Category Archives: immigrant visa

Approval of I-601 Fraud/Misrepresentation Waiver + Immigrant Visa Grant = A True Success Story

After USCIS approved the Form I-601 application we prepared on his behalf, our client received his Immigrant Visa and joined his permanent resident parents in the United States. Prior to getting the waiver, he was refused the visa under INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i), i.e. fraud or willful misrepresentation of material fact to previously obtain entry to the U.S. on a B1/B2 visitor visa.

With our guidance, he proved to USCIS that his aging mother and father would face extreme hardships if he did not receive admission to the United States. The Form I-601 approval permitted the issuance of Immigrant Visas to the applicant and his accompanying wife and two minor children.

Problem: Permanent Bar Under INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i)

Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) states that a person who, by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact, seeks to procure (or has sought to procure or has procured) a visa, admission to the U.S. or any other U.S. immigration benefit is inadmissible. This is a lifetime bar to entering the United States.

In this case, in the early 1990s, our client attended high school while he was on a visitor visa, instead of on the proper F-1 student visa. A U.S. citizen family friend — who later became his legal guardian — encouraged him to begin attending a U.S. high school during his temporary visits. A minor at the time, he would consistently depart the United States before his authorized stay expired and then re-enter to continue his studies.

Two years later, he was denied admission at a U.S. port of entry, upon presenting his valid passport and unexpired visitor visa. He was still under age 18 at that point. The U.S. customs officers thought he spoke English too well to be just a visitor. With further inquiry, they discovered he was attending school and working part-time in the United States during his temporary stays. His visa was cancelled and he went back to Mexico.

A few days later, he returned to the United States by crossing the U.S.-Mexico border on foot without inspection. He did not encounter any border patrol agents or present any false documents or information to re-enter the United States and finish high school.

Following his high school graduation, he departed the United States and established a comfortable life in his home country. He became a family man with a spouse and two children. He developed a solid career in warehouse management and logistics.

About 20 years later, he applied for an Immigrant Visa based on an approved Form I-130 petition his U.S. citizen brother filed on his behalf. At the Immigrant Visa interview, the U.S. consular officer found him inadmissible under INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) for misrepresenting the main purpose of his visit when he requested admission to the United States in the mid-1990s on his B-2 visitor visa to continue his education.

During the visa interview, he admitted under oath to the consular officer that he had attempted to enter the United States using his visitor visa by stating he was coming to the U.S. for a visit. But he intended to return to school and a part-time job. Although he did not affirmatively present false information to the U.S. customs officer, his own testimony at the visa interview led the U.S. Consulate to deny him the visa under INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i). He was instructed to file a Form I-601 application for waiver of inadmissibility.

Solution: Form I-601 Waiver Under INA 212(i)

Section 212(i) of the INA provides a waiver of the fraud/misrepresentation bar if the applicant is the spouse, son, or daughter of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who will suffer extreme hardship if the applicant’s request for admission to the United States is denied.

After agreeing to represent the applicant, I counseled him on the documentary evidence and written testimonies he needed to present to USCIS. These included detailed affidavits from the applicant and his family members, medical records and psychological evaluation reports for the parents, and proof of his U.S. citizen brother’s limited income and multiple responsibilities.

To support the Form I-601 application, I submitted a legal memorandum describing the extreme hardships the permanent resident parents would suffer if the applicant did not receive the Immigrant Visa for admission to the United States. The memo also explained why his U.S. citizen brother needed his help and support to care for their aging parents. Furthermore, it was not a viable option for the parents to relocate to the applicant’s home country due to the lack of health care, high crime rate, and poor living conditions.

Even if the applicant meets all the eligibility requirements, the USCIS officer must also decide whether to grant the waiver as a matter of discretion. Because fraud or willful misrepresentation of material fact to obtain a U.S. immigration benefit is a serious violation, we emphasized the applicant was a minor, at the time, who reasonably relied on the advice of his legal guardian. In addition, his professional qualifications, family responsibilities, lack of a criminal history, and close relationship with his permanent resident parents were positive factors that outweighed the unfavorable ones.

Outcome: Waiver Approval + Immigrant Visa Grant

Consistent with average wait times, USCIS took a year to process and approve the Form I-601 waiver application. Several months later, the applicant was scheduled for a follow-up interview at the U.S. Consulate, which issued the Immigrant Visas to him and his spouse and two children.

