As many are aware, on March 11, 2020, President Trump issued a proclamation banning travel for foreign nationals whom have traveled to many areas in Europe within 14 days of entry or attempted entry into the United States. The relevant areas in European, collectively known as the “Schengen Area”, includes Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
The “Schengen Area” travel ban takes effect at 11:59 PM eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020, and is to remain effective for 30 days. The proclamation states that any flight that departs the Schengen Area prior to 11:59 PM eastern daylight on March 13, 2020, is not subject to the travel ban. Generally speaking, only U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, and certain family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, will be allowed to enter the U.S. after visiting the Schengen Area. Therefore, the Schengen Area travel ban will prohibit nearly all other individuals from entering the U.S. if such individuals were present in the Schengen Area within 14 days of entry or attempted entry into the U.S. While there are exceptions to the travel ban, the exceptions do not apply to most non-immigrant visas, including E-visas, L-visas, and B-visas.
Taken together, the above means that E-visa, L-visa, and B-visa holders, and most other non-immigrant visa holders may be able to enter the U.S. before the travel ban takes effect, provided that the flight to the U.S. departs before 11:59 PM eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020.
However, please remember that, even if allowed to purchase a plane ticket and/or board a U.S.-bound flight, border patrol agents hold wide discretion to deny entry into the U.S. – even in the best of circumstances. As such, there is absolutely no guarantee admission will be granted into the U.S. This includes the likely presence of medical screening and potential quarantine upon arrival.
Further, ALL travelers arriving in the U.S. will likely be sent to certain U.S. airports for processing and screening - as of now, Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, Charlotte, North Carolina is not one of those airports. Currently, JFK in New York, Washington Dulles in D.C., Newark in New Jersey, and Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, Georgia are among approximately 14 airports processing flights from the Schengen Area. We recommend that any in-bound traveler coming from Europe and/or any in-bound traveler with a recent travel history in the Schengen Area contact his or her airline to be sure the flight is going to the appropriate U.S. destination. Additionally, self-quarantine or forced quarantine may apply if admitted. As a note, Lufthansa Group Airlines has notified the public that many of its U.S. flights, including flights to Charlotte, North Carolina, will be suspended until further notice.
Lastly, whether in the U.S. or abroad, any current visa applicants should expect considerably longer processing times for the foreseeable future. It should be expected that government employees – and thus, visa adjudicators – will have reduced work hours. Unfortunately, even a slowdown in visa processing of a few weeks could cause processing backlogs for months.
Andrew Howe, Attorney (NC) BridgehouseLaw LLP
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