US Immigration and COVID-19

UPDATE: Read Our Latest Post About President Trump’s Immigration Proclamation issued on April 22, 2020 here.

The United States immigration system is primarily divided among three separate federal departments, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and the Department of Justice, with each department handling specific aspects of immigration. In certain employment-based immigration matters the Department of Labor is also involved, so we have included updates regarding announcements and changes from the DOL on our Employer Responsibilities page. To that end we have separated below the relevant announcements and guidance issued by each department below for your ease of reference:

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) is the primary government department that handles U.S. immigration matters. Within the department there are three main agencies pertaining to immigration: the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), which handles most immigration related petitions and applications; Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), which is responsible for regulating the border; and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”),  which is responsible for the enforcement of immigration laws and regulations. Because each agency is responsible for different aspects affecting immigration, we have separated the issues below based on the relevant agency.

UPDATE: DHS Delays REAL ID enforcement until October 1, 2021


For individuals who entered the United States on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) or the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) that are unable to depart the U.S. within the initially allowed ninety (90) days due to COVID-19, you may apply for additional time to depart the U.S. (known as “Satisfactory Departure”) in thirty (30) day increments. For additional information see our article about Satisfactory Departure, here.

Restriction to essential travel (see exemptions below) only at U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada land crossings:

Exemptions for land crossing restrictions:

  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
  • Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States);
  • Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;
  • Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Canada in furtherance of such work);
  • Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support Federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies);
  • Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Canada);
  • Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and
  • Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.

Restrictions on Travelers who have Entered Specific Areas within 14 Days of their Application for Admission:

Exemptions for Travel Bans:

  • A lawful permanent resident of the United States
  • A spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • A parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • A sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • A child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • An alien traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
  • C (transit) or D (air or sea crewmember) nonimmigrants
  • Seeking entry into or transiting the United States pursuant to an A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 visa;
  • An alien whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the virus, as determined by the CDC Director, or his designee;
  • An alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee; or
  • An alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.

U.S. Airports Currently Accepting International Flights Carrying Passengers Within the Scope of the Travel Bans:

  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), California
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
  • Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
  • Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), Michigan
  • Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts
  • Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida


In addition to its primary enforcement role, ICE is also responsible for administering  the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which contains the information of all F, J, and M status holders in the U.S.

ICE Issues Guidance Regarding Flexibility for I-9 Compliance

Department of State (DOS)

The U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) is responsible for processing certain immigration applications made abroad, as well as the issuance of U.S. visas to foreign nationals at the U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad. Updates regarding consular services, such as visa processing, embassy and consulate closures, and travel advisories can be found below:

State Department Travel Advisory, Level 4 (Do Not Travel) for All Countries

State Department Suspends Routine Visa Services at All Consulates and Embassies

Department of Justice (DOJ)

The U.S. Immigration Courts, and certain appellate bodies such as the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”),  are found within the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”), specifically they are a part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”). Updates here strictly pertain to the immigration courts, most notably closures, and announced changes to court procedures due to COVID-19.

EOIR updates can be found here.

For more information on U.S. immigration  policies, please call The Dworsky Law Firm at (847) 441-4188 or visit our website at

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