U.S. Government Agencies Respond to Coronavirus Outbreak
State Department’s Response to Coronavirus – U.S. Embassy Closures in China
In accordance with Chinese government guidance on the coronavirus outbreak, the Department of State (“DOS”) closed all U.S. Embassies and Consulates in mainland China from February 3rd to February 7, 2020. On January 23, 2020, the US State Department ordered all non-emergency US personnel and their families to leave Wuhan, followed by voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and family members of US government employees in China on January 29, 2020. On January 31, 2020, the DOS ordered the evacuation of all family members under the age of 21 of American personnel in China.
The DOS “Level 4 Do Not Travel” advisory warning for China remains in place. The DOS has yet to formally announce whether the U.S. Embassies and Consulates in China will reopen for visa services for the week of February 10 or later. In addition, the Department of State Visa Customer Contact Team has recommended the following:
“If you reside in China, have traveled to China recently, or intend to travel to China prior to your planned trip to the United States, we recommend you postpone your visa interview appointment until 14 days subsequent to your departure from China.”
Clients or employees who are currently in China and are waiting for interview appointments or have pending visa applications at the US Embassies in China should contact our office. Please note that emergency American citizen services continue to remain available in China.
We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as information becomes available.
DHS Response to Coronavirus - Rerouting U.S. Bound Flights with Individuals Who Have Been to China to 11 Designated Airports
On February 2, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued supplemental instructions to the U.S. government’s temporary travel restrictions that were commenced at 5pm EST on February 2nd in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Foreign nationals, other than permanent residents and immediate family members of U.S. citizens, who have visited China within the preceding 14 days are banned from entering the United States. In addition, quarantine mandates have been set for returning US citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been to China within 14 days of entry. Per the DHS’ supplemental instructions, all inbound flights carrying individuals who have recently traveled from, or were otherwise present within, China will only land at one of the following airports where advanced health screening will take place:
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York;
Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois;
San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California;
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington;
Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii;
Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California;
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia;
Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia;
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey;
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas; and
Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan.
The DHS warns travelers to expect delays and that flights may be rerouted to one of the designated airports mid-flight without prior notice. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) also issued a new directive over the past weekend that requires airline carriers to ask passengers on flights from outside the United States whether they have been to mainland China in the last 14 days. The inbound flight arrival restrictions will continue until cancelled or modified by the DHS. It is unknown at this time when the temporary ban on foreign nationals will be lifted.
We will continue to monitor the U.S. travel restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Our office has contacted all known clients and employees who traveled to the China and are affected by the temporary ban. Clients should contact our office if they have any questions.
USCIS Response to Coronavirus – Guidance on Rescheduling Appointments at USCIS Offices for Applicants Who Show Signs of Illness
On February 5, 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) issued guidance recommending individuals who are scheduled to appear for an interview or appointment at a local USCIS office, to reschedule their appointments if they are sick or start to feel symptoms of being sick, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, runny nose, or sore throat. Individuals should follow the instructions on how to reschedule listed on the appointment notice or contact their attorney for assistance. There is no penalty for rescheduling the appointment. Please note that USCIS officers may reschedule appointments if individuals and/or their companions or representatives appear ill during the appointment.
USCIS also announced that its international field offices in Beijing and Guangzhou, China have been temporarily closed in response to coronavirus concerns. USCIS will reschedule all affected appointments and will send new appointment notices to applicants.