COVID-19 and Border Restrictions

COVID-19 Legal Updates COVID-19 and Border Restrictions Juan Zuniga · COVID-19 and Border Restrictions Mariana Acedo · March 30, 2020

As of March 21, 2020, various temporary restrictions affecting US borders and ports of entry have gone into effect. These travel bans were put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 while trying to cause as little damage to the economy as possible.

There are three categories of travel restriction currently in place; restrictions on entry into the U.S. from our shared borders with Canada and Mexico; the suspension of general visa services at U.S. consular offices abroad; and general restrictions of incoming foreign travelers from various countries.

US Border Restrictions Regarding Mexico and Canada

The United States will limit inbound land border crossings from Canada and Mexico to “essential travel”.

Essential travel does NOT include:

  • “Individuals traveling for tourism purposes, such as sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events in the United States.”

“Essential travel” is defined as:

  • U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents returning home
  • Individuals traveling for medical purposes
  • Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions
  • Individuals traveling to work in the U.S.
  • Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes
  • Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade
  • Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel
  • Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations

These restrictions will be in place until April 20, 2020. However, the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly developing. Therefore the travel bans may stay in place longer than anticipated.

Ban on Incoming Travelers

Foreign travelers who have visited any of these countries in the past 14 days may not enter the U.S.:

  • China
  • Iran
  • United Kingdom
  • Republic of Ireland
  • 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)

Suspension of General Visa Services:

  • The State Department is suspending all routine visa services at US Embassies and Consulates. All routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments will be canceled as of March 20, 2020. As resources allow, emergency and mission-critical visas will be processed.
  • This does not affect the visa waiver program.
  • Applicants with an urgent matter who must travel immediately should follow the instructions provided at the Embassy’s website to request an emergency appointment.

For more information regarding these travel restrictions go to:



Juan E. Zúñiga is an international transactions attorney who has worked on cross-border deals throughout the United States, Latin America and in over 60 other countries. His practice is focused on buying and selling real estate, resort and hospitality transactions, mergers & acquisitions, overseas distribution agreements, international joint ventures, foreign trade and commerce, workouts of distressed assets, lending and investment issues. He has been particularly sought out for his handling of cross-border transactions, especially in Latin America. In this work, he represents American clients in their investments in overseas properties and in establishing subsidiary operations internationally. Additionally, he represents foreign clients in their investments in the United States. Read more about Juan here.

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