The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Numerous countries, including the United States, have implemented travel or entry restrictions at their ports of entry. These changes will impact nonimmigrant visa holders as well as certain immigrants. The outbreak has also disrupted immigration services and proceedings within the United States.
*This page is updated regularly with information about COVID-19 and its effect on U.S. immigration.
The New York Times is keeping a rolling list of updates about travel restrictions around the world, and the State Department lists restrictions by country. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has published a report looking at the ways different countries are responding to the outbreak.
*The New York City Marriage Bureau is closed until further notice. The City Clerk has answers to frequently asked questions here.
*Boundless publishes a new blog post, “Coronavirus Shutdown Could Put 2020 Voting Out of Reach For Hundreds of Thousands of New Americans“.
*AILA has filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS, urging the court to “pause USCIS deadlines and expirations from March 13, the day President Donald Trump declared a national health emergency, until 90 days after the emergency is called off,” according to Law360.
*Thousands of immigrants won’t be eligible for coronavirus stimulus checks from the government. “The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act specifically mandates that people considered ‘nonresident aliens’ won’t be eligible for the $1,200 per adult and $500 per child benefit,” according to Law360.
*The U.S. State Department won’t be processing passports except for emergencies. “Due to public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, effective March 20, 2020, we are only able to offer service for customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours,” said the agency in a statement.
*USCIS extends temporary office closures until at least May 3. To schedule an emergency appointment, contact the USCIS Contact Center.
*USCIS will continue processing Form I-765 (Employment Authorization Document) extension requests despite Application Support Center closures. The agency says it will reuse an applicant’s previously submitted biometrics to complete requests for extension.
*Immigration advocacy group New American Economy finds that 16.5% of all healthcare workers in the United States are immigrants. “Immigrants are fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis,” write the authors.
*Boundless releases a guide covering frequently asked questions about how the coronavirus might affect your green card or naturalization application.
*President Trump says undocumented immigrants can get tested for the coronavirus without fear of deportation or arrest.
*United States and Mexico to restrict all “non-essential” travel (tourism or recreational in nature) across its borders. Exceptions include travel for medical reasons, work, or school.
*USCIS announces it will no longer require a “wet” signature on immigration forms during the outbreak. “This means that a document may be scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy must be of an original document containing an original handwritten signature, unless otherwise specified,” USCIS said in a statement.
*The State Department will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments at embassies and consulates worldwide, starting March 18. The agency said it would provide emergency and urgent services where possible. Your visa fee will remain valid and may be used for a visa appointment in the country where you paid within 1 year of payment.
*United States and Canada will restrict “non-essential” travel between the two countries. Trump tweeted, “We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!”
*USCIS will temporarily shut down all of its offices due to the outbreak. The agency said in a statement it would be closing all of its field offices and postponing naturalization ceremonies until at least April 1. Applicants with scheduled appointments or naturalization ceremonies will receive notices with instructions. Appointments will be automatically rescheduled once field offices reopen. If you had an InfoPass appointment with a field office, you’ll need to reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center.
*All routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico will be suspended starting March 18, until further notice. This includes “both visa interviews at the embassy and consulates as well as processing at the Centros de Atención a Solicitantes (CAS).” Applicants with appointments will receive cancellation alerts via email. If you have questions, visit this page.
*All routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments at the U.S. Embassy in Paris have been cancelled indefinitely. If you need to travel urgently, visit this page for more information. If you have questions, email email@example.com, call +33 1 82 88 29 57 (local number) or dial +1 703 543 9342 (If you are calling from within the United States), to request an emergency appointment.
*All routine and nonimmigrant visa appointments at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India have been canceled indefinitely. If you need to travel immediately, visit this page to request an emergency appointment.
*The Seattle Immigration Court will be closed through April 10. These courts will remain open, but postpone non-detained master calendar hearings: Boston, Los Angeles (North Los Angeles, Olive, Van Nuys), Newark, New York City (Broadway; Federal Plaza; Varick), Sacramento, and San Francisco.
*The European Union approves a 30-day ban on non-essential travel to 26 European countries.
*President Trump announces that the United States will expand its European travel restrictions to Ireland and the United Kingdom.
*Russia says it will close its borders with Norway and Poland to foreigners starting Mar. 15.
*USCIS announces that seeking treatment or preventative care for COVID-19 will not be considered a negative factor under the new public charge rule. The agency says it will not consider “testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19” in a public charge determination.
*The Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) will temporarily pause international exchange programs that involve travel to and from countries that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deems a level 2 or level 3 travel risk.
*The USCIS Seattle Field Office reopened Mar. 11 after closing last week when an employee tested positive for the virus. So far, Seattle is the only field office that has shut due to the coronavirus. Learn more here about USCIS office closings.
*The Seattle Immigration Court has been closed since Mar. 11 due to a “secondary [coronavirus] exposure.” According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), filings due during this closure “will be considered timely filed if received on the court’s next business day.” In the meantime, emergency filings may be filed with the Tacoma Immigration Court.
*Some government offices are canceling and postponing naturalization ceremonies. But certain USCIS field offices are offering same-day naturalization to those who are over 60, pregnant, and/or sick. USCIS is not permitted to ask about an applicant’s medical history, so if you believe you qualify for a same-day oath ceremony, let the officer know during your interview so the necessary steps can be taken.
* USCIS asks that you consider canceling or rescheduling your appointment at a field office if you:
- Believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19;
- Are experiencing flu-like symptoms including runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, or headache;
- Recently visited a country designated a “level 3” because of the coronavirus. Currently, the CDC has urged the public to avoid any non-essential travel to China, Iran, and most of Europe.
*Guatemala announces that from Mar. 16, all arrivals from the United States and Canada will be subject to a 14-day quarantine. Earlier in the week, the country had banned travelers from European countries, Iran, China, South Korea, and North Korea.
* For Washington residents, Washington Health Plan Finder announced on its homepage: “In response to the potential growth of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, a special enrollment period is now available through April 8, 2020 to qualified individuals who are uninsured. Apple Health enrollment is year-round. To see if you qualify for special enrollment or Apple Health, call customer support between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday – Friday at 1-855-923-4633; TTY 1-855-627-9604, or contact a local certified insurance broker or navigator. Visit the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) FAQs page for more information.”
* Denmark, Poland, and Ukraine announce border closures to foreign nationals:
- Denmark: Danish citizens and residents, as well as Danish green card holders (Denmark’s work permit) will still be allowed to enter the country. Borders will be closed for everyone else until April 14.
- Poland: Poland will bar foreigners from entering the country starting Mar. 15. Any Polish citizens returning home will be subject to a 14-day quarantine.
- Ukraine: Ukraine will close its borders to foreigners starting Mar. 15. Borders will remain closed for two weeks, possibly longer.
* President Trump announces restrictions on travel from more than two dozen European countries, including Spain, Italy, and Germany. Note: The ban only applies to foreign nationals and not to:
- U.S. citizens
- Legal permanent residents (green card holders)
- Spouses of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
- Parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or green card holder, provided the U.S. citizen or green card holder is unmarried and under the age of 21
- Sibling of a U.S. citizen or green card holder, provided they are both unmarried and under the age of 21
- Children, foster children, or wards of a U.S. citizen or green card holder, or a prospective adoptee
Visit whitehouse.gov for the full list.
*El Salvador will only allow residents and citizens into the country, and they will need to quarantine for 30 days.
* President Trump bans all entry into the United States of travelers from Iran, excluding U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents (green card holders), as well as certain close relatives.
* President Trump bans all entry into the United States of all travelers from the People’s Republic of China, excluding U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents (green card holders), as well as certain close relatives.