With the holiday season once again approaching, international travel may be on your mind. COVID-19 and various travel bans have made international travel more challenging this year, with many countries, including the US, significantly limiting the entry of non-citizens or permanent residents. Below are important reminders to consider for your holiday travel. As always, please reach out to your HR immigration contact and CIP legal team prior to finalizing any international travel plans.
COVID-19 Related Travel Restrictions
Ongoing updates: As the global situation around the COVID-10 pandemic remains fluid, so will international travel restrictions especially in the coming winter months. We ask you to discuss your travel plans with your HR contact and CIP team and to only schedule international travel if absolutely necessary. Travel related restrictions can be implemented very quickly and without much warning via executive orders. In addition, each country may have its own travel restrictions and quarantine rules.
For current updates, please visit COVID-19 Travel.
Visas Processing and US Embassy/Consulate Closures: You will need a valid visa stamp (foil) in your passport in order to return to the US.* If you do not already have a valid visa stamp, it will be challenging to obtain a visa as most consulates worldwide remain closed or have limited visa processing services and appointments available. In such circumstances, CIP strongly recommends refraining from international travel this holiday season.
*Canadians do not require a US visa stamp to enter the US.
Proclamation 10052: Signed on June 24, 2020, bars issuance of new H-1B, L-1, and J-1 visas until December 31, 2020. This proclamation may be later modified or extended to have a greater impact. This proclamation does not currently affect individuals who were in the US on June 24, 2020, and/or currently hold a valid H-1B visa stamp.
COVID-19 related orders: Individuals who have traveled to any of the listed countries below within the last 14 days of seeking entry into the US will not be admitted. In order to return to the US, you will need to wait until this restriction is lifted, or travel to and quarantine at a third country (not subject to the restriction) for 14 days.
- Schengen area countries (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)
Travel to Canada/Mexico: The land border between Canada/Mexico and the US is currently closed to all but essential travel. Please note, this closure does not currently impact air travel.
General Immigration Reminders
Are your documents valid?
- Passport– Your passport should be valid for at least as long as your Form I-797 Approval Notice is valid. If not, you may be admitted only for the duration of your passport validity, and your work authorization will be shortened to the passport expiration date.
- Visa Stamp– With the exception of Canadian foreign nationals, you will need a valid visa stamp for the appropriate nonimmigrant category in your passport to re-enter the US If your visa stamp is expired, you will need to apply for a new visa at a US Embassy/Consulate before you return. Please review the COVID-19 specific instruction above, in connection with consular visa processing. As noted, CIP strongly recommends refraining from international travel this holiday season, if you do not have a visa stamp in your passport that is valid through the duration of your international trip.
- I-797 Approval & Petition – If you are in the US on a nonimmigrant visa, make sure you have the most recent original Form I-797 Approval Notice. Be sure to also have a full copy of your employer’s nonimmigrant petition.
- L-1 Blanket Petition Applicants – You will need to present your original endorsed Form I-129S stamped by the Consulate.
- Proof of Continuing Employment – Bring copies of your three most recent paystubs or a current employment verification letter to evidence that you have continued employment in the US.
- Permanent Residents/Permanent Residence Applicants
- Make sure that your Green Card is unexpired and undamaged.
- If your Green Card/Adjustment of Status Application is pending with the government, be ready to present either a valid Advance Parole (AP) document or a valid H-1B or L-1A/B nonimmigrant visa when re-entering the US.
Plan Extra Time for Travel Delays
International travel can incur many unexpected delays, especially during the current global COVID-19 pandemic. If you choose to travel, be sure to add time to your trip to cover increased wait times for US Customs inspection, security checkpoints, COVID-19 related protocols, and other related procedures. Plan ahead for potential delays and arrange travel that is refundable and/or can be rescheduled. Check-in with your employer and let them know of the potential for delays.
When You Return
If you are stopped by US Customs officers, US immigration officials, or other Port of Entry/Airport personnel, be cooperative, listen carefully to any questions asked, and answer clearly and concisely. Be ready to answer questions on your immigration status, such as the following:
- Who is your employer?
- What is your job title?
- What do you do in the US?
- How long do you plan to stay?
- Why is your travel to the US considered essential?
If you do not know the answer to a question, it is okay to say so. It is better to answer truthfully than make up an answer that can become problematic later. To help prepare, always contact your CIP legal team prior to traveling internationally.
You do not have the right to an attorney when at a Port of Entry or Preflight Inspection Facility. However, immigration officials are generally reasonable and understanding and may allow you to contact your attorney at CIP for assistance. If you need assistance after regular business hours, please call our main line at (415) 771-7500 and our emergency answering service will connect you with your attorney.
Action Item Upon Returning
Always send CIP a copy of your (and any dependents) new I-94 each time you return from international travel. This is critical.
- Visit: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov to get the most recent I-94
- Upload I-94 record and visa to your CIP account
Thank you and Happy Holidays!
– Your CIP Team