Travel Restrictions to the U.S. related to COVID-19

We are deeply saddened by the turn of events listed below that may affect you. We stand with our students and scholars from all over the world who are here to learn from and share their knowledge with the University of South Alabama. We welcome students and visiting scholars regardless of background or citizenship, knowing that we are better together. Please email the Office of Immigration with any questions related to the alerts below.

 

▼   July 16, 2020 - U.K., Ireland, and Schengen Area Update

 

Entry into the U.S. from the UK, Ireland, and Schengen area of Europe

Please note: This information is for citizens of the UK, Ireland, and the Schengen area of Europe only. Information has not been updated for Third Country Nationals (TCN) who may wish to attempt to bypass any travel restriction proclamation between the U.S. and their home country by quarantining 14 days in these countries.

On July 16, the Department of State announced that certain travelers, including students with valid F-1 and certain J-1 visas, may qualify for National Interest Exceptions under the Presidential Proclamations 9993 (Schengen area) and 9996 (UK and Ireland). Students with valid F-1 visas may travel to the U.S. under this exception. Future and current J-1 students  are asked to please contact your local U.S. Embassy for further exception information and instructions.

As you make arrangements to travel to Mobile, please make sure to print this website page and take it with you in your carry-on bag to board your flight as well as to the Port of Entry. Information is sometimes slow to be disseminated amongst government agencies and airlines so having this printed page may aid you if questioned about your eligibility to enter the U.S.

Also, an example letter from a U.S. Embassy stated those entering the U.S. under this exception are required to use one of 15 specifically designated airports. To be prudent, when making your travel arrangements, please ensure that your Port of Entry to the U.S. is one of these airports:

  1. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
  2. Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
  3. San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
  4. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), California
  5. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
  6. Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
  7. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
  8. Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia
  9. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
  10. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
  11. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), Michigan
  12. Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts
  13. Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida
  14. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), Florida
  15. George Bush Intercontinental/Houston Airport (IAH), Texas

While the University of South Alabama does not require you to self-quarantine upon arrival, the Embassy letter also says you “may be subject to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.” If you are given instructions at the port of entry by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer that you are required to quarantine, please let the Office of Immigration know immediately upon arrival.

▼   July 14, 2020 - Routine Visa Services Resume

Visa Appointments

On July 14, the Department of State announced that routine visa services would resume in a phased plan as embassies are safe to reopen. Visa services mentioned in the Department of State announcement include travelers with urgent travel needs such as students in F-1 and certain J-1 status. Please check with your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate to find out if their location has or will resume visa processing.

▼   June 24, 2020 - Proclamation affecting entry to the U.S. for specific H, L, and J visa categories (read carefully)

The President of the United States issued a proclamation titled Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak, that will go into effect at at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on June 24, 2020. The proclamation extends the effective dates of Proclamation 10014 of April 22, 2020. The new proclamation extends the period for an additional 4 months, until December 31, 2020.

The proclamation suspends "entry into the United States of any alien seeking entry pursuant to any of the following nonimmigrant visas" until December 31, 2020:

  • an H-1B or H-2B visa, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien;
  • a J visa, to the extent the alien is participating in an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien;
    • NAFSA note: this means that the proclamation does not apply to exchange categories other than those listed. For example, it does not apply to participants in the J professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, college or university student, or ECFMG alien physician categories
  • an L visa, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien

Exceptions: Section 3 of the proclamation establishes that this entry bar applies only to an individual who:

(i)  is outside the United States on the effective date of this proclamation;

(ii)  does not have a nonimmigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation; and

(iii)  does not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission.

Also excluded from the proclamation's entry bar are:

(i)  any lawful permanent resident of the United States;

(ii)  any alien who is the spouse or child, as defined in section 101(b)(1) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1101(b)(1)), of a United States citizen;

(iii)  any alien seeking to enter the United States to provide temporary labor or services essential to the United States food supply chain; and

(iv)  any alien whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.

Note: It is extremely important to stress that while the proclamation suspends the processing of the above J, H, and L non-immigrant visa applications abroad at U.S. Embassies and Consulates via Consular Processing, it does not prevent anyone from a change of status to or extension of J, H, or L Visa status inside the United States through USCIS.

