The COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on travel to the United States, processing of US visa applications overseas, and processing of immigration applications in the United States. Changes are occurring very rapidly, and there is some confusion among government officers and officials on the ground tasked with carrying out the directives that come from Washington. Here are some important updates:
- Air travel to the United States from China, Iran, Europe (the Schengen Area), Ireland, and the UK has been limited to U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, certain close relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent relatives, and other listed exceptions. Click here for the most recent Presidential Proclamation limiting travel from these areas.
- As of Saturday, March 21, 2020, land border crossings from both Canada and Mexico will be limited to “essential travel.” However, essential travel has been defined broadly to include U.S. citizens; U.S. permanent residents; students; foreign workers; cross-border trade, such as truck drivers; and numerous other categories. The only persons specifically excluded are those traveling to the U.S. for “tourism purposes (e.g., sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events).” Click here for the text of the US-Canada border restrictions. (The Mexican version is substantially the same.)
- The U.S. Department of State has cancelled all “routine” immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments. All passport services have been suspended as well except for “life and death emergencies.”
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has closed all offices open to the public, and has cancelled all in-person interviews, such as Citizenship and marriage interviews. Citizenship ceremonies have also been cancelled. USCIS will send out new appointment notices when the offices re-open.
- USCIS continues to process immigration applications at the Service Centers, such as I-129 petitions for immigrant workers, I-130 family petitions, and N-400 naturalization applications. USCIS has announced it will accept scanned signatures on these applications. USCIS has suspended premium processing of all I-129 and I-140 petitions filed on or after March 20, 2020.
Please do not make any travel plans based on the information in this news item until you have independently verified that such planned travel is still legal and practical, as this is a very fluid situation.
The offices of Allen & Hodgman in the U.S. and Canada remain available and will remain available throughout this crisis. Please contact us if you need help with any urgent immigration matter.