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CoronaVirus COVID-19 & Immigration

In the wake of the World Health Organization’s declaration of the COVID-19 Coronavirus as a pandemic, there has been widespread cancellation of major public events, major sporting leagues, and international travel bans both here in the United States and around the world. Global markets are in freefall, experiencing some of their worst trading days in history, and COVID-19 hysteria is sweeping the globe. President Donald Trump declared a National State of Emergency yesterday, March 13th 2020.

We at McEntee Law would like to take a look below at how the CoronaVirus COVID-19 outbreak is affecting immigration policies and immigrant workers and families here in the United States and abroad.

We’re always here to answers questions and advise on this so please contact us at info@mcenteelaw.com or +1-773-828-9544 if you need assistance. As a law firm founded and run by immigrants, we truly appreciate how stressful this is – we are here for you and your family/employees during this difficult time, just as we are for our families and our employees.

 International Travel

Beginning March 13th 2020, the United States suspended entry for foreign nationals who have stayed in or passed through The Schengen Area of Europe within the last 14 days. As of midnight (EST) Monday, March 16th, the ban will also apply to Ireland and the UK.

The Schengen Area is comprised of 26 European countries including: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungry, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

As of writing this, the proclamation for Ireland/UK was not available but it’s likely to replicate the Schengen one and the one against the People’s Republic of China and Iran.

Those bans apply to:
– immigrants (presumably those trying to enter as permanent residents for the first time) AND
– non-immigrants (temporary visa or visa waiver)

Does not apply to:
– lawful permanent residents (LPR)
– spouses of US citizens (USC) or LPRs
– parent or legal guardian of USCs & LPRs who are unmarried & under 21
– siblings of USCs and LPRs if all unmarried & under 21
– child, foster child, ward, prospective adoptee of USCs and LPRs
– those traveling at invitation of US government to contain or mitigate the virus
– crew
– diplomats
– some other classes of visa holders like G visas
– those travelers in national interest
– members of U.S. Armed Forces & spouses & children

Separately, the Embassy of the United States in Dublin has confirmed that the J1 visa program is being suspended for 60 days as a result of Covid-19.

In an entirely unprecedented move on Wednesday March 11th 2020, the Department of State (DOS) issued a Level 3 Global Health Advisory urging Americans to reconsider ANY & ALL international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. As the outbreak spreads globally, countries and jurisdiction that do not currently have any reported cases of COVID-19 may restrict travel without notice if such circumstances change.

Employers with International Workers

Many companies have business continuity plans in place for atypical situations, some even have infectious disease management plans. As COVID-19 spreads globally, many employers are turning to such plans in truly unprecedented times. Most of us have not lived through a global pandemic before. As companies implement remote working strategies or even furloughs, we will explore below what these plans mean for employers with international workers. Please note that the below information applies only to H-1B and E-3 visa holders.

Worksite Changes    
If an employee’s worksite changes, i.e. if an employee will work from home for an extended period of time, an employer may need to do one of the following:

  • Limit the number of days the employee can spend at the new worksite

  • Post a notice at the new worksite

  • File a new LCA with the U.S. Department of Labor

  • File an amended petition with USCIS

  • Restrict the employee’s international travel

As each employer/employee relationship is different from the next, we would urge that the employer speak with a licensed U.S. immigration attorney in order to ensure that they remain compliant with immigration law.

Furloughs
Due to the prevailing wage requirements for both H-1B and E-3 employees, generally neither can be furloughed without pay. There are certain business circumstances where those employees may be furloughed without pay, however these would need to be discussed with an attorney.

International Business Travel & Travel Bans
Re-entry in to the United States for individuals holding visas is at the discretion of Customs & Border Patrol. International employees risk being denied re-entry to the U.S. at any time if they chose to leave even is such travel is business related especially in light of the travel bans outlined above.

Visa-Renewals/Extensions
In light of the above, if an employee needs to renew a visa abroad we strongly recommend that employers consult an experienced immigration attorney prior to any travel.

 Visa Waiver Program/ESTA

International visitors who enter the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program are typically permitted to remain here for no longer than 90 days. Generally there is no provision to extend this period however given the unprecedented global pandemic, people may find themselves seeking to remain here for longer. If you or a family member is in this situation, please contact our office to discuss.

Family Green Cards

We’ve had several calls with clients this week who are in the middle of, or about to embark on, the family-based green card process. The restrictions relating to international travel may necessitate a call with your immigration attorney to fully review all options.

USCIS & ICE Interviews & Court Hearings & Biometric Appointments

Many of the USCIS interviews, ICE check-ins, court hearing are being rescheduled or moved to telephonic appearances (where available). Please consult with your attorney to make sure you have the latest information on your interview, hearing, appointment etc.

AILA’s Efforts

Our bar association – the American Immigration Lawyers Association – is actively communicating with the various agencies in the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. We’ll be advocating for many changes/allowances in light of the Coronavirus outbreak. Stay tuned for any updates on that front and follow Fiona on Twitter @USVisaLawyer for real time updates.

We would urge anyone affected by the above to contact an experienced attorney. You can reach out to us at McEntee Law via our Contact Form here or call us at (773) 828-9544.

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