There is some confusion right now about whether the U.S. is allowing people of varying immigration status to enter the country, so I thought I'd summarize the current state of immigration as of right now on April 29 taking into account as many different government departments as possible.
Please note: This page will no longer be updated, so please keep an eye on our Coronavirus Information for Expats page for the most up-to-date information.
Let's start with the closest borders that are crossed most frequently:
Status of the Northern Border with Canada and Southern Border with Mexico
Right now, according to DHS:
In order to limit the further spread of coronavirus, the U.S. has reached agreements with both Canada and Mexico to limit all non-essential travel across borders. Working closely and collaboratively, the Department of Homeland Security is part of a North American approach to stop the spread of the virus.
What this means is that if your movement is considered “non-essential” you cannot cross the border in either direction.
What travel is considered “non-essential”?
In short, from DHS:
“Non-essential” travel includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature.
Basically, unless you have work or a regular route that you take back and forth for business, you will not be able to cross either of the borders:
Supply chains, including trucking, will not be impacted by this new measure. Americans and Canadians also cross the land border every day to do essential work or for other urgent or essential reasons, and that travel will not be impacted.
How long will the border stay closed to Canada and Mexico?
The restrictions were put in place on March 21, 2020 and was put in place for 30 days. On April 20, 2020, these measures were extended for an additional 30 days.
This means that at this stage, the border will re-open May 20, 2020, however, it is certainly possible that this is extended again with co-operation from all three governments.
First, if you are a citizen or permanent resident of the United States:
Can citizens and permanent residents of the US re-enter right now?
In short, yes.
There is an exclusion to the above closures for US Citizens and Green Card holders looking to travel into the United States:
U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and certain other travelers are exempt from this action. They will receive the same processing, evaluation and potential CDC medical screening that all entrants undergo at U.S. Ports of Entry.
So entering will always be possible, but traveling out is severely restricted.
For those flying into the United States, as of March 13, all American citizens and legal permanent residents who have been in high-risk areas and return to the United States are required to fly to one of the following 13 airports:
- Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan
- Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
- Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California
- Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
- Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia
They will be permitted entry but it is a more difficult process than normal.
Restrictions flying into the United States for visa holders and foreign nationals
Looking more broadly now, what are your options if you want to return to the United States?
On March 11 the United States barred the entry of all foreign nationals who had visited China, Iran and a group of European countries during the previous 14 days.
The ban applies to countries in the Schengen Area, which 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.
Effective March 16, the ban applies to foreign nationals departing from the United Kingdom and Ireland.
If you are in one of these places or have been in these places in the last 14 days, you should not attempt to enter the U.S.
Re-entering from other countries
At this stage, we have no reason to believe that you could not re-enter the country if you do not fit into the above categories.
This is confirmed by the CDC:
American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and their families who have been in one of the countries listed below in the past 14 days will be allowed to enter the United States but will be redirected to one of 13 airports.
Foreign nationals who have visited one of these countries in the past 14 days may not enter the United States:
- European Schengen area (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, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City)
- United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
- Republic of Ireland
What if you had a layover in/transit through one of these countries?
It still counts, you are still subject to the rules above.
Should you attempt to re-enter now?
That being said… If you are safe where you are and do not need to travel, then you should stay put.
It is the opinion of the United States Government and the Australian Government right now that you stay put where you are if you can.