He and his accompanying derivative beneficiaries became permanent residents of the United States upon their admission on Immigrant Visas. He finally reunited with his parents and U.S. citizen brother after they had lived in separate countries for 20+ years. This is a true success story.

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Work Permit Fraud May Lead to Visa Revocation, Visa Denial and INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) Inadmissibility

On June 26, Weiyun “Kelly” Huang, owner of the fictitious companies, Findream LLC and Sinocontech LLC, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit visa fraud. Her companies provided false employment verification records to foreign nationals seeking F-1 or H-1B visa status.

The U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) played a key role in the investigation, which created ripple effects on persons who received F-1 or H-1B work authorization by presenting a job offer letter, payroll records or other employment verification documents from Findream or Sinocontech.

F-1 and H-1B Work Authorization Requires Legitimate Employment

An F-1 visa allows an international student to study in the United States at a university or other academic institution.  F students may engage in practical training during their academic program or after it ends. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) are the two types of training that provide work experience related to the field of study.

Eligible students may apply for up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion). All periods of pre-completion OPT, however, are deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT.

The OPT employment can be part time (at least 20 hours per week on post-completion OPT) or full time; involve multiple short-term employers, contract work, self-employment, or agency work; and be paid or unpaid (as a volunteer or intern, as long as labor laws are not violated). The student must report all employment to their Designated School Official (DSO) to maintain status.

While a job offer is not required to apply for OPT, the student may not have a cumulative total of 90 days of unemployment during the 12-month OPT period. Otherwise, they fall out of status and begin to accrue unlawful presence.

Students may apply for an additional 24 months of OPT if they have a degree and are employed in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) field. For the 24-month STEM OPT extension, the DSO requires the student to have an existing job offer from a U.S. employer and to submit a completed Form I-983 (training plan) that is signed by the student and employer.

Section 3 to Section 6 on the Form I-983 requests information on the company, the agreed-upon practical training schedule and compensation, and the formal training plan, respectively. Unlike regular OPT employment, STEM OPT employment must be paid.

An H-1B visa allows U.S.-based employers to temporarily employ foreign nationals in specialty occupations. Foreign nationals with H-1B status may stay in the U.S. for three years, with the possibility of extending their stay for a total of six years. H-1B status may be extended beyond the six-year limit in certain situations, such as when 365 days or more have passed since the filing of an application for labor certification or immigrant petition (Form I-140) for the beneficiary.

F-1 students with a timely filed H-1B petition and change of status request, and whose F-1 employment authorization will expire before the change of status to H-1B occurs (typically October 1), may be eligible for a cap-gap extension in the United States. In many cases, the OPT employment or STEM OPT employment is what allows the F-1 student to change to H-1B status without departing for visa processing at the U.S. Consulate.

ICE Investigations of Work Permit Fraud Schemes Continue

ICE’s crackdown on F-1 and H-1B visa fraud schemes spell trouble for international students and foreign national workers who use fake job offers to obtain F-1 OPT, F-1 STEM OPT, F-1 CPT, or H-1B status.

ICE may conduct on-site visits to confirm the visa holder is actually working for the employer and performing the appropriate duties. When little-known companies like Findream and Sinocontech show a high number of F-1 OPT and STEM OPT workers, this can prompt further investigation.

In March 2019, the United States filed a criminal complaint against the owner of Findream, with an affidavit from an FBI Special Agent stating it was a company on paper only, with no actual physical presence, and was created for the purpose of providing false verifications of employment to F-1 visa holders seeking to extend their stay in the U.S. via the OPT program.

The indictment stated that Huang advertised Findream as a “startup company in technology services and consulting,” with clients in China and the U.S.  She used a China-based website, “Chinese Looking for Job,” and a China-based WeChat platform, “Job Hunters of North America,” to advertise Findream and Sinocontech to F-1 visa holders in the U.S. seeking employment and H-1B visas.

The companies did not deliver any technology or consulting services, or employ any of the individuals who responded to the ads, the indictment stated. In exchange for a fee, Huang and the companies provided job offer letters and employment verification letters as proof of employment, the charges alleged. Falsified payroll records and tax forms were also said to be provided.

According to the indictment, the fraud scheme allowed at least 2,685 customers to list Findream or Sinocontech as their employer to extend their F-1 status. Subsequently, many F-1 and H-1B visa holders, particularly from China, had their visas revoked or denied or were refused entry to the United States (following travel abroad) because they had listed Findream or Sinocontech to receive work authorization.

