Beginning 11:59 p.m. on May 26, 2020, travelers from Brazil will be restricted from entering the U.S. under President Donald Trump’s “Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Novel Coronavirus.”

President Trump added Brazil to the list of countries subject to his previous ban because COVID-19 cases have been spiking in that country. Brazil joins the list of 30 other countries that includes the U.K., Ireland, China, Iran, and the 26 Schengen area countries. Foreign nationals who have been in these countries during the preceding 14 days will not be allowed to enter the U.S., unless they are exempted.

The list of exemptions is long. It includes:

  • Lawful permanent residents (LPRs), a.k.a. “Green Card Holders”
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens and LPRs
  • Parents or legal guardians of a U.S. citizen or LPR who is unmarried and under the age of 21
  • Siblings of a U.S. citizen or LPR who is unmarried and under the age of 21
  • Child, foster child, or ward or a U.S. citizen or LPR, or a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the U.S. in IR-4 or IH-4 classifications
  • Aliens traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the coronavirus
  • Aliens traveling as a nonimmigrant pursuant to crew member status (C-1, D, or C-1/D) or any alien otherwise traveling to the U.S. as air or sea crew
  • Aliens seeking entry or transiting in the following statuses: 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 (Taipei Economic or Cultural Representative Office) or the employee’s immediate family members], G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATP-4, or NATO-6 status
  • Aliens whose travel falls within Section 11 of the United Nationals Headquarters Agreement
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses and children
  • Any alien whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the coronavirus, as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the CDC Director or his designee
  • Any alien whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretaries of State or Homeland Security or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee
  • Any alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretaries of State or Homeland Security or their designees

The ban also does not affect eligibility for asylum, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment.

While these bans have been advertised as temporary, none of them have been terminated to date.

If you have questions about the restrictions and exemptions or the COVID-19 travel restrictions at the Northern and Southern borders, please reach out to your Jackson Lewis attorney. We will continue to provide updates as they become available.

 

In a move that likely will give a boost to the Brazilian tourism industry, the Brazilian government has announced that U.S. citizens can now visit Brazil without a visa. Citizens of Australia, Canada, and Japan also have received this cost-saving and time-saving benefit.

Continue Reading Brazil Lifts Visa Requirement for U.S. Citizens

As long as they can show that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, foreign travelers will be allowed to visit the United States beginning November 8, 2021, according to the Biden Administration.

Until now, we knew only that the 14-day travel restrictions and the northern and southern border restrictions would be lifted sometime in November. Now, it has been reported that all these restrictions will be lifted, and new vaccination requirements will take effect on November 8, 2021.

On September 20, 2021, the Administration announced it would lift the 14-day travel restrictions that affected individuals trying to enter the United States from China, Iran, the UK and Ireland, the 26 Schengen Zone countries, Brazil, South Africa, and India in November. The quid pro quo for that was that all foreign travelers from any country would have to be fully vaccinated and provide a negative COVID-19 test three days before their proposed entry date to board an airplane to the United States.

On October 14, 2021, the Administration announced the northern and southern border restrictions that had been in place since March 2020 would be lifted when the 14-day travel restrictions were lifted and, at that time, fully vaccinated individuals could enter for any purpose. One proviso: unvaccinated individuals will still be able to enter the United States until January 2022 at land and sea ports of entry, but only if they are entering for “essential” purposes – such as work.

Details about exceptions or exemptions have not been released. We will provide updates as soon as those are available.

The United States will open its northern and southern land borders to fully vaccinated foreign nationals sometime in November 2021. When this happens, it will be the first time since March 2020 that these individuals will be able to enter the United States from Canada and Mexico for “non-essential” purposes, such as tourism, shopping, and family gatherings.

The reopening is expected to occur in two phases. During the first phase, fully vaccinated foreign nationals will be able to enter for non-essential purposes. Unvaccinated individuals will still be able to enter for essential purposes, including for work. During the second phase, scheduled to go into effect in early January 2022, all foreign nationals, whether entering for essential purposes or not, will have to be fully vaccinated. The expectation is that there will be limited exceptions, for example for children.

The “essential travel” restrictions applied only to land and sea borders. Foreign nationals have been able to fly into the United States from Canada or Mexico if they met the COVID-19 testing requirements. In November, however, new COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements will be in place for all air travel. All foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States from anywhere, with limited exceptions, will have to be fully vaccinated, as well as show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of departure. Unvaccinated U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents will need to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of boarding a flight to the United States and undergo testing upon arrival.

The United States is a little late to the border game. Canada reopened its border to fully vaccinated Americans on August 9, 2021, and to other fully vaccinated foreign nationals on September 7, 2021. It is still not clear exactly when the new U.S. rules will become effective. The United States already announced that the 14-day travel restrictions on China, Iran, the UK and Ireland, the 26 Schengen Zone countries, Brazil, South Africa, and India are scheduled to be lifted sometime in “early” November. The northern and southern border restrictions will be lifted at the same time. We are still awaiting official guidance on documentation requirements and the implementation date.

Jackson Lewis attorneys will provide updates as they become available.

The State Department cannot rely on presidential proclamations to refuse to adjudicate visas, Judge James E. Boasberg in the U.S. District Court for the D.C. District has held.

Judge Boasberg said nothing about what the State Department needs to do in line with its opinion, but established that the Administration’s travel restrictions did not include visa restrictions.

Since the issuance of the Presidential Proclamations restricting the entry of foreign nationals who have spent any time during the 14 days prior to their entry in over 30 countries (China, Iran, the UK and Ireland, the Schengen Zone countries, Brazil, South Africa and India), most U.S. Consulates abroad have been refusing to issue or even schedule visa interview appointments for individuals who do not qualify for National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) to the Proclamation. This has meant that even foreign nationals who were willing to wait out the 14 days in non-restricted countries would have difficulty getting a visa. It was a Catch-22. If they stayed in a restricted country, they might not get a visa because they did not qualify for an NIE and if they went to a non-restricted country, they might not get visas because they were third-country nationals.

The court recognized that this whole issue may soon become moot because the Biden Administration has said that the 14-day travel restrictions will be lifted in early November. But even when the restrictions are lifted and the Consulates go back to issuing visas rather than NIEs, it is likely that backlogs and delays will persist.

Visa processing at U.S. Consulates abroad was effectively suspended from March through July 2020. Since then, Consulates started a phased resumption of services. However, services are still not fully restored due to various COVID-19 restrictions abroad and many U.S. Consulates are not even fully staffed. As Consulates rely on visa fees rather than government funding, some have been unable to hire new staff due to the lack of fees. This means that it may be difficult for Consulates to staff up to eliminate backlogs.

If you have any questions about the effect of the D.C. Court’s ruling, Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist.

Diversity Visa (DV) Electronic Registration for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 opens October 6, 2021, at noon ET and closes on November 9, 2021, at noon ET.

There is no cost to register, but, if selected, applicants must pay the visa application or I-485 Adjustment of Status fees.

Individuals born in certain countries are not eligible to apply because more than 50,000 natives of those countries have immigrated to the United States in the past five years. The list of ineligible countries is basically the same as last year, except Guatemala has been removed and Venezuela has been added.

The ineligible countries for FY 2023 are:

Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (including Hong Kong SAR), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, Venezuela and Vietnam. Individuals born in Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.

Although there is no registration fee, individuals may not submit more than one application. Doing so will lead to disqualification. Eligibility requirements are on the Diversity Lottery website. Interested applicants should apply early and not wait until the last week when heavy demand could lead to website delays. Applicants must apply online. No late or paper entries are accepted.

A few highlights from the instructions:

  • Applicants must have a valid, unexpired passport to apply. There are some waivers available, including for stateless applicants or applicants who cannot get a passport from a Communist-controlled country.
  • Cross-chargeability is a possibility. Applicants can apply based upon the country of birth of a derivative spouse or possibly based upon the country of birth of either of their parents if neither parent was a “resident” (other than on a temporary basis) of the applicant’s country of birth at the time of the applicant’s birth.
  • Applicants may apply from within the United States or from abroad.
  • Eligible applicants must have at least a high school education or its equivalent or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience as defined by the Department of Labor.
  • No one eligible country will be allocated more than 7% of the 55,000 DVs that are available for the year.

FY 2023 DV entrants will be able to check the status of their applications online at www.dvprogram.state.gov starting on May 8, 2022.

Due to COVID-19, the 2021 Diversity Lottery has been mired in litigation. The hope is that the FY 2023 DV will not have similar problems.

If you have questions about the DV Program 2023 process, Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist.

While not all the details are available, the Biden Administration is releasing more information about the lifting of the 14-day travel restrictions.

Here is what is known so far:

  • The 14-day travel restrictions on China, Iran, the UK and Ireland, the 26 Schengen Zone countries, Brazil, South Africa and India are scheduled to be lifted sometime in “early” November. No specific date has been provided.
  • On that same date, the new rule requiring all foreign national adults to be fully vaccinated before boarding flights to the United States, in addition to showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure, will become effective.
  • Individuals must be “fully vaccinated” with a COVID-19 vaccine approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, the specific vaccines that will be accepted and the criteria for proof of vaccination have yet to be released. This may mean that the approved vaccines could go beyond those that are currently authorized for use in the United States.
  • Unvaccinated U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents will face tougher requirements. They will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of boarding a flight to the United States and will undergo testing upon arrival.
  • Airlines will be required to collect information on travelers that can be used for contact tracing.

Details not yet available include:

  • How children will be treated under the new regimen.
  • The specifics regarding the types of testing that will be required and accepted (e.g., rapid tests, PCR tests, and so on)
  • How the “upon arrival testing” of unvaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents will be conducted.
  • Some limited exemptions to the requirements (perhaps for children and for some humanitarian concerns) are expected, but those have not been detailed. In addition, anyone who receives an exception may have to agree to “vaccination on arrival.”
  • Whether some form of the current national interest exception program will remain in effect for travelers who do not meet the proposed vaccination requirements.

