USA Has Announced A Ban On Travellers From Europe, What Does That Mean?

Many people were surprised by the U.S. announcement of a ban on travel to most parts of Europe.

With growing attention to coronavirus, people walk through John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) ‘s sparse international terminal © Spencer Platt / Getty Images
Essentially, if you are not a “U.S. traveler” (mostly equivalent to a U.S. citizen or U.S. “legal permanent resident”) (see exceptions below) and you have previously lived in a European country in the Schengen area, after 14 days , You will not be able to enter the United States.

In addition, it appears that American passengers who have traveled in the Schengen area can only be reached through some airports where additional health checks have been set up. Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said details were only available within the next 48 hours.

First, please understand that there are many uncertainties in this situation. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Government Departments, including Customs and Border Protection) said they were working on a formal “Presidential Announcement,” which was completely inconsistent with what was announced in the presidential television speech.

Who is affected? Travelers who have been in the Schengen area
The travel ban covers people who have been to countries in the Schengen area (a common travel area on the European continent where there are no internal border checks), which is not entirely consistent with the European Union.

Announcing a new ban on travelling from Europe to the U.S. © FatCamera / Getty Images
The Schengen countries are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. It is worth noting that Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are part of the Schengen countries, but are not members of the European Union.

Small city states such as Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican are not part of Schengen, but in fact they have opened their borders because they are completely surrounded by France or Italy. It is unclear how to treat these nationals.

Also note that the five EU member states are not part of the Schengen countries: Ireland opted out and maintained a common area with the UK (the UK is now outside the EU and Schengen countries), while Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are seeking to join the Schengen countries but Not currently a member. Similarly, it is unclear how these nationals will be treated, especially in the event of an outbreak in the UK.

The “Schengen Ban” officially began at 23:59 EST on Friday, March 13, although there are certain restrictions on flights departing before then.

Who is affected? Most are non-American, with a dozen exceptions
The effect of the announcement is “to restrict and suspend all foreigners, whether immigrants or non-immigrants, who actually resided in the Schengen area within 14 days before entering or attempting to enter the United States.”

In this case, aliens are, to a large extent, “people who are not U.S. citizens”, with the exception of a dozen people:

• US permanent resident

• The spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident

• The parent / guardian of the U.S. citizen or permanent resident (if the U.S. citizen or permanent resident is under 21 years of age and is not married)

• Siblings of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident if both the sibling and the U.S. citizen or permanent resident are under 21 years old and unmarried

• Children of U.S. citizens or permanent residents (including foster children and guardians, and some potential adopters)

• If the U.S. government invites you to travel for “purposes related to containment or mitigation of the virus”

• Air or sea attendants, or other non-immigrants traveling on a C-1, D or C-1 / D visa

• Several types of diplomats and staff from international organizations such as NATO and the United Nations

With the approval of the U.S. government, there are also exceptions for a variety of people, including:

• Any foreigner whose entry does not constitute a significant risk of introducing, spreading or transmitting the virus, as determined by the Minister of Health and Human Services through the director of the CDC or its designee

• At the recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee, foreigners whose immigration will further advance important U.S. law enforcement targets, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees

• Any foreigner identified by the Secretary of State, Homeland Security or his designee in the national interest

In theory, your airline probably ought to reimburse you if you can’t travel, but you will almost certainly need to be very persistent for that to happen. Your travel insurance may cover some of it, but again, it’s complicated and you’ll need a lot of time and effort. There’s a lot of “contact your airline” advice out there, and that’s good in theory, but expect call centres to be swamped, so try to do as much as you can online, via the airline’s app, and via social media. You may find it helpful to get an unlimited international calling plan if you’re going to be on the phone for hours and hours.

Whether it’s airlines, airports, third-party security screening companies, US immigration officials, or a combination of all, administrating something like this consistently is enormously complicated. There is the potential for people who should, in theory, be allowed into the country, being denied boarding at overseas airports or being turned around on arrival in the US. You’ll need a lot of patience as everyone on both sides of the Atlantic works through these new rules.

Currently, flights between the US and the UK and Ireland are still in operation. However, any travellers should stay up-to-date with information from their governments and airlines, as the situation is changing quickly and unexpectedly. The Republic of Ireland has just announced that the country could close its schools, colleges and cultural institutions until 29 March at the earliest, so the situation could change quickly.

• members of the US armed forces, their spouses and children