Concerns over the spread of COVID-19 are significantly impacting individuals' ability to travel internationally because of recent physical presence (not nationality) in countries significantly impacted by the virus. President Trump issued a Proclamation on March 11 that suspends entry of immigrants and nonimmigrants into the United States who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their attempted entry into the United States. For purposes of the March 11 Proclamation, the Schengen Area comprises 26 European states: 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.
This recent proclamation follows two previous Presidential Proclamations issued in January and February which suspended entry into the United States of immigrants and nonimmigrants who have been in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) or Iran within the 14-day period preceding their attempted entry into the United States. U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and certain immediate family members who have been in China or Iran within the 14-day period preceding their entry will be allowed to enter the United States. However, these individuals may be subject to enhanced health screenings upon arrival that could also result in quarantine.
As with the Proclamations for China and Iran, the Schengen Area Proclamation, which is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 13, states that U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and certain immediate family members who have been in a Schengen Area country within the 14-day period preceding their entry will be allowed to enter the United States but will be subject to enhanced health screenings and potential quarantine. The Schengen Area Proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020. The President announced that the ban would last for 30 days, but that is subject to change.
The China, Iran and Schengen Area travel bans have very limited exceptions that will apply to very distinct sub-groups. For instance, members of the U.S. Armed Forces and spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces will continue to be allowed entry into the United States. In addition, the March 11 travel ban does not apply to physical presence in the United Kingdom or Ireland for now. However, if nationals of the United Kingdom or Ireland have traveled to one of the 26 designated Schengen area countries in the 14-day period preceding a planned entry into the United States, they can be denied entry. Importantly, the travel bans derive from physical presence in the impacted countries, not nationality in one of the countries. It is also possible that the current exemption for the United Kingdom and Ireland could be cancelled in the future. As we have seen, significant changes in response to COVID-19 are occurring frequently. There may also be travel restrictions imposed by countries other than the United States that may limit employee's ability to travel to those locations.
At this time, employers should review the anticipated international travel plans for their employees, whether they are foreign nationals or not. If an individual has plans to travel abroad, either for business or pleasure, employers should gather that information in order to properly plan and provide instructions on how those employees should be following up with Human Resources. Employers should anticipate the potential for delayed re-entries to the United States or the potential for imposed quarantine, and planning ahead is essential to limiting the level of disruption to business operations.
With limited hours remaining before the latest, more sweeping Schengen Area travel restrictions take effect, your organization should work to immediately identify employees who are affected by the ban and begin making arrangements, which could include urgent travel back to the United States, if possible, or alternative immigration options such as temporarily relocating to a country not included in the ban for at least 14 days before traveling back to the United States. If your organization identifies any employees that will be impacted, please contact our office so we can assist with assessing available options. The U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security are expected to issue further information about implementation of the travel ban in the coming days.