UPDATED: Enhanced Travel Restrictions Due to Coronavirus: What US Immigrants Should Know

UPDATE: US Bans Europe Travel – Extensive travel restrictions have been instituted globally limiting travel to and from all Coronavirus-affected countries. US has banned all travelers coming in from the 26 Schengen countries. While the travel ban doesn’t impact US citizens coming into the US, it will apply to anyone else who may have traveled from the Schengen countries in the past 14 days. This travel ban goes into effect on March 13, 2020.

NRIs and OCI Card Holders Restricted From India Travel

As the Coronavirus reached global pandemic levels, India has suspended all visas until April 15, 2020 and prohibits entry to Non-resident Indians (NRIs) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders. A national travel advisory requires all NRIs and OCI card holders to acquire a temporary visitors visa from the local Indian consulate before making any travel plans. This exception will be made only for unavoidable travel plans and permission to travel will be granted at the discretion of the Indian Embassy.

Consequently, all international airlines are either cancelling or effectively reducing flights to India effective March 13, 2020. All travel plans should be made keeping these travel restrictions in mind.

International Travel Ban & Insurance Coverage for US Visitors

Everything you need to know about the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Effective as of February 2, 2020, in keeping with the spread of the deadly Novel Coronavirus of 2019 that has killed over 350 people, the US has imposed an entry ban on all foreign nationals who may have recently visited China. This includes all foreign nationals holding a valid non-immigrant visa to the US. Anyone having been to China in the past 14 days will be denied entry into the US. This entry ban is to remain in effect until terminated by Presidential order.

This restriction extends into visa appointments at various US consulates that serve the Chinese mainland. 

Other countries that are joining this restriction across all Chinese related travel includes India, Australia, Russia, Schengen member countries, Vietnam, Singapore, Bangladesh and Pakistan. There are 25 more countries expected to join in each day as the toll from the deadly virus rises.

How Does the Coronavirus Travel Restriction Affect Non-Immigrants in the US?

Besides a complete entry ban for foreign nationals who may be even remotely touched by the Coronavirus, there are areas of their immigration journey that is getting impacted. 

  • Consulate services are temporarily suspended and most US consulates are shut at least until mid-February, 2020. Depending upon how much of the virus is contained, this suspension could be extended.
  • Scheduled interviews for all immigrant and non-immigrant visas are cancelled and will be rescheduled for a later date. All visa applicants should contact their local US consulate to reschedule. They will receive notification of the same as well.
  • Another major drawback is for anyone who maybe current or may become current according to the priority dates announced in the February Visa Bulletin. This suspension of activities and cancellations will delay processing times and add to the backlog.

Inevitable Travel Plans During Coronavirus Threat?

The smart thing to do is get a ‘Cancel For Anytime Travel Insurance Plan’

Foreign Nationals Exempt from the Coronavirus Travel Restriction

  • A foreign national whose who has been approved for travel by the Centers for Disease Control
  • A foreign national whose entry supports US law enforcement objectives and is of national interest
  • Anyone helping with the containment and solution for the Coronavirus
  • Crewmembers who are part of international airlines and cruises and have been vetted and passed by the CDC
  • Anyone transiting through the US with 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.

How Does the Coronavirus Affect US Citizens and Green Card Holders in the US?

  • A US citizen or green card holder, having traveled through or visited China will be quarantined for 14 days on arrival into the US.
  • They can also be put through advanced health screenings and undergo monitored self-quarantine for two weeks or more.
  • This is applicable not only to US citizens and permanent residents but also their immediate family members
  • Proactive screenings at all US Ports of Entry will lead to delays and travelers should be prepared to wait in lines until cleared.
  • Travelers can enter the US only through one of the following seven airports. This means they should expect diversions and detours from their final destination:
  1. John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, 
  2. Chicago O’Hare International Airport in Illinois, 
  3. San Francisco International Airport in California, 
  4. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington, 
  5. Daniel K. Inouye International Airport tin Hawaii, 
  6. Los Angeles International Airport in California, and 
  7. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia 

US Citizens and Permanent Residents Exempt from Coronavirus Travel Entry Ban:

  • Spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Parent or legal guardian of a US citizen or green card holders (should be unmarried and under the age of 21)
  • Siblings of a US citizen or green card holders (both should be unmarried and under the age of 21)
  • Child, foster child, prospective adoptee or ward of a US citizen or green card holders.

Which Airlines Have Suspended Flights to and From China Due to Coronavirus?

  • American Airlines
  • KLM
  • Air Canada
  • United Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Delta
  • Air India
  • Indigo Air

For any of the above getting affected, they should plan extra time during their travel be it into the US or going out since airports, especially the major ones listed above will be exceptionally busy and exiting delays will be elongated.

For any consulate procedures that require cancellation and rescheduling of interview dates, you may consult an immigration lawyer for the next course of action.