These types of ICE investigations are ongoing. Recent reports indicate that F-1 students, most from India, have received notifications from U.S. Consulates that their visas have been revoked because they used job offer letters from Integra Technologies LLC and AZTech Technologies LLC to obtain OPT, STEM OPT and, in some cases, CPT work permits.

Through consultations with applicants, we have learned that F-1 and H-1B visa holders, most from India and China, are being refused admission at the U.S. port of entry if they previously held work authorization by association with suspicious companies, such as Integra Technologies, AZTech Technologies, and Tellon Trading, Inc. Expedited removal orders and lifetime inadmissibility charges of fraud or misrepresentation are being made by CBP for this reason.

Data from ICE shows that Integra Technologies, AZTech Technologies, and Tellon Trading were 2nd, 6th, and 10th respectively, on the list of Top 200 Employers for OPT and STEM OPT Students, which includes well-known companies like Amazon, Intel, Google, Microsoft, Deloitte, Facebook and Apple. (NOTE: At least two other companies, Wireclass and Aandwill LLC, have been linked with Integra and AzTech.)

Fraud or Willful Misrepresentation of Material Fact to Obtain U.S. Immigration Benefits is a Permanent Inadmissibility Ground

Federal agencies including ICE and USCIS have made it a priority to deter and detect immigration fraud and have increased site visits, interviews, and investigations of petitioners who use the F-1 OPT and H-1B visa programs. One reason is to protect the “many American workers who are as qualified, willing, and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged,” according to the agencies.

Submitting a bogus job offer letter, employment verification letter, payroll records or other documents to maintain or obtain F-1 or H-1B status creates the risk of a visa revocation or visa refusal. It may also lead to the denial of admission and an expedited removal order at the U.S. port of entry.

Whether the F-1 or H-1B visa holder knowingly pays a company for false employment verification is sometimes unclear. The pattern involves the company initiating contact with the beneficiary and requesting payment of a “training fee” at the outset. The job offer or training program might seem real in the beginning. But at some point, it becomes obvious there is no real job.

Persons who claim to have a legitimate job offer to gain an F-1 extension or H-1B status — when there is actually no job — are subject to being found permanently inadmissible. When you present false employment verification records to show you performed job duties and got paid for such duties (in order to receive a visa or lawful status in the United States) you risk being charged with a lifetime inadmissibility ban under INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i)(fraud or willful misrepresentation of material facts to gain U.S. immigration benefits).

In unique situations, the person may challenge a section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) bar by filing a formal motion to reconsider with the appropriate agency, such as CBP or the U.S. Consulate. In most cases, the person will need a 212(d)(3) nonimmigrant waiver or Form I-601/INA 212(i) immigrant waiver.

The 212(d)(3) waiver has relatively flexible eligibility standards, which includes addressing the risk of harm to society if the person is admitted to the United States, the magnitude of the U.S. immigration violation that caused the inadmissibility, and the importance of seeking the visa. The Form I-601 waiver has stricter requirements because the person must have a qualifying relative (U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent) who will suffer extreme hardship if the person is not admitted to the United States.

If you are caught up in or benefited from an F-1 or H-1B visa fraud scheme, consult a qualified U.S. immigration attorney to discuss possible remedies. Ongoing and willful participation in the scheme might seem like a victimless offense, but it carries serious and permanent U.S. immigration consequences.

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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COVID-19 Update: U.S. Travel Suspension Expands to Include Immigrants and Nonimmigrants from Brazil

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is one more Presidential Proclamation expanding the suspension of international travel to the United States. With certain exceptions, foreign nationals (immigrants and nonimmigrants) who have been in Brazil during the 14-day period prior to their scheduled arrival will be barred from entering the United States.

As of May 23, the World Health Organization reported that Brazil had 310,087 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which is the third highest number of confirmed cases in the world.

The travel restriction went into effect at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on May 28, 2020. It does not apply to a U.S. citizen or to:

  • a lawful permanent resident of the United States
  • a spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • a parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (who is unmarried and under the age of 21)
  • a sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21)
  • a child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to an IR-4 or IH-4 visa
  • a foreign national who is traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus
  • a foreign national who is traveling on a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crewmember or otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew
  • a foreign national seeking entry or transit with the following visas: A-1, A-2, 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)
  • a foreign national traveling within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement
  • a 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
  • a foreign national whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee;
  • a foreign national whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees
  • a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and his/her spouse and children

Click here for a full text of the proclamation.

This is the fifth Presidential Proclamation suspending travel due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The previous proclamations suspended travel from China, Iran, the Schengen Area, and United Kingdom and Ireland.