While companies have surely been stymied by the 14-day travel restrictions, it is not yet clear how the switch from the 14-day restrictions for 33 countries to vaccination requirements for all foreign nationals will affect businesses and the economy overall. While employers who have been dealing with the 14-day travel restrictions have something to look forward to, employers with employees they wish to transfer from abroad or who have business dealings in countries with low vaccination rates or limited access to WHO-approved vaccines need to be thinking ahead to November.

Jackson Lewis attorneys will continue to provide updates on these important travel requirements as they become available. If you have any questions about strategies to deal with the proposed changes, please contact us.

As President Joe Biden travelled to a meeting of the United National General Assembly, the Administration announced that, in early November, COVID-19 travel restrictions would be relaxed for fully vaccinated travelers from all the previously restricted countries: the UK and Ireland, the 26 Schengen Zone countries, Brazil, China, India, Iran, and South Africa.

The details are not yet in place, but the expectation is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will recommend which vaccinations will be accepted and how many shots of each will be necessary. Further, a negative COVID-19 test also is expected to be required within 72 hours of boarding and there will be a contract tracing aspect.

The “essential” travel restrictions at the northern and southern land and sea borders are still in effect and have not yet been addressed.

Jackson Lewis attorneys will provide updates as they become available.

The State Department, in coordination with the CDC, raised its Travel Advisory for the United Kingdom to “Do Not Travel” because of COVID-19 (Level IV).

Coincidentally, the Department’s move came on the same day Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifted most COVID-19-related restrictions in the United Kingdom (yet, excluding Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland). He made this move as the case numbers are rising because most adults in the United Kingdom are fully vaccinated.

Despite the United Kingdom lifting its restrictions, the European Union has opened its borders to individuals from the United States (with various restrictions). Further, Canada is about to open its borders to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Moreover, the White House reported that the United States will not be lifting travel restrictions due to the spread of the Delta variant. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that it is not clear how long the restrictions will last. As of July 23, 2021, the CDC announced that the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in the United States was up over 46 percent from the prior week.

Therefore, despite lobbying efforts aimed at increasing summer tourism from Europe, the Presidential Proclamations restricting travel to the United States due to COVID-19 are likely to remain in effect throughout the tourist season and beyond. The travel restrictions were imposed more than a year ago, in January 2020, when President Donald Trump instituted the ban on travel from China. Further bans were instituted in 2020 and 2021 on individuals travelling from Iran, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the 26-member countries of the Schengen Zone, Brazil, South Africa, and, more recently, India. To overcome these restrictions those who need to travel to the United States but are subject to the bans must either “camp-out” in a non-banned country (if they can enter such a country) for 14 days before attempting to enter the United States or they must apply for and receive a National Interest Exception (NIE) to the relevant ban. Eligibility for NIEs is set forth in a web of complex and changing guidance from the Department of State and Customs and Border Protection.

Employers all over the country are suffering due to the bans. Their key employees cannot travel back and forth from or to the United States for important business purposes. The highly skilled or temporary, seasonal workers they need to boost their businesses and the economy cannot be hired. This is compounded by the fact that most U.S. consulates abroad are extremely back-logged and understaffed due to COVID-19.

If you have questions about the travel bans, Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist you in developing travel strategies and applying for NIEs.

 

Travel restrictions related to COVID-19 have been in place for more than a year. Certain restrictions have been removed, but the ones on travel from Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen Zone, South Africa, and the United Kingdom remain in effect. The White House wants to remove more restrictions and has announced it is putting together working groups with Canada, Mexico, the European Union, and the United Kingdom to “chart a path forward, with a goal or reopening international travel with . . . key partners.”

The groups will include experts from the White House COVID-19 Response Team, the National Security Council, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They will focus on real-time data. But a White House official noted, lifting restrictions will not be happening “today.”

The travel industry, and airlines in particular, has been hoping the United States will act quickly to remove the current COVID-19-based restrictions on travel, so their businesses and the economy in general can benefit from the summer season. Airline officials from the United States and the United Kingdom have been urging the lifting of trans-Atlantic restrictions. But they “do not expect Washington to lift restrictions until around July 4 at the earliest as the administration aims to get more Americans vaccinated.”

At the G-7 meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden spoke about travel restrictions on their shared border. The land border is open only to “essential” travel. The essential travel ban has been in effect since March 2020 and keeps being renewed a month at a time. Currently, it is set to expire on June 21, 2021. There was “speculation that the border could reopen as early as June 22.” That does not seem to be in the cards. Trudeau has not wanted to lift restrictions until 75% of all Canadians have had at least one shot of a vaccine – a mark they might meet in July. For now, Canada is working on a phased approach, where the country might first exempt travelers who are fully vaccinated from quarantine rules.

We will provide updates on the possible loosening of travel restrictions as they become available. In the meantime, if you have questions about any of the travel restrictions and need advice about developing strategies for overcoming them, Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist you.