department of state announces strict new guidelines for travel from the uk, ireland, and europe

On March 2, the U.S. Department of State announced that it had imposed heightened travel restrictions for non-immigrant visa holders in the UK/Ireland and Schengen, currently summarized under proclamation 10143. These new guidelines tighten the criteria for a National Interest Exception, or “NIE”. An NIE is a waiver that has become necessary for travel on non-immigrant visas for many parts of the world following the Trump administration’s roll-out of restrictive executive orders on immigration during the summer of 2020. The policy does not effect non-immigrants in other countries affected by previous iterations of the immigration proclamations, such as China, Iran, South Africa, and Brazil. Multiple exceptions also remain in place for parents and spouses of US citizens, travelers on student visa holders, and immigrant visa (“green card”) holders.

The new policy requires travelers to show that their presence in the US will be of “vital support of critical infrastructure sectors as defined by the Department of Homeland Security or critical infrastructure linked supply chain”, replacing the previous standard that required travelers and visa applicants to prove their work would ”directly support the creation or retention of U.S. jobs.”  The new standard is onerous and inexplicably targeted at a group of travelers whose work is often paramount to generating income and employment opportunities for American businesses and workers.  Current visa holders who are affected by the new guide lines may still travel to a country not subject to proclamation 10143 and wait for 14 days before attempting entry to the U.S., but this additional and often arduous travel may pose a risk in itself as travelers will be forced to travel through more ports of entry and therefore risk exposure to the coronavirus.

While many observers of US immigration policy were hopeful that the Biden administration would roll back the more restrictive and contradictory Trump era proclamations in favor of a common-sense and science based approach to improving international travel while managing the spread of the coronavirus, the policy update imposes an unusually high bar for a comparatively small cross-section of European and British travelers while simultaneously allowing unchecked travel from a wide array of individuals with little or no explanation.

The above policy is new, and it remains unclear how the U.S. consulates abroad or Customs and Border Protection at U.S. ports of entry will apply it. Wildes and Weinberg will continue to advise clients on international travel during this unpredictable and unprecedented period. Please email: michael@wildeslaw.com or call us at (212) 753-3468 if you or a loved one have questions regarding this or any other immigration-related matters.

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