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Green and Spiegel - An Immigration Law Firm
Feb 2, 2020

U.S. Imposes Travel Restrictions and/or Quarantines on Recent Visitors to China

Jonathan Grode and Joshua H. Rolf

Quick Takeaways:

  • United States barring entry to non-U.S. Citizens/Lawful Permanent Residents physically present in mainland China within two weeks prior to seeking admission – even those with valid immigrant or nonimmigrant visas.
  • Immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens/Lawful Permanent Residents and NATO/UN/Diplomatic personnel amongst those exempted.
  • All who have visited Hubei Province subject to two-week quarantine.
  • Consular services temporarily suspended in China.

In response to the Coronavirus’ spread from China’s Hubei Province to nearly two-dozen countries around the globe (including the United States), which has prompted the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) amongst other agencies to declare the virus a public health emergency, the United States is taking steps to contain the growing pandemic. According to President Trump’s Proclamation, as of 5:00PM EST on February 2, 2020, the United States will severely prohibit the entry of immigrants and nonimmigrants traveling to the United States within 14 days of having been physically present in mainland China.

At this time, the Proclamation does not apply to U.S. Citizens, individuals who have only been present in Macau and/or Hong Kong, or anyone who falls into one of the following exceptions:

  • U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents;
    • Which does not include individuals with immigrant visas who have not entered the United States and assumed Lawful Permanent Residency;
  • Spouses of U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents;
  • Parents and Legal Guardians of U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents who are unmarried and under 21;
  • Siblings of U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents, so long as both are unmarried and under 21;
  • Children, foster children, or wards of U.S. Citizens of Lawful Permanent Residents, or children who are prospective adoptees seeking to enter the United States on IR-4 or IH-4 Visas;
  • Foreign Nationals traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government, for a purpose related to containing or mitigating the Coronavirus;
  • Nonimmigrant crewmembers;
  • Foreign nationals seeking entry to, or transiting through, the United States under an A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4 or NATO-6 visa;
  • Foreign nationals whose entry does not pose a significant risk of transmitting the virus, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control; and
  • Foreign nationals whose entry is in furtherance of important U.S. law enforcement interests, or whose admission is in the U.S. national interest.

Likewise, the Proclamation does not purport to limit individuals’ eligibility for asylum, withholding of removal, or protections under the Convention Against Torture, and does not appear to prohibit individuals from applying for an adjustment of status to Lawful Permanent Resident, or an application to extend or change their nonimmigrant status within the United States.

Otherwise, unless they fall into one of the above-listed categories, all foreign nationals traveling from China, or who have been in China within two weeks of returning to the United States, will be denied admission to the country so as long as this Proclamation remains in effect – even if they presently have a valid visa. Further, U.S. Consulates in China have cancelled appointments for the week of February 3, 2020, with no definite timetable for when they will resume normal operations. Individuals waiting on visa issuance have been directed to contact the U.S. Consulate processing their visa.

Additionally, even those who are allowed to travel to the United States will face significant barriers to admission. All flights entering the United States from China will be directed to one of the following airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York; Chicago O’Hare International Airport in Illinois; San Francisco International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport in California; Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington; Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Hawaii; and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia. Re-routing flights will undoubtedly to appreciable delays in travel.

After arrival, admissible individuals (including but not limited to U.S. Citizens) will face a mandatory, 14-day quarantine if they visited Hubei province. Likewise, the above-listed airports will be equipped the personnel and facilities to conduct immediate health screens for all individuals who have visited mainland China, and such individuals will receive instructions for self-quarantine if officials determine circumstances do not require mandatory quarantine.

The Proclamation directs the Secretary of HHS to re-evaluate the Proclamation “as circumstances warrant and no more than 15 days of this order and every 15 days thereafter, [to] recommend that the President continue, modify, or terminate this proclamation.” The virus’ accelerating spread– with more than 14,000 confirmed cases worldwide and more than 300 deaths in China and the Philippines – makes it quite difficult to project how much longer these travel restrictions will apply, or whether they will become even tighter. Likewise, it is possible that as additional information trickles out of China, the crisis may be revealed as even more dire than presently presented.

Green and Spiegel is continuing to monitor the situation very closely. If you have any questions regarding how these travel restrictions affect you, please do not hesitate to reach out to our office.

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