Tag Archives: COVID-19

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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COVID-19 Update: USCIS Offices Temporarily Closed to the Public, March 18 to April 1

As of March 18, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has suspended routine in-person services until at least April 1 to help slow the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 19). There will be no USCIS Field Office interviews, USCIS Application Support Center biometrics appointments, asylum interviews, or naturalization oath ceremonies during this period.

Field Office Appointments

USCIS Field Offices will send notices with instructions to applicants and petitioners with scheduled interview appointments. When normal operations resume, USCIS will automatically reschedule the interviews and issue new notices.

Persons who had InfoPass appointments with a Field Office must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center, after the Field Office is reopened.

Check the USCIS Field Offices page to see if your field office has reopened before reaching out to the USCIS Contact Center.

Application Support Center (ASC) Appointments

All biometrics appointments at USCIS Application Support Centers are suspended. When normal operations resume, USCIS will automatically reschedule the biometrics appointments and issue new notices. If you do not receive a new appointment notice by mail within 90 days, call 800-375-5283.

USCIS is unable to automatically reschedule appointments for Canadian and United Kingdom visa applicants.

Asylum Appointments

USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews. When the interview is rescheduled, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date, and location.

Naturalization Oath Ceremonies

Naturalization oath ceremonies are cancelled. When normal operations resume, USCIS will automatically reschedule naturalization oath ceremonies. If you do not receive a new naturalization oath ceremony notice by mail within 90 days, you may contact the USCIS Contact Center.

During the temporary closure, USCIS staff will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public. USCIS Service Centers and the National Benefits Center will receive and process applications and petitions; the National Records Center will receive and process FOIA requests; and the Administrative Appeals Office will receive and adjudicate appeals of denied benefits.

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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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U.S. Travel Suspension – Due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Outbreak – Expands to Include Visitors from 26 European Countries

With the World Health Organization declaring the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, there is one more Presidential Proclamation expanding the suspension of international travel to the United States. With few exceptions, foreign nationals (immigrants and nonimmigrants) who have been in certain European countries will be subject to the travel restrictions.

As of Friday, March 13, 2020, the United States will suspend the entry of most immigrants and nonimmigrants who have been in the Schengen Area at any point 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 list does not include the United Kingdom or Ireland.

[UPDATE: Effective March 16, 2020, another Presidential Proclamation suspends the entry of most immigrants and nonimmigrants who have been in the United Kingdom and Ireland during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival in the United States.]

This proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 13. It does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to the cut-off time.

The travel restriction 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 a full text of the proclamation.

There are two other pre-existing Presidential Proclamations suspending travel due to the COVID-19 outbreak, which have the same exceptions noted in the European Schengen Area Proclamation.They include

1. Travel Suspension – China: immigrants and nonimmigrants who were physically present within 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. The proclamation went into effect on February 2. Click here for a full text of the proclamation.

2. Travel Suspension – Iran: immigrants and nonimmigrants who were physically present within the Islamic Republic of Iran within the past 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival in the United States. The proclamation went into effect as of March 2. Click here for a full text of the proclamation.

The stated purpose of these travel restrictions is to curb the spread of the outbreak. Crowded travel arenas, like airports, may increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19 ( SARS-CoV-2/coronavirus), if there are other travelers with COVID-19.

The characteristics of the illness, however, have not changed. Declaring an outbreak a “pandemic” means it has spread around the world beyond expectation, and not that it has become more dangerous to your health.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms are relatively mild and most people recover within six days. People at higher risk for severe disease are older adults and people of any age with serious chronic medical conditions (such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes). The CDC recommends that persons at higher risk for COVID-19 complications avoid all cruise travel and nonessential air travel.

As the Trump Administration noted, these travel restrictions are temporary. In the meantime, U.S. Consular Services, particularly in China and Italy, have reduced dramatically due to limited staffing and the suspensions on travel.

The Presidential Proclamations also direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to implement standards and procedures at and between all U.S. ports of entry to regulate the travel of persons and aircraft to the United States to facilitate the orderly medical screening and, where appropriate, quarantine of persons who enter the United States and who may have been exposed to the virus. “Such steps may include directing air carriers to restrict and regulate the boarding of such passengers on flights to the United States.”

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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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