Jan 31 2020

Coronavirus Update: U.S. Imposes Travel Restrictions and Quarantines on Individuals Traveling from China

United States

At a glance

  • Foreign nationals who have visited China within 14 days of seeking admission to the United States will be denied entry, with the exception of lawful permanent residents, immediate family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, and certain others.
  • U.S. citizens who have visited China’s Hubei Province within 14 days before reentry to the United States will face a mandatory quarantine, while citizens returning from other parts of mainland China will face advanced screening and a self-imposed quarantine to monitor their health.  U.S. permanent residents, immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents and others exempted from the entry ban are also expected to be subject to quarantine.
  • The travel restrictions are slated to take effect on Sunday, February 2, at 5pm Eastern time.
  • Visa appointments at U.S. consulates in China will be cancelled until further notice beginning February 3.

The issue

The White House has issued a presidential proclamation that will impose travel restrictions and quarantines on travelers from China. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II announced late Friday in a White House press conference that the coronavirus outbreak has been declared a U.S. public health emergency. The restrictions will take effect on Sunday, February 2 at 5pm Eastern time. 

Impact on foreign nationals

A presidential proclamation will temporarily bar the entry of foreign nationals coming from mainland China in the 14 days preceding their attempted admission to the United States. 

However, the following groups of foreign nationals are exempt from the ban:

  • U.S. lawful permanent residents;
  • The spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  • The parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, if the U.S. citizen or permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • The sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • The child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • A foreign national traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
  • Nonimmigrant crewmembers;
  • Foreign nationals seeking entry or transiting the United States under an A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4 or NATO-6 visa;
  • A foreign national whose entry would not pose a significant risk of transmitting the virus, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control; and
  • A foreign national whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement interests or would be in the U.S. national interest.

Impact on U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and others exempt from the entry ban

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will impose a mandatory quarantine of up to 14 days on U.S. citizens who have visited China’s Hubei province within 14 days of their attempted entry.  U.S. citizens who visited other parts of mainland China within the previous 14 days will undergo advanced health screening at one of seven designated ports of entry, as well as a monitored self-quarantine of up to 14 days. The quarantine is also expected to apply to lawful permanent residents and immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and others exempt from the travel ban.

Implementation of the travel restrictions

The travel restrictions will take effect on Sunday, February 2, at 5pm Eastern time. At that time, the United States will also start channeling all flights from China as well as flights with passengers who have visited China to seven airports -- John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Chicago O’Hare International Airport in Illinois, San Francisco International Airport in California, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington, Daniel K. Inouye International Airport tin Hawaii, Los Angeles International Airport in California, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia. 

U.S. consular operations in China

In addition to these travel restrictions, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in China have cancelled immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments scheduled for the week of February 3, following the Chinese government's decision to impose restrictions on large gatherings. The State Department has indicated that it hopes to resume routine visa services as soon as possible, though it is unable to provide an exact date at this time. 

What this means for foreign nationals and U.S. Citizens

Starting February 2, foreign nationals who have recently visited mainland China and who are not immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or green card holders will not be admitted to the United States until the proclamation has been lifted. This includes foreign nationals who hold a valid nonimmigrant visa to the United States. 

While U.S. citizens will be permitted to enter the United States, they must travel through one of the seven designated ports of entry. Those who physically visited Hubei Province will face a mandatory quarantine upon their arrival, while those who visited mainland China face an immediate health screen and instructions for self-quarantine. U.S. lawful permanent residents and the immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents should also be prepared for these measures.

Foreign nationals with visa appointments or awaiting visa issuance from U.S. consulates in China should check with the relevant consulate for the latest information on closures and consular operations. Links to U.S. consulates in China are available at the Department of State’s consular directory.

Fragomen is closely following the U.S. travel restrictions related to the coronavirus and will provide updates as further details are issued. For the latest information related to the coronavirus’ impact on immigration-related matters worldwide, please visit Fragomen’s Coronavirus Update Page

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.