This post was last updated Sept. 16.
Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, Envoy Global and Global Immigration Associates, P.C. are closely monitoring U.S. travel advisories. Please do not make any international travel arrangements without checking relevant government websites and consulting your immigration legal team.
For breaking news updates, please click here.
For the latest non-U.S. (global) travel advisories, please click here.
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.
Current COVID-19 Impact on U.S. Immigration
Current impact on U.S. Immigration falls into six main categories:
- Consulate immigrant visas
- Travel bans and advisories
- Embassy and consulate closures
- USCIS field offices
- Premium processing
- USCIS policy changes
1. Consulate Immigrant Visas
President Donald Trump has signed a presidential proclamation temporarily suspending immigrant visa processing for certain applicants outside of the U.S. This announcement does not apply to non-immigrant visa categories (e.g., H-1B, TN, L) nor does it apply to any immigrant visa processing for individuals already in the U.S.
The proclamation is effective as of 11:59pm ET on Thursday, April 23, 2020 and the temporary suspension will last for 60 days. Click here for a more detailed breakdown, as well as how Envoy and Global Immigration Associates are responding.
2. Travel Bans and Advisories
Canada: The U.S. and Canada mutually agreed to close their border to non-essential travel. The border closure started March 21. Non-essential travel is considered recreational or tourism in nature. The border closure has since been extended until Aug. 21.
Mexico: On March 20, the U.S. and Mexico mutually agreed to their border to non-essential travel. The border closure has since been extended until Aug. 21.
UK and Ireland: On March 14, the European travel suspension was extended to include UK and Ireland, which became effective midnight EDT on March 16. This applies to individuals who are not U.S. citizens or LPRs and who have spent time in the prior 14 days in the UK or Ireland.
European Schengen Area: On March 12, travel suspension was announced for the 26 European Schengen Area countries. This suspension is effective for 30 days, starting midnight EDT on March 13 and applies to individuals who are not U.S. citizens or LPRs and who have spent time in the prior 14 days in the Schengen Area.
China and Iran: Entry to the U.S. is suspended for individuals who are not U.S. citizens or LPRs and who have been in China or Iran during the 14 days prior to their intended U.S. entry.
Brazil: Entry to the U.S. is suspended for individuals who are not U.S. citizens or LPRs and who have been in Brazil during the 14 days prior to their intended U.S. entry.
U.S. Citizens and LPRs: U.S. citizens and LPRs who do travel from countries with a travel ban in place may be subject to entering the U.S. at one of 13 designated airports, undergoing enhanced medical screenings and required to self-quarantine.
Exceptions: Only limited exceptions apply to the above travel restrictions, these can include, but not limited to: Spouses of US citizens and LPRs; Parents with children (under 21, unmarried) who are US citizens or LPRs; Members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Update Sept. 16: Passengers on flights arriving from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil, China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), Iran and the Schengen Area are no longer required to land at the 15 designated airports in order to undergo COVID-19 health screenings.
We have provided a link on all exceptions in the Envoy COVID-19 Resource Center. In all instances please contact your immigration legal team if you have questions about whether you’d be able to enter the U.S.
State Department advisory: On March 19, the U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory (the highest level possible). This means:
- U.S. citizens are advised to avoid all international travel
- U.S. citizens who live in the U.S. should immediately return to the U.S. if commercial departures are still available or prepare to shelter in place at their current location if they are willing to remain overseas for an indefinite period
- U.S. citizens who live abroad are advised to avoid all international travel.
3. Embassy and Consulate Closures
The State Department has suspended all routine immigrant and non-immigrant visas at its embassies and consulates in countries with a Travel Advisory of Level 2, 3 or 4.
The State Department announced this news in a March 18 statement.
There are several key points to note:
- Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fees will be valid for another appointment within one year of payment date
- Visa waiver program not affected (though travel bans apply to many of those countries)
- Embassy services for U.S. citizens are not impacted
Level 2, 3 and 4 Travel Advisory countries include: Brazil, China, UK, most European countries, India, Ireland, Israel and South Korea
4. USCIS Field Offices
Beginning June 4, 2020, certain USCIS field offices and asylum offices resumed non-emergency face-to-face services to the public. Application support centers will resume services later
USCIS has enacted precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in reopened facilities
More information at: https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-response-covid-19
5. Premium Processing
Premium processing will resume for all I-129 and I-140 petitions in phases throughout the month of June*
- Beginning June 1, 2020, premium processing may be added to any I-140 cases (EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3) that would normally allow premium processing moving forward
- Beginning June 8, 2020, any H-1B petitions pending adjudication with USCIS and not subject to the CAP can apply for premium processing.
- Beginning June 15, 2020, premium processing can be filed concurrently with H-1B petitions not subject to the cap, because the Petitioner is cap exempt, or the Beneficiary is cap exempt based on a Conrad/IGA waiver
- Beginning June 22, 2020, premium processing will be available to all H-1B petitions, including CAP petitions, and all other I-129 petitions that are eligible for Premium Processing
6. USCIS Policy Changes
USCIS announced that it will accept all benefit forms and documents with reproduced original signatures, including Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant.
This applies for submission starting March 21, 2020. This change impacts signatories for employers and foreign nationals seeking an immigration benefit and will help with the challenges employers and law firms will experience due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Contact Your Legal Team
If you are a client with Envoy Global, your global immigration team and affiliated attorney from GIA are ready to help with any questions. Be sure to post to the Envoy platform’s Communication Center with your questions.
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Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Ryan Bay, who is a Partner at Global Immigration Associates, P.C.