On January 25, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. issued a proclamation reinstating COVID-19 entry restrictions for travelers from Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the 26 countries that comprise the Schengen Area of Europe. The proclamation also adds South Africa to the list of countries subject to travel restrictions. Pursuant to the proclamation, foreign national travelers who were physically present in any of the above countries within 14 days of travel to the United States will be barred entry, unless eligible for an exception.
The Biden administration implemented the new restrictions, citing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) review of the public health situations in impacted countries as well as discovery of new variant strains of the virus traced to the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa. The administration also restated its commitment “to implement science-based public health measures, across all areas of the Federal Government, to prevent further spread of the disease.”
The country-specific travel restrictions for Europe and Brazil were initially implemented under the Trump administration through a series of presidential proclamations, including Proclamation 9993 (restricting travel from the Schengen Area), Proclamation 9996 (restricting travel from the United Kingdom and Ireland), and Proclamation 10041 (restricting travel from Brazil). On January 18, 2021, in his final days in office, President Trump rescinded the above proclamations with the restrictions scheduled to be lifted on January 26, 2021. President Biden’s January 25, 2021, proclamation reinstates the travel restrictions without interruption.
The travel restrictions on Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Schengen Area went into effect on January 26, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. EST. The travel restriction on South Africa takes effect January 30, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. EST. The travel restrictions do not apply to travelers from South Africa aboard flights that depart prior to 12:01 a.m. EST on January 30, 2021. The restrictions will be reviewed every 30 days and “remain in effect until terminated by the President.”
Exceptions to the Travel Restrictions
The proclamation does not apply to:
- U.S. citizens;
- lawful permanent residents of the United States;
- noncitizen spouses of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents;
- noncitizen parents or legal guardians of unmarried U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents under the age of 21;
- noncitizen siblings of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents if “both are unmarried and under the age of 21”;
- noncitizen children, foster children, or wards of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, or prospective adoptees “seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications”;
- noncitizens “traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus”;
- noncitizens “traveling as … nonimmigrant[s] pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa”;
- noncitizens seeking entry “pursuant to one of the following visas: A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3, … E-1 (as an employee of [the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office] or [the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office] or the employee’s immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6”;
- noncitizens “whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement”;
- noncitizen members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses or children who are also noncitizens;
- noncitizens “whose entry would further important United States 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”; or
- noncitizens “whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.”
Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments with respect to these and other policy changes and will post updates on the firm’s Immigration blog as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.