Who is not impacted by this Proclamation?
In the context of the University of South Alabama, the suspension and limitations on immigrant visas and certain J, H, and L Visas above does not apply to:

  • any F-1 and J-1 students, F-1 and J-1 student visa applicants, F-1 and J-1 student visa holders and their F-2 or J-2 dependent(s);
  • any J-1 Scholar, J-1 visa applicant and their J-2 dependent(s), who are sponsored by the University of South Alabama under the J Exchange Visitor categories of research scholar, professor, short-term scholar, student intern, and ECFMG physician;
  • any current H-1B employee or H-4 dependent(s) currently in the United States;
  • any current H-1B employee or H-4 dependent(s) who hold valid visas;
  • any employee of the University of South Alabama currently inside the United States for whom USA is sponsoring H-1B for a change of status or extension of status;
  • any dependent of an H-1B employee seeking a change of status to or extension of status H-4 status;
  • any employee of the University of South Alabama for whom USA is sponsoring Permanent Residence via an Adjustment of Status through USCIS;
  • any current lawful permanent resident (e.g. Permanent Residents or green card holders) of the United States;
  • as well as a list of other exempted categories found Section 3 (b) of the proclamation.
▼   May 29, 2020 - China

On May 29, 2020, the President issued Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Students and Researchers from the People’s Republic of China. The proclamation is effective at 12:00 p.m. eastern daylight time on June 1, 2020, and will remain in effect until terminated by the President.

Section 1 of the proclamation suspends "entry into the United States as a nonimmigrant of any national of the PRC seeking to enter the United States pursuant to an F or J visa to study or conduct research in the United States, except for a student seeking to pursue undergraduate study," and who either:

  • Currently "receives funding from or who currently is employed by, studies at, or conducts research at or on behalf of... an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s 'military-civil fusion strategy'," or
  • In the past "has been employed by, studied at, or conducted research at or on behalf of... an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s 'military-civil fusion strategy'"

Under the proclamation, "the term “military-civil fusion strategy” means actions by or at the behest of the PRC to acquire and divert foreign technologies, specifically critical and emerging technologies, to incorporate into and advance the PRC’s military capabilities."

Section 1 wholly exempts F and J undergraduate students from the proclamation. Likewise, graduate students and researchers are also exempt from the proclamation if they do not have any of the specific current or past funding, employment, study, or research nexuses with "an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s 'military-civil fusion strategy'."

The proclamation focuses on the specified connections with PRC entities that implement or support the PRC’s effort “to acquire and divert foreign technologies, specifically critical and emerging technologies, to incorporate into and advance the PRC’s military capabilities.” What are those entities? The preface to the Executive Order does call out the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), so that and entities clearly connected or tied to it are likely candidates.

As mentioned above, Section 1 wholly exempts students pursuing undergraduate study. Section 2 then provides the following additional exceptions to the suspension order. That is to say, Section 1 of the executive order also does not apply to:

  • Individuals "studying or conducting research in a field involving information that would not contribute to the PRC’s military‑civil fusion strategy, as determined by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the appropriate executive departments and agencies (agencies)"
  • U.S. lawful permanent residents
  • Spouses of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents
  • Members of the United States Armed Forces and their spouse and children
  • Individuals "whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement or who would otherwise be allowed entry into the United States pursuant to United States obligations under applicable international agreements"
  • Individuals "whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee"
  • Individuals "whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees."

The Secretary of State will implement the proclamation as it applies to visas "pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may establish in the Secretary of State’s discretion."  The Secretary of Homeland Security will implement the proclamation "as it applies to the entry of aliens pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may establish in the Secretary of Homeland Security’s discretion."

Additional Measures under Section 6 of the proclamation:

  • "The Secretary of State shall consider, in the Secretary’s discretion, whether nationals of the PRC currently in the United States pursuant to F or J visas and who otherwise meet the criteria described in section 1 of this proclamation should have their visas revoked pursuant to section 221(i) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1201(i)."
  • "Within 60 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the heads of appropriate agencies, shall review nonimmigrant and immigrant programs and shall recommend to the President, through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, any other measures requiring Presidential action that would mitigate the risk posed by the PRC’s acquisition of sensitive United States technologies and intellectual property."
  • "The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall consider issuing updated regulations and guidance, as appropriate, implementing the inadmissibility provisions in section 212(a)(3)(D) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)(D)." [NAFSA note: this provision is the "Immigrant membership in totalitarian party" ground of inadmissibility that applies to immigrant visa applicants, but not to nonimmigrant visa applicants.]
▼   May 24, 2020 - Brazil

The Presidential Proclamation of May 24, 2020 suspends entry into the United States of all aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants, and other non-U.S. citizens) who were physically present within the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. The May 24, 2020 proclamation contained a May 28, 2020 effective date, but a May 25, 2020 amendment to the proclamation revised the effective date to May 26, 2020. Section 5 of the May 24, 2020 proclamation has been amended to provide: "This proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on May 26, 2020. This proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on May 26, 2020."

