonimmigrants) of any foreign nationals who have been in 26 European states of the Schengen Area at any point during the 14-day period prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States.1 The Schengen Area countries include 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 new restrictions depend on whether a foreign national has been physically present in these countries and are not dependent on one’s nationality.
Who Is Exempt?
The new travel restrictions contain multiple exemptions. They do not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, (generally) immediate family members of U.S. citizens, or other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.
For example, the restrictions also do not apply to foreign nationals seeking entry into or transiting the United States pursuant to one of the following visas issued for diplomats, government officials, and employees of NATO and other international organizations: A-1, A-2, 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). There is also an exemption for air and sea crew, as well as for health professionals who serve as part of efforts to combat virus spread, and for “any alien 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.”2
Additionally, the president made clear that the prohibitions will not apply to trade and cargo.3 The proclamation will become effective on March 13, 2020 (11:59 p.m. EST) and will not apply to travelers aboard flights departing prior to that time cut-off.4
How Does This Affect U.S. Citizens?
While U.S. citizens are not subject to the new restrictions, the administration has indicated that enhanced screening procedures are likely to be implemented at selected airports throughout the U.S. for those who have been physically present in Europe. On March 11, 2020, Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf issued a statement, clarifying that “[i]n the next 48 hours, in the interest of public health, I intend to issue a supplemental Notice of Arrivals Restriction requiring U.S. passengers that have been in the Schengen Area to travel through select airports where the U.S. Government has implemented enhanced screening procedures.”5
Conclusions for Employers Moving Forward
COVID-19 has significantly affected business travel, and these new restrictions will undoubtedly continue to pose disruptions for the travel and exchange of employees and visitors between Europe and the U.S. As of March 11, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the specified countries in Europe (along with South Korea, Iran, and China).6 From the nonimmigrant visa perspective, employers should be aware that current or prospective employees utilizing consular services offered at U.S. posts throughout Europe for employment-based visas will experience difficulty returning to the United States.
Littler continues to closely monitor these and other employment-related considerations. Our COVID-19 guidance can be found at https://www.littler.com/coronavirus.
1 President Donald Trump, Proclamation—Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus, White House (March 11, 2020) (“The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.”)
3 See The White House, Remarks by President Trump in Address to the Nation, Briefings: Remarks (March 11, 2020) (“There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval.”).
4 See President Donald Trump, Proclamation—Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus, White House (March 11, 2020).
5 See U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf’s Statement on Presidential Proclamation To Protect the Homeland from Travel-Related Coronavirus Spread, U.S. DHS Office of Public Affairs (March 11, 2020) (https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDHS/bulletins/280ab33).
6 See Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 in Europe, CDC (available at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/warning/coronavirus-europe).