COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is proving to have a detrimental effect on world travel and the global economy. The continued acceleration of infections will likely have a long-lasting impact on immigration and international travel. More specifically, travel bans and quarantines have the potential to disrupt both business and personal travel, as well as global mobility.
At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (http://cdc.gov) has warned U.S. citizens to prepare for a possible pandemic. The full CDC guidance is available on its website, (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html). Please take note of the precautions that can limit exposure to the virus, by both your employees and others in your facilities.
Employers will need to consider the effects of current and potential travel restrictions on employee work assignments, vacation policies and immigration needs. We have already received reports of employees unable to return to the United States, due to travel restrictions in the countries they have visited.
For the moment, U.S. entry restrictions apply only to non-U.S. nationals traveling from China, or with recent travel to China. Expanding centers of infection should be seen as likely candidates for additional restrictions. Employers should consider the possibility that employees traveling abroad may be prevented from immediately returning to the U.S., or may face extended quarantine protocols as the U.S. government may update its entry restrictions at any time given the rapid developments and spread of COVID-19.
In order to reduce the impact of travel restrictions and/or quarantine requirements, we recommend the following with respect to any employees on U.S. work visas:
- If international travel is required, try to keep the trips short, and with the simplest itineraries available. Avoid any flights that connect in China, and consider avoiding South Korea, Italy and Iran as well (and any other country that reports increases in infections).
- If an employee is on a visa that’s expiring, please contact us so we can evaluate whether travel to apply for a visa renewal is necessary. The employee may be able to remain in the U.S. if their work authorization is valid. If they must travel to apply for a new visa stamp, consider consular locations near the U.S., to minimize air travel and the possibility of canceled flights.
- If the employee’s work authorization is expiring, filing for an extension of the petition at United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) may be an option.
Please contact the Pryor Cashman attorney with whom you work to discuss visa strategies.
For more information on COVID-19, please consult the websites for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization, which have additional considerations for pandemic preparations.