As travel suspensions under the Presidential Proclamations continue, the U.S. Embassies and Consulates remain closed for routine visa services. The U.S. Department of State has yet to announce procedures for reopening the Embassies and Consulates. Except for emergency services, most embassies and consulates are not currently scheduling in-person appointments.

For updates, check the individual website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your area. Each embassy and consulate will schedule and reschedule visa interview appointments on its own timeline. Following the resumption of routine services, Immigrant Visa applicants will receive a new interview notice. In nonimmigrant visa cases, you will typically need to initiate the scheduling with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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COVID-19 Update: Impact of Executive Order Temporarily Suspending Some U.S. Immigration for 60 Days, As of April 23

On April 22, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order titled Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak. The Order becomes effective on April 23 at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time and is set to expire within 60 days, with a possibility of an extension.

[UPDATE, June 22, 2020: The Trump Administration issued a new Executive Order extending the suspension up to December 31, 2020. See COVID-19 Update: Executive Order Extends Suspension of Entry of Certain Immigrants AND Suspends Entry of H-1B, H-2B, J and L Visa Applicants and Derivative Beneficiaries, Up to December 31.]

Who Does the Executive Order Affect?

For a 60-day period, the Executive Order suspends and limits the entry of persons as intended immigrants (Immigrant Visa applicants) who are:

(a) outside the United States on the effective date;

(b) do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date; and

(c) do not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, a boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date or any date thereafter that permits a request for admission at a U.S. port of entry.

If you have an Immigrant Visa dated April 23, 2020 or later — and need to land in the United States to become a permanent resident — you will not be admitted into the country during the 60-day period (i.e. up to June 22, 2020). The exception is if you fall into one of the categories that are exempted from the Order.

Who is Exempted from the Executive Order?

The Order does not prevent the entry of lawful permanent residents who already hold green cards for admission to the United States.

The Order also exempts certain intended immigrants, such as:

(1) Physicians, nurses and other health care professionals seeking to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19, or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak – as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designess – plus their accompanying or following to join spouse and unmarried minor children

(2) Immigrant Investors in the EB5 immigrant visa category

(3) Spouses of U.S. citizens

(4) Minor children (under age 21) of U.S. citizens, or prospective adoptees seeking to enter the United States with an IR-4 or IH-4 visa

(5) Persons whose entry would further U.S. law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee

(6) Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses and children

(7) Special Immigrant Visas in the SI or SQ classification (i.e. Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters and their spouses and unmarried minor children)

(8) Persons whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees

What is the Stated Purpose of the Executive Order?

Trump said the Executive Order was necessary to protect American workers in an economy severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Between March 1 and April 11, more than that 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment as a result of the global pandemic and related restrictions with behavioral shifts, including closures of “non-essential” businesses and “social distancing” (physical distancing).

The Executive Order states, “We must be mindful of the impact of foreign workers on the United States labor market, particularly in an environment of high domestic unemployment and depressed demand for labor.  We must also conserve critical State Department resources so that consular officers may continue to provide services to United States citizens abroad.”

The Order adds, “lawful permanent residents, once admitted, are granted ‘open-market’ employment authorization documents, allowing them immediate eligibility to compete for almost any job, in any sector of the economy.  There is no way to protect already disadvantaged and unemployed Americans from the threat of competition for scarce jobs from new lawful permanent residents by directing those new residents to particular economic sectors with a demonstrated need not met by the existing labor supply. ” 

What is the Impact of the Executive Order?

While the Executive Order temporarily suspends the entry of some persons who seek to enter the U.S. as immigrants, it exempts certain immigrant visa categories. It does not apply to the K-1 fiancee(e) category, which is a quasi-immigrant or nonimmigrant visa. It also does not prevent the filing of I-130 and I-140 petitions or the processing of such immigrant petitions by USCIS.

Furthermore, delays are already occurring due to global travel restrictions as well as cancellations and unavailability of visa interviews at U.S. Embassies and Consulates related to COVID-19.

The Executive Order will have little immediate impact on intended immigrants — unless U.S. Embassies and Consulates were to restart normal operations, such as scheduling visa interviews and issuing visas, within the next 60 days, or the Order is extended even further or indefinitely.

The text of the Order states: “Whenever appropriate, but no later than 50 days from the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor, recommend whether I should continue or modify this proclamation.”

The Order also notes that additional measures may be taken. It reads, “Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.”

