Today, January 31, 2020, Alex Azar, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, declared that the coronavirus originating in the Wuhan region of China presents a public health emergency in the United States. Azar announced that starting February 2nd at 5pm EST, the United States will implement a temporary ban on foreign nationals entering the United States who have visited China within the preceding 14 days. This applies to persons who are in temporary non-immigrant status, such as H-1B who are returning from trips to China. The ban does not apply to lawful permanent residents and immediate family members of US citizens. The Administration's directive is similar to travel restrictions imposed by other countries seeking to contain the spread of the virus such as Singapore, Australia, and Japan. In addition, American citizens returning to the United States who have been in Hubei province within the 14 days prior to their entry will be subject to a mandatory quarantine for up to 14 days to ensure that they are provided proper medical care and health screening. Returning American citizens who have been in the rest of mainland China within the 14 days prior to their entry will undergo a health screening at select ports of entry and up to 14 days of monitored self-quarantine at home to ensure they have not contracted the virus and do not pose a public health risk.
On January 30, 2020, the Department of State (“DOS”) raised its warning advisory to Level 4 Do Not Travel citing the World Health Organization’s declaration that the rapidly spreading outbreak of the novel (new) coronavirus, first identified in Wuhan, China, constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. In addition, on January 27, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) issued a Level 3 Warning recommending travelers to avoid all nonessential travel to China due the ongoing outbreak. Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice. Commercial carriers United, Delta, and American Airlines have temporarily suspended routes to and from China.
At the present time, the DOS has stated that both the U.S. Embassy and Consulates General will continue to provide consular services across China, as resources allow as non-emergency government employees have been placed on authorized departure to leave China amid the coronavirus outbreak. Moreover, the visa booking site for posts in China states:
Due to the Chinese government’s restrictions on large gatherings of people, the United States Embassy and Consulates in China are cancelling immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments the week of February 3. We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time. The MRV fee is valid and may be used for a visa application in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment.
Foreign nationals of China who are seeking to renew their visas may want to apply at alternative consular posts that accept applications from third country nationals to avoid delays. Please contact our office if you have questions.