Coronavirus Travel Ban: Who Is Blocked From Entering the U.S.?

Complete list of countries from which travel to the United States is barred owing to coronavirus.

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the difficulties in screening incoming travelers, the Trump administration has issued a series of proclamations restricting travel from various countries to the United States. These are, for the most part, countries with serious outbreaks. The prohibition primarily affects people (other than U.S. citizens or permanent residents) who've been in those countries within the 14 days prior to arriving and requesting U.S. entry.

This article will look at which countries are affected, and discuss who is and isn’t subject to the bans.

Also bear in mind that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials will continue to screen entrants from all countries around the globe, and can individually declare someone inadmissible for health or other reasons.

Countries Facing COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

Here is the complete list of countries from which travel is barred for an indefinite time (starting in early 2020 and ending when Trump issues a follow-up proclamation), with links to the relevant presidential proclamation:

  • People’s Republic of China, excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
  • Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • Europe’s Schengen area, including 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.
  • United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe) and the Republic of Ireland.
  • Federative Republic of Brazil.

Who Has a Continued Right to Enter (or Return to) the U.S.

These travel bans do not affect most U.S. citizens and residents and families, including:

  • U.S. citizens and their spouses
  • U.S. lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and their spouses
  • foreign national parents or legal guardians of unmarried U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents under age 21
  • foreign national siblings of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, if both are under age 21
  • foreign national children, foster children, or wards of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, or prospective adoptees seeking to enter the U.S. on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa
  • foreign nationals traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government for purposes related to containment or mitigation of the COVID-19 virus
  • foreign air or sea crewmembers
  • certain A, C, E-1 (TECRO or TECO), G, and NATO nonimmigrant visa holders, and
  • members of the U.S. armed forces and their spouses and children.

Nevertheless, people in these groups can expect long waits at the airport or other port of entry to the U.S., and to be screened and possibly quarantined or asked to quarantine at home.

Who Doesn’t Have a Right to U.S. Entry

Basically, anyone traveling from one of the above countries on a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa that's not one of the few visas listed above will be barred.

That includes, for example, travelers on the Visa Waiver program (VWP) or holding B visitor visas, F, M, or J student/exchange visitor visas, H-1B specialty technical worker visas, and so on.

It is possible for such travelers to get around the bar by spending a minimum of 14 days in a country from which travel is not barred. Be ready to provide proof of your minimum 14-day stay there, however.

Of course, the next immigration-law concern will be whether you still have a valid basis upon which to use your U.S. visa. If the school you were to attend is closed, or the company you were to work for has furloughed its employees, you might not be able to enter or maintain valid status under that visa.

Requesting an Individual Exception

It’s possible to ask the U.S. government to make an exception to a travel bar, if your entry would either:

  • not pose a risk of transmitting the virus, as determined by the CDC
  • further important U.S. law enforcement objectives, or
  • be in the U.S. national interest.

Speak to an attorney for more information or to apply for one of these exceptions.

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