Since it has been confirmed that person-to-person infection is one of the major ways through which the new coronavirus spreads, governments all over the world have been taking actions to reduce both outbound and inbound international travel. Drastic measures are being taken to ensure public safety and many countries have closed their borders to foreign nationals. Some will only welcome travelers from places where the COVID-19 outbreak isn’t severe.
Traveling to and from the United States: What You Need to Know
Since the first case of the new coronavirus in the United States, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) has taken various decisive actions to inform and safeguard U.S. citizens both at home and overseas. One of these measures includes issuing travel bans, the closure of the border to certain countries.
The DOS also provides up-to-date travel advisories to the general public. These travel restrictions are issued for individuals who have been to the areas considered high-risk, especially places where the new coronavirus outbreak is most prevalent. These advisories are issued to ensure U.S. citizen travelers get timely alerts that will help keep them safe and informed.
Coronavirus travel warnings are issued based on the severity of the outbreak in different countries. The DOS categorized international travel as a global level 3 health advisory, which means you should reconsider traveling abroad for now if possible. Even in places where the coronavirus has not been reported, you may be denied entry as more countries close their borders to foreigners.
For example, China is categorized as level 4 with the warning “Do Not Travel.” So, unless it cannot be avoided, you should hold off on international travel for now. And if you must travel, be sure to check the update on the DOS travel advisories webpage to know the state of the country you are traveling to.
Inbound Travel Restrictions
Foreign nationals who have visited places with a higher prevalence of COVID-19 within 14 days of seeking admission to the United States are restricted from entering the U.S. for now. China and Iran are at the top of the list of these countries. The travel ban proclamation also extends to about 28 countries in Europe, including the U.K. and Ireland, which were recently added.
China and Iran: The coronavirus outbreak is believed to have started in Wuhan in China, and the country currently has the highest recorded number of cases and fatalities since December 2019 with Iran close behind it.
Europe: COVID-19 prevalence is also high in many parts of Europe, especially in Italy. In light of this, immigrants who have been physically present in any of the 28 European countries will likely be denied entry within the stipulated time.
What About U.S. Citizens Traveling Abroad?
U.S. citizens who are abroad—including in China, Iran, and Europe—are not affected by the restrictions. The travel ban, as issued in President Trump’s proclamation, does not affect U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. It also excludes the spouses, parents, and siblings of American citizens and green card holders. However, as part of the DOS’s safety measures, those travelers may have to enter the U.S. through certain airports for advanced screening.
Travelers coming to the U.S. from China’s Hubei Province and other places with a high rate of coronavirus cases may face public health delays based on each person’s risk level and clinical presentation. This may include movement monitoring or restriction, isolation, or quarantine.
The public health action protocols are being reviewed regularly and are updated based on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the country where each traveler has been physically present in the 14 days leading up to attempted entry into the U.S.
You may be asked to observe self-quarantine at home or be placed in a special facility by health officials. Some employers are also asking their staff who have been traveling to work remotely after their re-entry into the U.S.
Is Domestic Travel Also Restricted Within the United States?
For now, there are no restrictions on domestic travel. However, President Trump stated on Wednesday, March 11th that domestic travel restriction could be issued to curb the spread. It is not yet clear whether or not the domestic ban would be issued and what regions it may affect. However, the president maintained it is a possibility, especially “if an area gets too hot.”
What About Visa and Immigration Processing? Are they on Hold?
Starting on Wednesday, March 18, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) temporarily closed its offices to the public. This means most immigration services, including visa applications and interviews, are currently suspended. According to the information on the USCIS website, the closure will last for at least until April 1. However, the agency will continue to render services that do not involve contact with the public. Also, USCIS staff will still be carrying out emergency services when necessary.
If you have an appointment with the USCIS, it will be rescheduled for a later date and you will receive an email notifying you of this closure. When the agency resumes again, you will also be given the details of your rescheduled appointment.
Safety Tips from Our Attorneys
Education and precautions are, according to the USCIS, “the strongest tools against infection.” Here at Immi-USA, we will continue to update you on the state of international travel around the world and the necessary precaution and safety measures to keep you and your loved ones safe and informed during this global pandemic.
You can help stop the spread of the virus by following these guidelines from the CDC:
- Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds if you have been in a public place. In the absence of water and soap, use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes with unwashed hands
- Try to maintain distance (at least 6 feet) between other people when you are in public
- Avoid contact with people who are sick
- Stay home if you are sick
- Cover your sneezes and coughs always with tissues or use the inside of your elbow
- Tissues used in covering sneezes and coughs must be thrown in the trash
- Wear a face mask if you are sick.
At Immi-USA, our thoughts are with the affected individuals and families. We will always be here to give you firsthand information on how to stay safe during this global health emergency.