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U.S. Travel Guidance Update

Tristan North - Mar 24 2020
Published in: Public Policy
The U.S. State Department is advising U.S. citizens against international travel and is only expediting the processing of passports for emergency trips, as Canada, Mexico and U.S. close their common borders to non-essential travel. 

International Travel Advisory

The U.S. State Department has issued a “Global Health Level 4 Advisory – Do Not Travel” for U.S. citizens in regard to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The State Department recommends U.S. citizens to not travel outside of the United States. Level 4 is the highest level of health travel caution. Department did not specify an amount of time for the Advisory.

For U.S. citizens who reside outside the U.S., the State Department recommends they also avoid international travel. For U.S. citizens who reside in the U.S. but are traveling outside of the country, the Department advises them to return to the U.S. or expect to remain in their present country for an indefinite period.

According to a spokesperson for the State Department, over 13,500 citizens have requested assistance returning to the U.S. as countries close their borders and commercial flights no longer are an option. The Department is advising travelers to sign up for the Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive updates on repatriation efforts for particular countries.

Issuing of Passports

The State Department has also posted a notice that passport agencies are issuing and renewing passports only for individuals traveling outside of the U.S. within 72 hours of their departure and for “life-or-death emergencies” which includes serious medical reasons or the death of a family member. Expedited passport services will not be available to all other applicants. For those individuals who submitted an application prior to 20 March for an expedited passport, agencies will fulfill the request within the 2- to 3-week expedited period.

Passport agencies will still process non-expedited passport applications but have stated there may be a delay in processing the requests.

U.S. Borders with Canada and Mexico

As of 21 March, the border between the U.S. and Canada and the U.S. and Mexico are closed to non-essential travel. The agreements reached between the U.S. and the Canadian and Mexican governments closes the borders through 20 April but could be extended.

Essential travel and commerce are not impacted by the agreement with the suspension applying to travel for tourism and recreation. The three governments don’t have a more precise definition of essential travel and tend to leave the decision to the individual to determine if their travel is essential.

How This Impacts Mobility

The stronger restrictions placed on the freedom of movement, which are necessary to contain the coronavirus, have a direct impact on the ability of organizations to relocate employees as well as a negative financial impact on the entire workforce mobility industry. The latest restrictions further expand that impact as well as the ability of transferees and mobility professionals to travel for business as well as visiting family and friends.