If the suspension is extended beyond the 60-day period or widened to include nonimmigrant visa categories, this could slow down the restarting of routine in-person services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates. In the meantime, Trump has issued guidelines for Opening Up America Again to state and local officials when “reopening their economies, getting people back to work, and continuing to protect American lives.”

The situation remains fluid. Whether the Trump Administration will extend the suspension on U.S. immigration or begin a suspension in nonimmigrant visa cases is uncertain at this point.

Persons who are eligible for adjustment to permanent residence (green card) within the United States are not affected by the Executive Order. USCIS is performing mission critical duties that do not involve contact with the public.

For example, it continues to issue receipt notices, requests for evidence, decisions and other notices for petitions and applications. Although USCIS has suspended in-person services through at least May 3, it is still accepting petitions (e.g. I-130 and I-140 petitions) and applications for processing. The scheduling of interviews and biometrics appointments with applicants will restart after normal operations resume.

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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COVID-19 Update: Some U.S. Consulates & Embassies Suspend Operations Until Further Notice

The COVID-19 outbreak has led some U.S. Consulates and Embassies to suspend or cancel visa interviews and stop issuing visas. These changes came after the United States added more travel restrictions to curb the global spread of the novel coronavirus.

A March 18, 2020 statement, titled Suspension of Routine Visa Services, from the U.S. Embassy & Consulate in the Republic of Korea, states: “In response to worldwide challenges related to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Department of State is suspending routine visa services in all countries with a level 2, 3, or 4 U.S. Department of State travel advisory. ” The reasons for travel warnings may range from COVID-19 outbreaks to wars to high crime rates.

Visa applicants must verify the availability of visa interviews at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy that has jurisdiction to review and process their visa request.

For example, a March 13th alert on the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Canada website states that as of March 17, 2020, it is cancelling all routine nonimmigrant visa appointments.  It adds, “The Consulate General in Montreal continues to process immigrant visas but depending on staffing capacity and host government restrictions, may need to reduce routine immigrant visa appointments.  We are monitoring the situation closely and will notify applicants as quickly as possible should it be necessary to reschedule.” It states routine nonimmigrant visa services will resume as soon as possible, but provides no specific date at this time.

A March 13th alert on the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in India website, notes “U.S. Mission India posts, in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, are cancelling immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments from March 16, 2020, onward. Your visa appointment stands as cancelled. Once Mission India resumes regular consular operations, appointments will be made available and you will be able to reschedule.”

Earlier on February 3, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and U.S. Consulates in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang cancelled routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments.  They have yet to provide a specific date on when routine services will resume.

Each U.S. Embassy or Consulate will make its own decision on whether to suspend visa services, absent a clear directive from a higher authority.

Presidential Proclamations Related to COVID-19

On Friday, March 13, President Trump declared a National Emergency concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak. See full text here.

The Presidential Proclamations restricting travel related to the COVID-19 outbreak include:

January 31 Proclamation suspending entry to the United States of most foreign nationals who traveled to China within the past 14 days. The proclamation took effect on Sunday, February 2.  Read the full text of here.

February 29 Proclamation suspending entry to the United States of most foreign nationals who were physically present in Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.  The proclamation took effect on Monday, March 2.  Read the full text here.

March 11 Proclamation suspending entry to the United States of most foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen Area during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival in the United States. These European countries include 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 proclamation took effect on 11:59 p.m., eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020. Read the full text  here.

March 13 Proclamation suspending entry to the United States of most foreign nationals who have been in the United Kingdom and Ireland during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival in the United States. The proclamation took effect on 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 16, 2020. Read the full text here.

Exceptions to the U.S. Travel Restrictions are Limited

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are not subject to the proclamations. Other exceptions include:

  • certain family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents: spouses, children (under the age of 21), parents (provided that his/her U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident child 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). 
  • foreign diplomats traveling to the United States on A or G visas.

  • air and sea crew traveling to the United States on C, D or C1/D visas.

There is also an exception for visa applicants whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees. Such an exception will rarely be approved.

The U.S. Department of States (DOS) has advised that exceptions to the travel restrictions may be presented directly to U.S. Embassies and Consulates where visa applications will be filed.

At some consular posts, visa applicants with urgent travel needs that qualify for an exception under the Presidential Proclamations may request an emergency appointment request. For a general description, read about expedited appointments at the U.S. Embassies in China and India.

Each consular post has its individual application procedures and processes, which are currently very fluid and subject to change.

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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