Employers and their workforce are waking up to news this morning of further US travel restrictions given the COVID-19 pandemic. This time, the restrictions affect most travelers from the European Union (EU). The following are highlights of what you need to know today:
Foreign nationals who have visited the Schengen Area in the past 14 days will not be permitted to enter the United States under Presidential Proclamation.
Similar to recent presidential proclamations that restrict travelers who have visited China or Iran, the Presidential Proclamation that President Trump signed yesterday suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen Area at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States. The countries in the Schengen Area are 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. The proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on March 13, 2020. The 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.
This restriction does not apply to travelers coming from the UK.
While the Presidential Proclamation does not explicitly create an exception for UK residents, the President stated during his televised address last night that the restrictions do not apply to travel from United Kingdom. However, the proclamation is clear that the latest travel restrictions apply to "all aliens" who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry to the United States. This suggests that EU nationals will not be allowed to transit to the United States via the United Kingdom as an alternative to direct travel from the EU to the United States. Those traveling from the United Kingdom who have recently visited the Schengen Area should consider postponing travel until it is clear that they will be permitted entry into the United States.
Please continue to watch for government announcements and our future alerts as more specific information is released.
This restriction also does not apply to legal permanent residents (“green card” holders), immediate family members of US citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.
The exemptions generally fall into the following categories:
- Immediate relatives (parent, spouse, child, siblings of a certain age) of US citizens or green card holders;
- Specific nonimmigrant visa holders: Crew members, diplomats, government officials;
- Members of the US armed forces and their family; and
- Individuals whose entry would be deemed in the national interest or to promote law enforcement objectives.
US citizens, green card holders, and exempted foreign nationals traveling from the EU will be routed through selected airports for enhanced screening procedures.
Details should be released in the coming days. However, return travelers should expect a health screening at an airport upon arrival and may be placed under quarantine for 14 days depending on their health and travel history.
The following airports are currently designated as airports with CDC quarantine stations:
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
- Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), California
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
- Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia
- Newark-Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
- Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan
What Steps Should Employers Take Now?
- Determine whether any of your employees are currently in Europe, whether they fall into any of the exemptions, and whether it is possible for them to return before the proclamation takes effect.
- Evaluate how the travel restriction will impact your employee population from a business and personal/family perspective.
- Consider travel to non-European US Consulates for essential immigration-related travel (e.g., visa renewal).
- Plan for employees “stuck” in Europe and ensure your company has a policy in place for remote work given the potential employment, tax and immigration concerns.
- Develop a broader communication that outlines what the proclamation does – and doesn’t – mean based on the current information available.