President Donald Trump announced on March 11th that almost all travel from Europe’s Schengen Area to the U.S. will be curtailed for 30 days as part of the administration’s effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.
The Schengen Area comprises 26 European states: 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. The Schengen Area currently has the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of the People’s Republic of China. As of March 11, 2020, the number of cases in the 26 Schengen Area countries is 17,442, with 711 deaths, and shows high continuous growth in infection rates. In total, as of March 9, 2020, the Schengen Area has exported 201 COVID-19 cases to 53 countries. Moreover, the free flow of people between the Schengen Area countries makes the task of managing the spread of the virus difficult. Mr. Trump later said they would be extended to Britain and Ireland
The White House decision prohibits any foreign nationals—not just Europeans—from entering the United States if they have been in the Schengen Area within 14 days before their attempted entry. The ban does not apply to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, nor their spouses and children.
The administration is of the opinion that as the United States Government is unable to effectively evaluate and monitor all of the travelers continuing to arrive from the Schengen Area, there is potential for undetected transmission of the virus by infected individuals seeking to enter the United States from the Schengen Area. This threatens the security of our transportation system and infrastructure and national security. Given the importance of protecting persons within the United States from the threat of this harmful communicable disease, President Trump decided to take action to restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.
The employers with European national workers presently in the U.S. should also seek legal counsel. While these individuals are not subject to this new ban, the measures in their own countries combined with the new ban here in the U.S. may create circumstances where someone who needs to go back to their home country in Europe to renew their passport or other key documents will not be able to re-enter upon renewal.
The U.S. departments of State and Homeland Security are expected to provide more about the implementation of the travel ban, which will determine the options available to foreign national employees on assignment in Europe.
The Travel ban as it stands will not apply to
- (i) any lawful permanent resident of the United States;
- (ii) any alien who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
- (iii) any alien who is the parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;
- (iv) any alien who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
- (v) any alien who is the child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
- (vi) any alien traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
- (vii) any alien traveling as a nonimmigrant pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crewmember or any alien otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew;