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Reminders of Ongoing Pandemic-Related Travel Restrictions as Holiday Season Approaches

25 Nov

As we approach this year’s holiday season, it is important to keep in mind that multiple travel restrictions remain in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Countries all over the world have a variety of restrictions, so it is strongly recommended that international travelers check with the authorities of the countries they intend to visit both when making travel plans, and again prior to traveling so they have the most up-to-date information. 

As a reminder, the U.S. government continues to enforce the following restrictions: 

Cross-Border Traffic from Mexico and Canada 

The U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders continue to be closed to non-essential travel through December 21, 2020, and given the current surge in COVID-19 cases, chances remain high that the closure will be extended again prior to this date. The restriction expressly exempts air, freight rail, or sea travel (but not ferry services). 

Travel from Specific Regions 

A series of Presidential Proclamations issued between January and May 2020 restricted travel to the United States for those physically present in a designated country or region within the 14 days preceding the travel. These areas include: 

  • China
  • Iran
  • Schengen Area (includes 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)
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Brazil

The restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and their immediate family members (spouses and children). Additional exemptions may apply in limited circumstances. In addition, the U.S. Department of States has advised that students with valid F-1 or M-1 traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland do not need to contact a U.S. embassy or consulate to seek an exception to travel. 

Travel for Certain Visa Categories 

An additional Presidential Proclamation continues to be in effect restricting entry to the United States of new nonimmigrant workers seeking H-1B, H-2B, and L, nonimmigrant status. Further, the restriction also applies to those seeking admission in J nonimmigrant status for work as an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or pursuant to the summer work travel program. The restrictions apply only to those who did not have a valid visa (in the same category as the visa that will be used for travel) or an official travel document other than a visa on June 24, 2020, or to those who were physically present in the United States in valid status on that date. Canadians are exempt from these restrictions, and additional limited exceptions apply. 

National Interest Exceptions  

In addition to the exempted categories of travelers, National Interest Exceptions may be available in certain circumstances, so those impacted by these travel restrictions should consult with their Foster attorney to assess the possibility of obtaining a National Interest Exception. 

Avoid Unnecessary Travel 

Given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and the fact that additional travel restrictions may be issued at any time and without prior notice, Foster continues to strongly advise against all international travel unless it is absolutely necessary. Furthermore, the availability of National Interest Exceptions varies considerably depending on the facts of the situation and the U.S. government official making the determination; therefore, the availability of such an exception should not be relied upon when making travel-related decisions. 

If international travel is needed, travelers should contact their Foster attorney before making plans to depart the United States and should check again for any restrictions that may be in place immediately prior to departure. Nonimmigrants who routinely renew visas at a U.S. consulate abroad should consider applying for extension with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as needed. 

Foster will continue to track changes in immigration law and procedure, as well as the ongoing impacts of travel restrictions, and will make additional updates available via our firm’s website at www.fosterglobal.com.