Coronavirus: Travel Suspension from China and Other Restrictions for the U.S

Coronavirus: Travel Suspension from China and Other Restrictions for the U.S

The global effort to put an end to the coronavirus infection sees institutions and private organizations committed on several levels. If doctors and scientists are working around the clock to find a vaccine and a cure, governments worldwide are taking steps to ensure the safety of their citizens and travelers.

Since COVID-19 was first detected in China, many governments have announced travel restrictions for passengers from China in the early stages of the pandemic.

The U.S. authorities are also taking action to minimize the risk of an epidemic within its territory. Several government departments and agencies are working together to optimize security protocols and fight the virus.

Some of the measures being considered and implemented at the moment that may affect Chinese visitors are:

  • Travel restrictions
  • Specialized screenings at specific airports
  • New directives for airlines
  • Quarantine and self-quarantine for some passengers.

Can Chinese Citizens Travel to the U.S.?

There is no travel ban for Chinese citizens specifically. The fact of holding a passport issued by the People’s Republic of China is not in itself a reason for a traveler to be denied entry into the United States’ territory.

In fact, the U.S. and China have worked together to make travel between the two countries smoother and more efficient in recent years. For example, Chinese visitors are the only foreigners that can access the EVUS registration system to update their U.S. visa details online before crossing the border.

What Are the U.S. COVID-19 Travel Restrictions for Chinese Nationals?

The Presidential Proclamation on the matter was issued on January 31, 2020 and came into effect on February 2. It states that the government is suspending the entry of “foreign nationals who pose a risk of transmitting the 2019 novel coronavirus.”

Although this may seem vague, there are very specific directions stemming from the proclamation. The temporary suspension applies to all foreign citizens (not just those with a Chinese passport), other than immediate family of U.S. citizens, who have been living in or visited mainland China during the 14-day period preceding their request for admission into the United States.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) also issued a new directive instructing airlines to ask passengers on international flights whether they have visited China in the past 2 weeks.

The list of countries to which the travel ban applies was extended in March 2020 and went on to include all Schengen member states, Brazil Iran, Ireland, and the UK.

On June 22, the government announced that the issuance of new visas is suspended temporarily for the majority of visas. Some exceptions apply.

Are there exemptions to the U.S. travel suspension when traveling from China?

The temporary ban does not apply to travelers who have visited the territories of Makau and Hong Kong. Other exceptions to the travel suspension include:

  • Lawful U.S. permanent residents and green card holders
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents
  • Parents and guardians of U.S. citizens or permanent residents
  • Children and wards of U.S. citizens or permanent residents
  • Siblings of U.S. citizens or permanent residents
  • Non-U.S. nationals invited by the U.S. government to help stopping the spreading of coronavirus
  • Non-U.S. nationals whose visit is in the national interest
  • Nonimmigrant crewmembers
  • Non-U.S. nationals applying for entry 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.
  • Foreign students already in possession of a student visa

These new measures will stay in place until they’ll be terminated by a Presidential Order.

Why is there an entry ban for travelers from China?

The coronavirus outbreak (also known as 2019-nCoV) has been spreading rapidly since December 2019. The first infection is thought to have occurred in a food and animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, capital of the Hubei province.

The virus can be lethal, especially for already vulnerable individuals like the elderly or people with severe respiratory conditions. So far, there is still no cure for the virus.

In the first few months of the pandemic, the majority of confirmed cases were limited to China and more specifically, to the Hubei province. Here, the local authorities encouraged people to stay indoors and only leave the house when absolutely necessary. Connections to and from the most affected urban centers were suspended. That is why most countries started to enforce travel restrictions on passengers coming from China.

In the following months, the virus has spread internationally, and currently, the US is among the most affected countries while China has brought contagion under control.

Is the U.S. at Risk of Coronavirus?

Late in the spring of 2020, the number of cases in the U.S. has risen and is now one of the largest in the world. However, keep in mind that the United States extends on a very vast territory and that the local authorities are performing a great number of tests.

Those who need to travel to the United States are advised to follow the directions of the government and local authorities. These normally include:

  • Wash hands regularly
  • Wear a mask
  • Keep a safe distance from others
  • Avoid large gatherings
  • Request medical assistance and advised in case of symptoms such as persistent cough, fever, loss of sense of smell and taste, etc.

Other Measures to Avoid Infection

Suspending entry for at-risk travelers is not the only initiative aimed at protecting the American population from the virus. Find further measures below.

Avoid unnecessary travel to China

The State Department has officially issued an alert on January 30, 2020, warning U.S. citizens not to travel to Mainland China and other at-risk countries. All nonessential travel should be avoided.

Thorough health screenings at American airports

Not all incoming passengers from China will be denied entry. All American citizens, for example, will be screened by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) instead.

Only specific airports with enough resources are able to carry out the screenings. These airports are:

  • Los Angeles International (LAX)
  • San Francisco International (SFO)
  • Chicago O'Hare
  • New York JFK
  • Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International
  • Houston George Bush Intercontinental
  • Dallas-Fort Worth International
  • San Diego International
  • Seattle-Tacoma International
  • Honolulu International
  • Anchorage Ted Stevens International
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International
  • Detroit Metropolitan
  • Miami International
  • Washington Dulles International
  • Philadelphia International
  • Newark Liberty International
  • Boston Logan International
  • El Paso International
  • Puerto Rico's San Juan Airport.

Screened passengers who show no symptoms are encouraged to self-quarantine for 14 days at home. Quarantine procedures also depend on the Chinese region(s) that a passenger has visited. Some travelers may be subject to mandatory or monitored quarantine.

Airlines Have Suspended Routes to China

Several U.S. flight operators recently announced that they have decided to temporarily limit or suspend their flights to and from mainland China. Other international airlines have done the same in the past weeks. These airlines include:

  • United Airlines
  • Delta
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Air Asia
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Air India
  • IndiGo
  • Lufthansa
  • Finnair.

The American diplomatic missions in China close to the public

For the time being, the U.S. embassy and consulates in mainland China announced the suspension of all public operations other than emergency support for American citizens.

All immigrant and nonimmigrant visa interviews scheduled are also being canceled. Visa services will be resumed in the future but the embassy still hasn’t specified a date.

Diplomatic operations are gradually being resumed. The American government has also announced that the Consulate in Wuhan will be reopened in the near future.

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