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Travel During COVID – How Do I Get My Critical Employees Into the US?

May 27, 2021

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause major challenges to international travel, deeply impacting Automotive and Manufacturing employers’ ability to move their global workforce to where they are needed. Far-reaching travel bans continue to expand in scope, presenting new challenges to global businesses reliant on foreign labor.

As of today, non-US citizens who are physically present in any of the following countries during the 14-day period preceding their entry are prohibited from entering the US: Brazil, China, the European Schengen Area, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

However, your employees may fall under an exception.  The travel bans do not impact the following individuals:

  • U.S. citizens;
  • U.S. lawful permanent residents;
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents;
  • A foreign national who has an unmarried U.S. citizen child under the age of 21; and
  • Those granted National Interest Exceptions.

National Interest Exceptions

National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) allow a person otherwise subject to a travel ban to bypass it. NIEs are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Persons who provide vital support to a critical infrastructure sector, need to be physically present in the US to perform duties, and support the retention of US jobs, may qualify for an NIE.

Automotive industry companies have successfully argued they fall under the Critical Infrastructure Sector of “Transportation Systems.”  Likewise, “Critical Manufacturing” is also a recognized sector.  The full list of sectors can be found on the US Department of State website.

The process for obtaining an NIE can be confusing and varies based on the consulate or port of entry.  If you would like assistance with applying for an NIE, please contact your Clark Hill immigration counsel.

Other Options:

  • Travel to a third country not subject to travel restrictions, for the 14 days prior to attempting to enter the US; or
  • Remote employment

Currently, there are no expiration dates on the travel bans. They remain in place until further notice.

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