The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic. Because of this there are many uncertainties in the field of employment-based immigration cases. For example, will there be a delay in USCIS adjudicating petitions and applications? Will there be suspension of premium processing? Will there be any updates from USCIS regarding the upcoming H-1B cap season? While there are not yet answers to these questions, foreign nationals in the U.S. on a valid visa should take precautions when considering traveling outside the U.S.
United States Travel Restrictions
President Trump issued a proclamation on March 11th restricting entry into the U.S. as immigrants or nonimmigrants those who were physically present within the Schengen Area, which consists of 26 European states, during the 14-day preceding their entry into the U.S. The proclamation is effective March 13th at 11:59 p.m. EST. Please note that this restriction does not apply to those who have visited the U.K.
There is another presidential proclamation that temporarily bars the entry of foreign nationals coming from Iran in the 14 days preceding their attempted admission to the U.S. Exceptions: U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPR), spouse of an LPR, parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or LPR if the U.S. citizen or LPR is unmarried and under 21, etc.
Previously, President Trump issued a proclamation on January 31st which suspended the entry of certain immigrants and nonimmigrants who were physically present within China, excluding Hong Kong and Macau, 14 days prior to their entry or attempted entry into the United States. The ban became effective February 2nd, 2020.
U.S. Consular Processing in China
As of February 10, 2020, regular visa services at the U.S Embassy in Beijing and the U.S. Consulates General in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang are suspended. Due to the ongoing situation relating to the novel coronavirus, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates have very limited staffing and may be unable to respond to requests regarding regular visa services.
Travel to India
All existing visas are suspended until April 15th. This suspension does not apply to diplomatic, official, U.N. or International Organizations, employment, and project visas. This suspension will be in effect starting 12:00 GMT on March 13th at all ports of entry. Further, all those entering India, including Indian nationals, having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain, and Germany after February 15th will be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days, effective March 13th.
Please note that the visa suspension also applies to those who hold OCI identity cards. Individuals with OCI’s will not be granted visa-free entry into India beginning March 13th at least until April 15th. Those who are citizens of India with U.S. citizen children cannot travel with their U.S. citizen children to India at this time, until the suspension is lifted.
Common Question from H-1B Workers: “Can I work from home?”
As many employers are requiring their employees to work from home to avoid the spread of COVID-19, many H-1B holders are asking whether they can do so legally. An H-1B worker may work from home if the address is either included in the LCA of the approved H-1B petition, or if it is in the same metropolitan statistical area (MSA) of the LCA. If the H-1B worker’s work-from-home location is not included in the LCA or within the same MSA of the LCA, an Amended petition may be required. Contact your immigration attorney if you have any questions regarding your new work location.
If you are considering traveling outside the U.S., or have questions regarding your ability to work at home, please contact a qualified immigration attorney to advise you regarding the possible implications in light of the current situation.
By: Rahul Reddy
Rahul is the founding partner of Reddy & Neumann P.C. His practice covers employment-based immigration, in which he represents corporate clients in far-ranging industries.