What the European Travel Ban Means for U.S. Citizens, Foreign Nationals

March 12, 2020

In an unprecedented White House address on Wednesday night, President Donald Trump announced that certain European nationals will be banned from travel to the United States in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These European travel restrictions will take effect this Friday at midnight. However, President Trump specified that the European travel ban does not apply to the United Kingdom.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security later clarified that the European travel ban restrictions only apply to certain foreign nationals who have been physically present in the 26 countries comprising the European Schengen region during the 14-day period before an attempted entry into the United States. Those Schengen region countries include 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.

According to the president’s proclamation, “Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus,” the travel restrictions do not apply to the following individuals:

  1. United States citizens (USCs);
  2. Lawful permanent residents (“green card holders” or “LPRs”);
  3. Spouses of USCs and LPRs;
  4. Parents and legal guardians of a USC child or LPR child, provided that the child is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  5. Siblings of USCs and LPRs, provided that both the sibling and the USC or LPR are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  6. Foreign nationals who are the child, foster child or ward of a USC or LPR, or who are a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 classifications;
  7. Foreign nationals traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the coronavirus;
  8. Nonimmigrants traveling pursuant to C-1, D or C-1/D nonimmigrant visas as a crewmember, or any foreign national otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew;
  9. Nonimmigrants seeking entry pursuant to the following visas: A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 (or seeking to enter as a nonimmigrant in one of those NATO categories) or foreign nationals whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement; and
  10. Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

In addition to the specific classes of individuals listed above, the proclamation also carves out a few discretionary exceptions for foreign nationals who may be eligible enter, including: foreign nationals whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting or spreading the virus (as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services); foreign nationals whose entry would aid U.S. law enforcement objectives (as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee); and foreign nationals whose entry would be in the national interest (as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security or their designees).

Finally, the proclamation provides that these restrictions shall have no effect on any individual’s eligibility for certain forms of humanitarian relief, including asylum, withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture.