March 19, 2020 2:16PM

Timeline and List of U.S. Immigration Actions on COVID-19

Post last updated April 24, 2020

The United States government has taken extreme actions to limit travel to the United States during the COVID-19 outbreak. Currently, the government has suspended nearly all legal immigration and travel to the United States. It has reduced interior immigration enforcement, deportation court cases, and stopped deportations to three countries.

Below is a list of the dates of each action that it has taken, details of the action, and their effective dates. While the government is correct to reduce unnecessary travel at this time, it should not completely close off immigration because many immigrants are serving important roles in combating this epidemic. This post concludes with proposed actions that the government is considering.

COVID-19 Immigration Actions

  1. 1/29/2020, State Department Repatriation EffortsState Department Statement

    • State Department starts coordinating the repatriation of Americans. It has coordinated the repatriation of 62,985 Americans from 106 countries from January 29, 2020 to April 15, 2020
    • Effective January 29, 2020
  2. 1/31/20, China banPresidential proclamation 9984
    • Bans entry of all noncitizens who were in China in the last 14 days, except for LPRs, spouses of LPRs or U.S. citizens, unmarried children under 21, siblings under 21 of U.S. citizens or LPRs under 21, child of U.S. citizens or LPRs, crewmembers, government officials, or those exempted by the Secretary of State or DHS.
    • Requires quarantining of people who may have been exposed to the virus.
    • Effective February 2, 2020.
  3. 1/31/20, China U.S. citizen quarantineDHS and HHS joint announcement
    • Mandatory quarantine for any U.S. citizen who was in Hubei, China in the prior 14 days.
    • Screening and self-quarantine for any U.S. citizen who was in China in the prior 14 days.
    • Effective February 2, 2020.
  4. 1/31/20, China flight rulesfederal register notice
    • Requires flights carrying anyone who had been in China in the last 14 days to land at one of eight airports for screening.
    • Effective February 2, 2020.
  5. 2/1/20, China visa suspensionembassy notice
    • State Department announces a total closure in China until February 7, 2020.
    • Effective February 3, 2020.
  6. 2/2/20, Updated China flight rulesfederal register notice
    • Requires flights carrying anyone who had been in China in the last 14 days to land at one of 11 airports for screening.
    • Effective February 2, 2020.
  7. 2/10/20, China visa suspension 2.0embassy notice
    • State Department announces suspension of regular visa processing in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang.
    • Effective February 10, 2020.
  8. 2/29/20, Iran banPresidential proclamation 9992
    • Bans entry of all noncitizens who were in Iran in the last 14 days, except for LPRs, spouses of LPRs or U.S. citizens, unmarried children under 21, siblings under 21 of U.S. citizens or LPRs under 21, child of U.S. citizens or LPRs, crewmembers, government officials, or those exempted by the Secretary of State or DHS.
    • Requires quarantining of people who may have been exposed to the virus.
    • Effective March 2, 2020.
  9. 3/3/20, Seattle court closureEOIR announcement
    • The Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) closes Seattle immigration court after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
    • Effective March 2, 2020.
  10. 3/4/20, Iran flight rulesfederal register notice
    • Requires flights carrying anyone who had been in Iran in the last 14 days to land at one of 11 airports for screening.
    • Effective: Retroactive March 2, 2020.
  11. 3/9/20, Student visa flexible studyICE guidance
    • ICE announces that it “intends to be flexible with temporary adaptations” to COVID-19 for students and OPT workers, including telework or remote classrooms.
    • Effective March 9, 2020.
  12. 3/10/20, UAC placement state restrictions—ORR internal decision
    • The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) stops placing unaccompanied alien children (UACs) in homes or shelters in California or Washington.
    • Effective March 10, 2020.
  13. 3/11/20, Europe banPresidential Proclamation 9993
    • Bans entry of all noncitizens who were in the European Schengen Area in the last 14 days, except for LPRs, spouses of LPRs or U.S. citizens, unmarried children under 21, siblings under 21 of U.S. citizens or LPRs under 21, child of U.S. citizens or LPRs, crewmembers, government officials, or those exempted by State Department or DHS.
    • Requires quarantining of people who may have been exposed to the virus.
    • Effective March 13, 2020.
  14. 3/12/20, Italy visa suspensionembassy notice
    • State Department suspends regular visa processing at the U.S. Embassy in Rome and Consulates General Milan, Naples, and Florence.
    • Effective March 12, 2020.
  15. 3/13/20, Public charge rule limitedUSCIS notice
    • USCIS announces it “will neither consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination… even if such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits.”
    • Effective March 13, 2020 or earlier
  16. 3/14/20, Britain and Ireland banPresidential Proclamation 9994
    • Bans entry of all noncitizens who were in Britain or Ireland in the last 14 days, except for LPRs, spouses of LPRs or U.S. citizens, unmarried children under 21, siblings under 21 of U.S. citizens or LPRs under 21, child of U.S. citizens or LPRs, crewmembers, government officials, or those exempted by State Department or DHS.
    • Requires quarantining of people who may have been exposed to the virus.
    • Effective March 16, 2020.
  17. 3/15/20, Sick removals suspended—ICE statement
    • ICE states it would stop deportations of anyone with a 100.4-degree fever.
    • Effective March 15, 2020 or earlier.
  18. 3/16/20, Britain and Ireland flight rulesfederal register notice
    • Requires flights carrying anyone who had been in Britain and Ireland in the last 14 days to land at one of 13 airports for screening.
    • Effective March 16, 2020.
  19. 3/17/20, ICE in-person check-ins cancelledICE letter to Congress
    • ICE suspends in-person check-ins by immigrants considered a “low priority” for removal and ICE would give newly released immigrants at the border 60 days to check-in rather than 30.
    • Effective March 17, 2020.
  20. 3/17/2020, Guatemala suspends asylum dealGuatemala government notice
    • Guatemala refuses to continue to accept asylum seekers from other countries.
    • Effective March 17, 2020.
  21. 3/17/20, Europe flight rulesfederal register notice
    • Requires flights carrying anyone who had been in the European Schengen Area in the last 14 days to land at one of 13 airports for screening.
    • Effective March 13, 2020.
  22. 3/17/20, Immigration court closuresEOIR statement
    • The Executive Office of Immigration Review postpones all hearings for non-detained immigrants and closed 10 additional courts.
    • Effective March 18, 2020.
  23. 3/17/20, USCIS in-person interviews suspendedUSCIS statement
    • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services suspends routine in-person services until at least April 1.
    • Effective March 18, 2020.
  24. 3/18/20, Worldwide visa suspensionState Department notice
    • State Department cancels routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments, effectively prohibiting new authorizations to travel to the United States. Only emergency appointments will be allowed.
    • Effective March 20, 2020.
  25. 3/18/20, ICE enforcement restrictionsICE statement
    • ICE suspends arrests of those who are not “public safety risks or individual subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds.” Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli has clarified that some non-priority arrests will still occur.
    • Effective March 18, 2020.
  26. 3/18/20, ICE removals limitedICE statement
    • ICE told CNN that it suspends removal flights to Italy, China, and South Korea indefinitely.
    • Effective March 18, 2020 or earlier
  27. 3/18/20, CBP Trusted Traveler closuresCBP statement
    • CBP closes operations at Trusted Traveler Program enrollment centers nationwide until at least May 1, 2020.
    • Effective March 19, 2020.
  28. 3/18/20, Refugee entry suspensionState Department announcement
    • All refugee resettlement pauses until at least April 6, 2020.
    • Effective March 19, 2020.
  29. 3/19/20, H-2 visas processedState Department Statements
    • The State Department resumed processing H-2A and H-2B visas, despite its suspension of most visa processing. It could be limited to returning workers who can have a visa interview waived.
    • Effective March 19, 2020 or earlier.
  30. 3/20/20, Voluntary returns of MexicansStatements
    • Border Patrol stops expedited removals of Mexicans—which trigger a permanent bar on reentry—and allows them to take voluntary removal to avoid any time in detention.
    • Effective March 20, 2020 or earlier.
  31. 3/20/20, Canada tourist banDHS statement
    • Bars all Canadian visa waiver program travelers for 30 days.
    • Effective March 21, 2020
  32. 3/20/20, Mexico tourist banDHS statement
    • Bars all Mexican tourists bars travelers for 30 days
    • Effective March 21, 2020
  33. 3/20/2020, Premium Processing For Worker Petitions SuspendedUSCIS Statement
    • USCIS stops granting premium (expedited) processing on I-140 permanent or I-129 temporary petitions by employers for foreign workers.
    • Effective March 20, 2020
  34. 3/20/20, Asylum seeker banDHS statement
    • Removes without any process anyone without documents detained along the southwest border to Mexico or to their home country.
    • Effective March 21, 2020.
  35. 3/20/2020, Limited U.S. Passport ProcessingState Department Statement
    • State Department only offers “in-person service at our agencies or centers for customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency”
    • Effective March 20, 2020
  36. 3/20/20, I-9 In-Person Document Check SuspensionICE statement
    • Waives the requirement to inspect employment ID documents in-person for 60 days but only for remote workers
    • Effective March 20, 2020
  37. 3/23/20, Varick Immigration Court Temporarily ClosedEOIR statement
    • Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) closes the Varick Street New York City immigration court after a case of COVID-19.
    • Effective March 24, 2020
  38. 3/23/20, MPP Hearings PostponedEOIR/DHS Statement
    • The Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) postpones all hearings for immigrants returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP).
    • Effective date March 23, 2020
  39. 3/24/20, Varick Immigration Court ReopenedStatement
    • Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) reopens the Varick Street New York City immigration court after a case of COVID-19 on March 23.
    • Effective March 25, 2020
  40. 3/24/20, Electronic Labor Certification ApprovalsDOL Statement
    • The Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it would issue PERM labor certification documents electronically through June 30.
    • Effective March 25, 2020
  41. 3/25/20, Elizabeth Immigration Court ClosedEOIR Statement
    • Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) closes the Elizabeth New Jersey immigration court after a case of COVID-19.
    • Effective March 26, 2020
  42. 3/26/2020, H-2A and H-2B Interview WaiversState Department Statement
    • Stops requiring visa interviews for returning and first time H-2A and H-2B visa applicants who have “no apparent ineligibility”
    • Effective March 26, 2020
  43. 3/30/2020, Biometric Re-Submission WaiversUSCIS Statement
    • Allows applicants for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization to submit renewal requests without needing to resubmit biometrics (which is impossible due to closed USCIS offices)
    • Effective March 30, 2020
  44. 3/27/2020, USCIS Request FlexibilityUSCIS Statement
    • Grants 60-day extensions to Requests for Evidence, Notice of Intent to Deny Notices of Intent to Revoke (NOIR) and Notices of Intent to Terminate, or appeals
    • Effective retroactive to March 1, 2020
  45. 4/1/2020, New Orleans and Conroe Temporary Immigration Court ClosuresEOIR Statements
    • The Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) closed the New Orleans and Conroe Immigration Courts for 1 day after COVID-19 exposures
    • Effective April 2, 2020
  46. 4/2/2020, H-2B Visa Expansion StoppedDHS Statement
    • DHS rescinds previously announced 35,000 additional H-2B visas for seasonal nonagricultural jobs on March 2, 2020.
    • Effective April 2, 2020
  47. 4/6/2020, Immigration Court Scanned Signatures AllowedEOIR Statement
    • Executive Office of Immigration Review announces it will accept scanned or electronically reproduced signatures for certain documents in immigration courts
    • Effective April 6, 2020
  48. 4/8/2020, Visas for Doctors AllowedState Department Statement
    • State Department announces it will still process visas for medical professionals
    • Effective April 8, 2020.
  49. 4/15/2020, H-2A Flexibility RulesTemporary Final Rule
    • New rule allows H-2A farmers to hire H-2A workers already in the United States as soon as the employer submits a petition and allow H-2A workers to exceed 3 years in the United States.
    • Effective April 16, 2020
  50. 4/22/2020, Legal Immigration SuspensionPresidential Proclamation
    • Suspends immigrant visas for new prospective permanent residents for at least 60 days with exceptions for existing immigrant visa holders, spouses and minor children of citizens, special immigrant visa applicants, EB-5 investors, and medical professionals or researchers.
    • Requires a review of nonimmigrant programs to assess potential changes. 
    • Effective April 23, 2020.

    Proposed Changes

    4/10/2020, H-2A Wage ChangeLeaks

    • The government is discussing ways to change how the H-2A farm worker wage is calculated.
    • Effective date uncertain