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Entry to US by foreign nationals travelling from Europe banned

Written by
FordHarrison LLP, nationwide U.S. law firm with a singular focus on HR law.
A Presidential Proclamation that took effect on 13 March 2020 prohibits foreign nationals from entering the US if they have been physically present in Europe within 14 days, because of the risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus.  


The Proclamation states that the US Government cannot effectively evaluate and monitor all of the travellers arriving from Europe, and that undetected infected individuals could threaten national security. The travel ban applies to most foreign nationals who, in the prior 14 days, have been in the Schengen Area, which comprises 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. It does not include the United Kingdom, though it could be expanded later.

This Proclamation is similar to Proclamation 9984 issued on 31 January 2020, restricting travel from China, and Proclamation 9992, issued 29 February 2020, restricting travel from Iran.

Who is impacted by the new travel ban?

Travellers who have been present in the Schengen Area may enter the United States only if they are on flights that depart before 23:59 EDT on 13 March. It will remain in effect until terminated by the President.

The travel ban applies widely based on travel history, not just to citizens of the named countries. The following categories of people are not subject to the ban:

  • US citizens;
  • lawful permanent residents (‘green card’ holders);
  • spouses of US citizens and lawful permanent residents;
  • parents or legal guardians of an unmarried US citizen or lawful permanent resident under the age of 21;
  • siblings of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided they are both under 21;
  • children or wards of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, or prospective adoptees seeking to enter the United States on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa;
  • anyone travelling at the invitation of the US government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the COVID-19 virus;
  • foreign air or sea crewmembers;
  • certain foreign nationals who hold A, C, E-1 (TECRO or TECO), G, and NATO visas;
  • any foreign national whose entry would not pose a risk of transmitting the virus as determined by the CDC;
  • any foreign national whose entry would further important US law enforcement objectives;
  • any foreign national whose entry would be in the national interest; and
  • members of the US armed forces and their spouses and children.

Travellers not subject to the ban may still be required to undergo special screening or other extraordinary measures upon arrival to the US after physical presence in Europe.

The government has not yet clarified how one would demonstrate eligibility for an exception. Someone entering on the basis of a familial relationship to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident should be prepared to document that relationship.

What to expect? 

While implementation policies have not yet been released, this Proclamation will impact multiple aspects of immigration and travel for foreign nationals wishing to enter the United States.

The State Department, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Homeland Security are charged with ensuring that no foreign national subject to the travel ban boards an aircraft travelling to the United States. The Secretary of Homeland Security may establish new procedures for all US ports of entry. The travel ban is very likely to impact visa adjudication as well. The Proclamation warns that any alien who circumvents the travel ban through fraud, willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or illegal entry will be a priority for removal (deportation).