To support the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 reopening policies, Chad F. Wolf, the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, signed an order exempting some foreign professional athletes (and their staff and dependents) who compete in certain leagues, from the COVID-19 travel restrictions that are in place for 30 countries: China, Iran, Ireland, the U.K, and the 26 Schengen Zone countries.

The Acting Secretary stated, “In today’s environment, Americans need their sports. It is time to reopen the economy and it’s time we get our professional athletes back to work.”

The leagues identified include Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the Women’s National Basketball Association, the Professional Golfers’ Association Tour, the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, the National Hockey League, the Association of Tennis Professionals, and the Women’s Tennis Association. DHS will work with those leagues to identify individuals who will be covered under this exemption.

This action falls under the “national interest” exemption found in all of the travel restriction proclamations exempting “any alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security or their designees.” Individuals may be added or removed from the exemption based on “assessments of national interest, including the plans of the relevant professional sporting groups to support sporting events in the United States that do not cause an unnecessary risk to the public health.”

This order will not exempt the designated professional athletes from CBP inspection or other immigration requirements. However, it represents the first example of how the “national interest” exemption may be used. There are two other general exemptions found in all the travel restriction proclamations: one for individuals whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives, the other for aliens whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the coronavirus.

If you need additional information or guidance regarding the exemption for professional athletes or any other COVID-19 travel restrictions, Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist.