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Gunster's immigration law practice

COVID-19 IMPACT ON U.S. IMMIGRATION MATTERS

On March 11th the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As this unprecedented global health emergency situation evolves, numerous government directives designed to contain the spread of the outbreak have been issued. As U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) screens incoming travelers, and U.S. Consulates and local United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices close temporarily or temporarily suspend appointments due to the Presidential Proclamation relating to COVID-19, we are closely monitoring all developments. Gunster’s Immigration Practice remains available to answer your questions.

The following is timely information[1] regarding the impact the U.S. government measures relating to COVID-19, and immediate impact on sponsored foreign national employees and individual travelers. Please note that this information is changing as the situation evolves. Please check with counsel on any issues that may affect you before taking action.

Closures and temporary suspension of Visa Processing appointments at U.S. Consulates abroad

In response to the concerns brought on by the spread of COVID-19, numerous U.S. consular posts have begun alerting applicants of reduced or temporarily suspended visa services. Please click on the link below in order to access the U.S. Department of State’s list of Embassy/Consulate websites for country-specific information concerning COVID-19. This page provides links to the COVID-19 dedicated page for each U.S. Embassy/Consulate and includes information concerning health services, and in some cases, information concerning a reduction or temporary suspension of visa services. In addition to the U.S. Department of State’s website, concerned persons should also review the respective post or embassy’s website before they travel internationally, especially if they are already present in the United States.

Link: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html

Extending ESTA/Visa Waiver Participants’ (VWP) Periods of Admission due to inability to depart the US as a result of COVID-19 – Revocations of ESTA

Please note that the following information is only applicable to those admitted under the VWP/ESTA program through John F. Kennedy International Airport, NY (JFK) and Newark Liberty International Airport, NJ (ERW).

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Travelers must have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel and meet all applicable requirements. Individuals admitted under the VWP/ESTA program who find themselves unable to depart the U.S. before their current period of admission will end because of COVID-19 related issues who were admitted to the U.S. through John F. Kennedy International Airport, NY (JFK) and Newark Liberty International Airport, NJ (ERW) only can contact the Deferred Inspections office at JFK, starting Monday, March 16, 2020, Monday – Friday, 9 am to 4 pm ET and request Satisfactory Departure for up to 30 days. Individuals or their attorneys will need to provide the affected individual’s name, Date of Birth (DOB) and passport information at the time of the request. Individuals and their attorneys may be asked to provide the original departure flight itinerary along with the new flight itinerary.

Individuals and their attorneys are permitted to request Satisfactory Departure if the individual’s period of stay will expire in 14 days or less from the day he or she contacts JFK Deferred Inspections. If their period of VWP/ESTA admission has expired, the decision to grant satisfactory will be considered on a case by case basis.

To contact JFK Deferred Inspection to make the Satisfactory Departure Request use the numbers below:

(718) 553-3683 or (718) 553-3684  Monday – Friday, 9 am to 4 pm ET

The American Immigration Lawyers CBP Liaison Committee has learned that the ESTA registration revocations being reported by members is a planned action so travelers outside of the US who are now barred under the COVID-19 Travel Bans do not unnecessarily attempt to travel to the US when they are unable to do so. The current understanding is that these revocations are without prejudice and those travelers will be able to apply for ESTA in the future. Please consult with counsel for updates.

PRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATIONS – TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

As of March 17, 2020, President Trump has issued several proclamations in recent weeks suspending the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of individuals who were physically present within the Schengen Area, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the People’s Republic of China during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States, subject to certain exceptions. This practice alert outlines the scope of each of these proclamations.

Schengen Area and, as of as Monday, March 16, 2020, at midnight, includes the United Kingdom and Ireland

On March 11, 2020, President Trump issued a proclamation, effective 11:59 pm (ET), March 13, 2020, that with some exemptions, suspending and limiting the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of individuals who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. The proclamation will remain in effect until terminated by the President. Note: as of Monday, March 16th at midnight this policy has been expanded to include the United Kingdom and Ireland.

For purposes of this proclamation, the Schengen Area comprises 26 European states: 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 suspension and limitation on entry of this proclamation does not apply to:

  • Persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 11:59 pm (EST) on March 13, 2020;
  • Any lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States;
  • Any foreign national who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or LPR;
  • Any foreign national who is the parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or LPR, provided that the U.S. citizen or LPR is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Any foreign national who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or LPR, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Any foreign national who is the child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or LPR, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • Any foreign national traveling at the invitation of the U.S. Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
  • Any foreign national traveling pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crewmember or any alien otherwise traveling to the U.S. as air or sea crew;
  • Any foreign national (A) seeking entry into or transiting the U.S. pursuant to one of the following visas: A-1, A2, 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); or (B) whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement;
  • Any foreign national 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;
  • Any foreign national whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee;
  • Any foreign national whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees; or
  • members of the U.S. Armed Forces and spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Please note that the following two other presidential proclamations restricting travel to the United States based on concerns regarding the transmission of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus remain in effect:

Islamic Republic of Iran

On February 29, 2020, President Trump issued Proclamation 9992 suspending and limiting the entry of all individuals who were physically present within the Islamic Republic of Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States, subject to certain exceptions. This proclamation is in effect as of Monday, March 2, 2020.

This proclamation does not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States. Foreign diplomats traveling to the United States on A or G visas are excepted from this proclamation. Other exceptions include certain family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, including spouses, children (under the age of 21), parents (provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21), and siblings (provided that both the sibling and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident are unmarried and under the age of 21). There is also an exception for crew traveling to the United States on C, D or C1/D visas.

People’s Republic of China

On January 31, 2020, President Trump issued Proclamation 9984 suspending and limiting the entry of all individuals who were physically present in the People’s Republic of China, excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States, subject to certain exceptions. The proclamation is in effect as of Sunday, February 2, 2020.

This proclamation does not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States. Foreign diplomats traveling to the United States on A or G visas are excepted from this proclamation. Other exceptions include certain family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, including spouses, children (under the age of 21), parents (provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21), and siblings (provided that both the sibling and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident are unmarried and under the age of 21). There is also an exception for crew traveling to the United States on C, D or C1/D visas.

Designated U.S. Airports to Receive Flights

Per instructions issued by DHS for inbound flights for American citizens, legal permanent residents, and their immediate families who are returning home after recently visiting certain European countries, China, and Iran, the Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with the Transportation Security Administration, Center for Disease Control, and airlines, has directed all such flights to the United States to thirteen (13) airports where health protocols have been implemented to account for treatment and handling of individuals who might have contracted the virus. These airports include:

  • Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
  • Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan
  • Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
  • Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California
  • Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
  • Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia

More information is available here.

[1] We attribute this summary in part to information published by the American Immigration Lawyers Association

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This publication is for general information only. It is not legal advice, and legal counsel should be contacted before any action is taken that might be influenced by this publication.

About Gunster

Gunster, Florida’s law firm for business, provides full-service legal counsel to leading organizations and individuals from its 12 offices statewide. Established in 1925, the firm has expanded, diversified and evolved, but always with a singular focus: Florida and its clients’ stake in it. A magnet for business-savvy attorneys who embrace collaboration for the greatest advantage of clients, Gunster’s growth has not been at the expense of personalized service but because of it. The firm serves clients from its offices in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Stuart, Tallahassee, Tampa, The Florida Keys, Vero Beach, and its headquarters in West Palm Beach. With nearly 200 attorneys and 200 committed support staff, Gunster is ranked among the National Law Journal’s list of the 500 largest law firms and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Diverse Law Firms by Law360. More information about its practice areas, offices and insider’s view newsletters is available at www.gunster.com.


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