The Covid-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on business, travel and immigration
The global spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is impacting the global economy, international travel and immigration. For companies that have foreign national employees in the U.S. and overseas, it’s critical to understand what is changing and how to respond effectively to preserve the employee experience.
Considerations for Employers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
On March 19, 2020, the U.S. Department of State issued a level four travel advisory, which advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel and return home if abroad as soon as possible or prepare to shelter in place.
In North America, the U.S. and Canada mutually agreed to close their border to non-essential travel on March 21. The U.S. also restricted non-essential travel from Mexico into the U.S., effectively invalidating visas allowing short crossings into U.S. cities.
Overseas, the State Department has restricted entry into the U.S. by non-citizens who have spent the prior 14 days in the 26 European Schengen area countries, Ireland, The United Kingdom, Iran and China. U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents returning from these countries may be subject to entering the U.S. at one of 13 designated airports, undergoing enhanced medical screenings and required to self-quarantine.
Globally, other countries have also enacted a series of travel bans barring entry by non-citizens for indefinite periods of time.
U.S. Immigration Policy Announcements
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has taken a series of steps to lessen the spread of the virus. This includes the suspension of in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices and Application Support Centers (ASCs). The office closures are temporary and will be effective until at least May 3. During this time, USCIS will provide limited emergency services and requests calling the USCIS Contact Center for assistance.In addition, USCIS also announced the temporary suspension of premium processing for all I-129 and I-140 Petitions.
Sara Herbek, Managing Partner of Global Immigration Associates, expects that petitioners will receive rescheduled appointment notices once offices reopen.
USCIS also announced that, due to the pandemic, they will accept all benefit forms and documents with reproduced original signatures, including the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, for submissions starting on March 21.
Meanwhile, the State Department has also suspended all routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa services at its embassies and consulates.
Employer practice pointers
Stay informed. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact travel and immigration, and circumstances can change quickly. Staying informed can help employers be proactive about adjusting plans. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention has issued a set of guidelines for international travelers as well as those returning from international travel. In addition, USCIS is publishing regular updates on office closures, suspension of services and changes in policy.
Communicate often. With most businesses closing offices for indefinite periods of time and employees working remotely, consistent communication is essential to the employee experience. Keep employees engaged in conversations about travel restrictions and other disruptions to immigration processing that could impact their status, and make sure they feel empowered to ask questions or reach out to immigration legal teams directly.
Consult with your counsel. Due to the rapidly evolving restrictions, Sara Herbek, Managing Partner at Global Immigration Associates, advises that employers refrain from making any international travel arrangements without checking relevant government websites or consulting with their immigration counsel. With no clear date as to when business operations will resume as normal, be proactive about developing alternative plans for employees expected to travel.
Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Sara Herbek, who is a Managing Partner at Global Immigration Associates, P.C. (www.giafirm.com), Envoy’s affiliated law firm.
Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.