As many are aware, there have been new developments in the rapidly evolving novel coronavirus pandemic. Here are a few highlights:
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has named the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 a pandemic. This term refers to its geographical outbreak worldwide. The virus has spread rapidly in Europe and threatens to increase exponentially there and in the United States and elsewhere. As of March 15, 2020, according to the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center, there were more than 156,000 confirmed cases worldwide, with 5,833 fatalities. The actual number of cases is assumed to be much larger because testing is not always available or utilized.
- The disease’s spread seems to have slowed somewhat in Asia, including China, probably due at least in part to extraordinary measures taken there to enforce “social distancing” prevention.
- In addition to the travel bans imposed for many travelers from China and Iran, President Trump has imposed new travel bans for people traveling from or through Europe (Schengen-area countries), the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Chaos and confusion, along with very long waits in lines for screening procedures, have ensued at the 13 airports at which all returning U.S. citizens and permanent residents are being funneled.
- Many businesses whose employees are telework-ready are advising them to work from home full-time, for a temporary period. Some businesses are closing or reducing hours. There are fears of layoffs due to a sharp drop-off in business for many companies that depend on in-person customers (grocery stores seem to be an exception as many Americans are stockpiling, although some grocery stores are reducing hours and running out of supplies).
- Generally speaking, H-1B and E-3 employees can work from home without an amended petition in the same metropolitan statistical area as their approved work locations. L-1, TN, and O-1 nonimmigrants may do so for brief periods.
- Visitors for business or pleasure may want to consider applying for an extension of status. An additional 30-day period for “satisfactory departure” is possible for those admitted under visa waivers, based on an inability to return to their home countries.
- Many government appointments and decisions are being delayed as offices close or postpone in-person interviews. This may affect visa processing and other travel- and immigration-related processes.
USCIS & CONSULAR UPDATES
- USCIS offices throughout the country are cancelling immigrant interviews in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Local offices include, but are not limited, to Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.
- Several U.S. Consular Missions have announced that they are cancelling or limiting nonimmigrant and immigrant visa appointments until further notice in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many consulates are emailing applicants with appointment cancellations. In addition, some consulates have refused applicants at interviews without providing reasons. It is suspected that these refusals are due coronavirus issues rather than the merits of the applications.
How Can we Help?
WR is available to provide immigration counsel to clients on the impact of the coronavirus on employee travel and immigration. In addition, our WRapid Immigration Management System has remote capabilities, and immigration processing will not shut down as we closely monitor the coronavirus pandemic abroad and within the United States.
The situation is changing day by day, so check reliable sources frequently for updates. Contact your WR attorney for advice in specific situations.
- Presidential proclamations, China; Europe; UK and Ireland
- CDC, Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers, Resources for Businesses and Employers
- CDC, Situation Summary
- CDC, Locations with Confirmed COVID-19 Cases
- CDC, Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel
- Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, Coronavirus Resource Center
- JHU, COVID-19 map
- WHO, Rolling Updates on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
- WHO, Dashboard (map showing confirmed cases and fatalities worldwide)
- New York Times, Coronavirus Live Updates: Chaos at American Airports, U.K. Issues Warning on Travel to U.S.
- Federal News Network, Agencies Expand, Loosen Telework Requirements Amid Coronavirus Spread
- USCIS coronavirus announcement
- USCIS letter to American Federation of Government Employees
- Department of Homeland Security coronavirus page
WR is a world leader in global mobility using WRapid, the firm’s immigration management system Powered by Salesforce, to facilitate the movement of talent worldwide.