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U.S. Dept of State Issues Guidelines for Travel Ban Exemptions

In early June, President Trump issued successive executive orders suspending entry to the U.S. for individuals holding H-1B, L and J-1 visas “who present a risk to the U.S. labor market during economic recovery”.

Even though these Proclamations had built-in exceptions for those who were seeking entry for the “national interest” of the United States, in practice these exceptions were extremely limited and difficult to obtain.

However, recognizing that businesses, employers, and the economy are suffering from these Proclamations, the U.S. Department of State issued a helpful “guide” to obtaining an exception to the “travel ban” today that may finally provide some relief. The guide does indicate that because Embassies are not yet up to full capacity due to the COVID-19 crises, applicants that think they may qualify need to follow the specific instructions listed on the Embassy’s Website for seeking an emergency appointment and should provide “specific details why…they may qualify for the exception”.

The primary exceptions to the travel ban include:

  • H-1Bs:
    1. Travel as a public health or healthcare professional to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 or to conduct research with “substantial public benefit”;
    2. Travel supported by a request from a U.S. government agency to meet critical U.S. foreign policy objectives or satisfy treaty obligations;
    3. Travel by applicants seeking to resume ongoing employment in the U.S. in the same position with the same employer in the same visa classification;
    4. Travel by technical specialists, senior-level managers, and other workers whose travel is necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the U.S.
  • J-1s:
    1. Certain au pairs;
    2. For childcare services to a child of parents involved with the provision of medical care to COVID-19 patients;
    3. Interns and trainees under a program that supports the continued economic recovery of the U.S.;
    4. Certain J-1 teachers; and
    5. Certain J-1s undertaking critical foreign policy objectives.
  • L-1A Managers and/or Executives:
    1. Travel as a public health or healthcare professional to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 or to conduct research with “substantial public benefit”;
    2. Travel supported by a request from a U.S. government agency to meet critical U.S. foreign policy objectives or satisfy treaty obligations;
    3. Travel by applicants seeking to resume ongoing employment in the U.S. in the same position with the same employer in the same visa classification;
    4. Travel by senior-level managers or executives filling a critical business need of an employer meeting a critical infrastructure need.
  • L-1B Specialized Knowledge Employees:
    1. Travel as a public health or healthcare professional to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 or to conduct research with “substantial public benefit”;
    2. Travel supported by a request from a U.S. government agency to meet critical U.S. foreign policy objectives or satisfy treaty obligations;
    3. Travel by applicants seeking to resume ongoing employment in the U.S. in the same position with the same employer in the same visa classification;
    4. Travel by technical expert or specialist meeting a critical infrastructure need.
  • H-4, L-2, and J-2 Dependents:
    1. Exceptions are available to those who will accompany, as dependents, excepted H-1B, L-1, or J-1 travelers.
  • Immigrant Visa Applicants:
    1.  Exceptions are available to those applicants who are subject to aging out of their current immigrant visa classification before the Proclamation expires or within two weeks thereafter.  

This thoughtful and helpful guidance from the U.S. Department of State is welcome news for many H-1B, H-2B, J-1, and L-1 individuals who have been unable to enter the U.S. since the issuance of the ill-conceived Proclamation. These expanded exceptions will help many businesses who have been without critical workers reignite their workforce, reinvigorate the economy, and push the overall recovery.  

Any individual or employer who believes they have an employee who may qualify for the exception should contact the US Embassy with jurisdiction over that individual’s residence. Additionally, FordMurray offers complimentary consultations to assess potential exceptions to the Travel Ban. Contact us today to get started.