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01.26.2021 Renewed Suspension of Certain Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Entries & New Travel Restrictions from Biden Administration Amid COVID-19 Pandemic By: Hadeel Abouhasira

On Monday afternoon, President Biden signed a Presidential Proclamation (the “Proclamation”) that reinstates the travel restrictions for noncitizens of the United States (U.S.) who have been physically present in the Schengen Area (including 26 European countries), the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the Federative Republic of Brazil and the Republic of South Africa, within the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the U.S.

Immediately preceding the end of his term, former President Trump sought to rescind these travel restrictions effective January 26, 2021. However, on January 25, 2021, President Biden reinstated the Coronavirus-related travel restrictions from these regions, adding South Africa to the list of restricted countries. These reinstated travel restrictions took effect at 12:01 a.m. EST on January 26, 2021 and will remain in effect until terminated by President Biden.

These reinstated travel restrictions do not apply to the following groups of people:

  • Lawful permanent residents of the U.S.
  • Noncitizen nationals of the U.S.
  • Noncitizen spouses of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
  • Noncitizen parents or legal guardians of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21.
  • Noncitizen siblings of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21.
  • Noncitizen children, foster children or wards of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or prospective adoptees seeking to enter the U.S. pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications.
  • Noncitizens traveling at the invitation of the U.S. Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus.
  • Noncitizens traveling as nonimmigrants pursuant to a C-1, D or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as crewmembers or any noncitizen otherwise traveling to the U.S. as air or sea crew.
  • Noncitizens:
    • Seeking entry into or transiting the U.S. pursuant to one of 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); or
    • Whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement.
  • Noncitizen members of the U.S. Armed Forces and any noncitizen spouse or child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Noncitizens whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives.
  • Noncitizens whose entry would be in the national interest.
     

In addition, effective January 26, 2021, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Director signed an order requiring all air passengers to get a viral test within the three (3) days before their flight to the U.S. departs and to provide written documentation of their test results (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19. In addition, the order requires airlines to confirm the negative test results or documentation of recovery before allowing the individual to board the aircraft. This order applies to all individuals coming to the U.S. via air transport, including U.S. citizens. The CDC recommends the individual get tested again 3-5 days after arrival and to stay home for seven (7) days after the travel.

Finally, note that, on January 21, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order (the “Order”) that mandates mask-wearing on certain domestic forms of transportation, including, but not limited to, commercial aircrafts, trains, intercity buses, maritime vessels and within airports. In addition, the Order requires travelers entering the U.S. from any foreign country to produce proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test prior to entry and to comply with other applicable CDC guidelines, such as self-quarantine or self-isolation upon entry to the U.S., as well as additional COVID-19 testing after arrival. This Order directs various government agencies to examine certain travel precautions and/or to take appropriate regulatory action within fourteen (14) days of the Order. Details on how these restrictions will be implemented are expected soon.

Williams Mullen is closely monitoring the situation and will provide updates as further information becomes available.

Employers should be prepared for the current disruption in immigration services to continue while the COVID-19 pandemic remains fluid. As a result, employers should consult immigration counsel to ensure that any extensions or changes of status for their foreign national employees are processed timely and can account for any unexpected delays. Furthermore, foreign nationals should communicate with their employers if they have any travel plans in the coming months. The current travel restrictions could result in foreign nationals being denied admission back into the U.S. should they depart.