As U.S. states are reopening and many are back to business, many U.S. and foreign nationals are starting to plan business and leisure travel abroad. Importantly, however, the U.S. travel ban put in place via presidential proclamation in March 2020, still is in effect and prohibits entry into the U.S. of all foreign nationals who were physically present within the Schengen area during the 14-day period immediately preceding their travel to the U.S. The Schengen area includes 26 European countries: 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. Additionally, the UK, Ireland, and, most recently, Brazil, were subsequently added to and remain on the list of banned countries.
Moreover, even with regard to countries not included in the ban, one should approach travel with caution especially when any action (e.g., visa issuance) may be needed from U.S. consular authorities in order to return to the U.S. U.S. consular offices abroad are, for the most part, closed for nonimmigrant visa appointments with the exception of emergent circumstances and essential travel. The government’s standard of review for “essential travel” is, mostly, untested and leaves much to a given consulate and consular official’s discretion.
If you or your employees plan travel abroad, be sure to visit with your immigration legal counsel before departing from the U.S. to discuss related issues and possible pitfalls to try and minimize the logistical nightmare of being unable to reenter this country in the midst of the pandemic and related economic uncertainties.