The proclamation does not apply to U.S. citizens, or to any alien who is:

  1. a lawful permanent resident of the United States

  2. a spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident

  3. a parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;

  4. a sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;

  5. a child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;

  6. an alien traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;

  7. C (transit) or D (air or sea crewmember) nonimmigrants

  8. seeking entry into or transiting the United States pursuant to an A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 visa;

  9. an alien whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the virus, as determined by the CDC Director, or his designee;

  10. an alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee; or

  11. an alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.

  12. a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

For aliens not excluded by the ban, the proclamations direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish standards and procedures at and between all United States ports of entry to regulate the travel of persons and aircraft to the United States to facilitate the orderly medical screening and, where appropriate, quarantine of persons who enter the United States and who may have been exposed to the virus. "Such steps may include directing air carriers to restrict and regulate the boarding of such passengers on flights to the United States."

▼   April 22, 2020 - Presidential Proclamation Suspending Immigrant Entry

On April 22, 2020, President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation that suspends entry for 60 days of certain new immigrants who do not already have an approved immigrant visa. The proclamation does not currently impact applicants for adjustment of status to permanent residence, or nonimmigrants (such as students, exchange visitors, H-1B workers, visitors for business or pleasure, etc.).

Proclamation of April 22, 2020: Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak.

Initial effective period: 60 days starting 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020.

Summary

The suspension of Consular Processing and of entry to the U.S. only applies to the following, very narrow list of immigrants:

  1. Applicants for immigrant visas (Permanent Residency or "green card") who are outside of the United States;
  2. Immigrant applicants who do not already have an approved, valid immigrant visa; and
  3. Immigrant applicants who do not have an official travel document, such as an advance parole document, that is valid during the period of the effective dates of the proclamation.

Remember, immigrant visas are for those coming to the United States permanently (e.g. Permanent Residents or "green card" holders).  Nonimmigrant visas are issued for temporary purpose such as visits, study, and work.

The suspension and limitation on entry does not apply to:

  • Non-immigrant visa applicants and visa holders (e.g. F-1 Students, J-1 Students, J-1 Scholars, H-1B Workers, B-1/B-2 Visitors etc.);
  • Any current lawful permanent resident (e.g. Permanent Residents or "green card" holders) of the United States;
  • Any person whose status is listed as other exempted categories found Section 2 (b) of the proclamation.

Furthermore, while this order suspends the processing of immigrant visa applications abroad via Consular Processing, it does not prevent pursuit of Permanent Residency via an Adjustment of Status through USCIS within the United States.

▼   March 26, 2020 - Canada-Mexico "Congregate Settings" Restrictions 
 

An order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suspends "the introduction of persons into the United States" who are traveling from Canada or Mexico (regardless of their country of origin) "who would otherwise be introduced into a congregate setting in a land Port of Entry (POE) or Border Patrol station at or near the United States borders with Canada and Mexico," subject to important exceptions described below.

Read the CDC Order published at 85 FR 17060 (March 26, 2020).

The order states that it is not applicable to, among others, "Persons from foreign countries who hold valid travel documents." While this appears to cover properly documented nonimmigrants such as students, exchange visitors, H-1B workers, TN workers, etc. it is still unclear whether a port of entry's regular "secondary inspection" area would constitute a "congregate setting" under the order, and if so how it might impact individuals with valid travel documents who would need to pass through ordinary "secondary inspection" at a port of entry."

Summary

The order is effective March 20, 2020 for 30 days, or until the Director of the CDC determines that "that the danger of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health, whichever is shorter." The CDC director can also extend or modify the order as needed to protect the public health.

The order is designed principally to block entry of "persons who are traveling from Canada or Mexico (regardless of their country of origin), and who must be held longer in congregate settings in POEs or Border Patrol stations to facilitate immigration processing, would typically be aliens seeking to enter the United States at POEs who do not have proper travel documents, aliens whose entry is otherwise contrary to law, and aliens who are apprehended near the border seeking to unlawfully enter the United States between POEs. This order is intended to cover all such aliens."

The order directs that the individuals covered by it (covered aliens) be moved "to the country from which they entered the United States, or their country of origin, or another location as practicable, as rapidly as possible, with as little time spent in congregate settings as practicable under the circumstances." U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) developed an operational plan for implementing the order, and DHS will, where necessary, use repatriation flights to move covered aliens.

The order states that it is not applicable to, among others, "Persons from foreign countries who hold valid travel documents." While this would appear to cover properly documented nonimmigrants such as students, exchange visitors, H-1B workers, TN workers, etc. it is still unclear whether a port of entry's regular "secondary inspection" area would constitute a "congregate setting" under the order, and if so how it might impact individuals with valid travel documents who would need to pass through ordinary "secondary inspection" at a port of entry.

The order does not apply to:

  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents
  • Persons from foreign countries who hold valid travel documents
  • Persons from foreign countries in the visa waiver program who are not subject to travel restrictions
  • Where a designated DHS customs officer determines, based on the totality of the circumstances, including consideration of significant law enforcement, officer and public safety, humanitarian, and public health interests, that the Order should not be applied to a specific person otherwise subject to the order
  • Members of the armed forces of the United States and associated personnel for whom the Secretary of Defense provides assurance to the Director that the Secretary of Defense, through measures such as quarantine, isolation, or other measures for maintaining control over such individuals, is preventing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to others in the United States.
▼   March 24, 2020 - TSA Will Accept Expired Driver's Licenses on Flights
 

If your driver's license or state-issued ID expired on or after March 1, 2020, and you are unable to renew at your state driver’s license agency, you may still use it as acceptable identification at the checkpoint. TSA will accept expired driver’s licenses or state-issued ID a year after expiration or 60 days after the duration of the emergency, whichever is longer.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

▼   March 24, 2020 – U.S. and Canada/Mexico borders
 

Two Federal Register notices to be published on March 24, 2020 announce the decision to temporarily allow entry to the United States through land ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders for “essential travel” only.

U.S.-Canada Border Federal Register Notice

U.S.-Mexico Border Federal Register Notice

Both notices are modeled identically for entry through the respective land borders. The restrictions went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on March 20, 2020 and will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. EDT on April 20, 2020. According to the notices, during the effective dates of the restrictions:

"... travel through the land ports of entry and ferry terminals along the [... United States-Canada and United States-Mexico borders] ... shall be limited to "essential travel," which includes, but is not limited to-

  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
  • Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States);
  • Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;
  • Individuals traveling to work in the United States(e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Canada in furtherance of such work);
  • Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support Federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies);
  • Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Canada);
  • Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and
  • Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.

The following travel does not fall within the definition of “essential travel” for purposes of this Notification-

  • Individuals traveling for tourism purposes (e.g., sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events).

At this time, this notification does not apply to air, freight rail, or sea travel between [the United States and Canada and the United States and Mexico], but does apply to passenger rail and ferry travel between the [the United States and Canada and the United States and Mexico]. These restrictions are temporary in nature and shall remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. EDT on April 20, 2020. This notification may be amended or rescinded prior to that time, based on circumstances associated with the specific threat."

▼   March 14, 2020 – U.S. and United Kingdom or Ireland
 

The U.S. government has announced additional, temporary travel restrictions related to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Effective 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 16, 2020, foreign nationals who were physically present in the United Kingdom or Ireland within 14 days of seeking admission/entry into the U.S. will be denied entry. For exceptions, please review our February 1 announcement below. This change does not apply to people aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the U.S. that departed prior to 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 16, 2020.

▼   March 12, 2020 – U.S. and Schengen Area of Europe
 

The U.S. government has announced additional, temporary travel restrictions related to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Effective 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020, foreign nationals who were physically present within the Schengen Area within 14 days of seeking admission/entry into the U.S. will be denied entry. For exceptions, please review our February 1 announcement below. This change does not apply to people aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the U.S. that departed prior to 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020.

The affected countries are 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.

▼   February 29, 2020 – U.S. and Iran
 

The U.S. government has announced additional, temporary travel restrictions related to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Effective 5:00 p.m. eastern standard time on March 2, 2020, foreign nationals who visited Iran within 14 days of seeking admission/entry into the U.S. will be denied entry. For exceptions, please review our February 1 announcement below. This change does not apply to people aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the U.S. that departed prior to 5:00 p.m. eastern standard time on March 2, 2020.

▼   February 1, 2020 – U.S. and China
 

The U.S. government has declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency. As a result, effective February 2 at 5:00 p.m., temporary travel restrictions will be imposed to U.S. citizens as well as foreign nationals who have traveled to China.  

Foreign nationals who visited China within 14 days of seeking admission/entry into the United States will be denied entry. Airlines have been informing their passengers that people will not be allowed to board U.S.-bound flights if they do not meet the requirements for entry into the U.S.

However, the following groups of foreign nationals are exempt from the new entry requirements:

  • U.S. lawful permanent residents (green card holders);
  • The spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  • The parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, if the U.S. citizen or permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • The sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • The child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the relevant visa classifications;
  • A foreign national traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
  • Nonimmigrant crew members;
  • Foreign nationals seeking entry or transiting the U.S. under an A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4 or NATO-6 visa;
  • A foreign national whose entry would not pose a significant risk of transmitting the virus, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control; and
  • A foreign national whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement interests or would be in the U.S. national interest.