As the global pandemic known as COVID-19 continues to restrict travel for the global community, when and how you can travel outside the borders of your country remains of paramount interest. In this regard, the Law Offices of Nicolas Flachet von Campe from Paris and Wong Fleming from the United States have highlighted the following information about some noteworthy restrictions for travelers in both France and the USA.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared that the coronavirus was a global health emergency. In an effort to decrease the spread of the virus, travel has been restricted by governmental entities and businesses around the world, and social distancing measures have been put in place by virtually every single country’s public health agency, including the US government’s Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”).
COVID-19 RESPONSE BY FRANCE
On March 18, 2020, the Prime Minister of France appeared to implement sweeping regulations prohibiting access to French territory to all foreign nationals from: 1) countries that are not members of the European Union; 2) the Schengen area; and 3) the United Kingdom who do not have an essential reason to go to Europe and France. These regulations have been further extended in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 in France: 1) until May 11, 2020 with regard to the internal borders of the European area; and 2) until further order or specific decision by the EU with regard to external borders and entry into overseas communities.
But France has pockmarked its travel ban with a handful of exceptions, such as: 1) European citizens and British, Icelandic, Liechtenstein, Norwegian, Andorran, Monegasque, Swiss nationals, as well as their spouses and children; 2) citizens of the Vatican and San Marino, as well as their spouses and children; 3) foreigners holding a French and European residence permit who return to their home, as well as their spouses and children; 4) foreigners involved in the international transport of goods; 5) foreign health professionals participating in the fight against the spread of COVID-19; and 6) foreigners whose declining health justifies immediate medical care.
COVID-19 RESPONSE BY THE UNITED STATES
On March 11, 2020, the President of the United States determined that the potential for widespread transmission of the coronavirus by infected individuals seeking to enter the United States threatened the security of the homeland. The President issued Proclamations 9984, 9992, and 9993, which suspend entry to nearly all foreign nationals who have been in China, Iran, and certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled travel to the U.S.
This sweeping ban applies to those traveling from the 26 European countries that form the so-called Schengen Area, where there are no passport checks between internal borders. The nations are: 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 and Switzerland.
Most people who have been in these countries in the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival in the United States will not be allowed into the United States. This two-week quarantine further prevents those affected to do an end-run around this travel ban by changing flights in a non-European airport.
However, like the travel ban in France, America’s travel ban is likewise pockmarked with loopholes. The ban does not apply to U.S citizens and legal permanent residents of the U.S., and in most cases, it does not apply to immediate family members of American citizens. Furthermore, countries in Europe that are not part of the Schengen area are excluded from the ban. These include Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania. These loopholes suggest that the virus recognizes international borders, when it clearly does not according to medical science.
On March 13, 2020, the President of the United States proclaimed that the COVID-19 outbreak constituted a national emergency. The President also announced that the United States, Canada, and Mexico had closed their borders to nonessential travel. Furthermore, the State Department issued a Global Level 4 Health Advisory – “Do Not Travel,” recommending United States citizens avoid global travel and advised that the United States has closed its borders to such travel by international visitors.
On March 14, 2020, President Trump extended the March 11 European Travel Ban to include the United Kingdom and Ireland.
EFFECT ON FRENCH CITIZENS AND LEGAL PERMANENT RESIDENTS
The regulations from the French Prime Minister will not affect French citizens, legal permanent residents of France, and spouses and children of citizens and legal permanent residents. The regulations are in place to prevent foreign nationals from traveling to France and potentially spreading the coronavirus to France.
French citizens and legal permanent residents returning to France should keep in mind that their international travel nevertheless remains restricted. Travelers returning on government-provided evacuation flights are placed in quarantine. The government of France advises other travelers returning from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, South Korea or the Italian regions of Emilie-Romagne Lombardy and Veneto to monitor their temperatures twice daily for 14 days, wear a surgical mask when they are with others or outside their home, stay away from individuals with compromised health, and reduce non-essential activities that would expose them to crowds.
EFFECT ON AMERICAN CITIZENS AND LEGAL PERMANENT RESIDENTS
As stated above, the travel bans and the State Department guidelines will not affect U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents of the U.S. from returning to the U.S. Like the regulations in France, they are in place to prevent foreigners from traveling to the U.S. and to limit the number of U.S. residents from traveling abroad.
Americans returning from the affected countries are required to travel through one of 13 airports. Upon arrival, travelers will proceed to standard customs processing. They will then continue to an enhanced entry screening where the passenger will be asked about their medical history, current condition, and asked for contact information for local health authorities. Additionally, some passengers will have their temperature taken.
After the enhanced entry screening is complete, passengers will be given written guidance about COVID-19 and be allowed to proceed to their final destination.
Once home, individuals must immediately self-quarantine in their home and monitor their health in accordance with CDC best practices.
In order to ensure compliance, local and State public health officials will contact individuals in the days and weeks following their arrival.
OUTLOOK FOR THE REST OF 2020 IN FRANCE AND THE USA
Those looking to travel to Europe from America this summer and fall will need to rearrange their plans. While the U.S. President has not formally banned travel to Europe, the State Department’s guidelines are heavily suggesting that there is a de facto ban, recommending against such travel unless absolutely essential. However, as other countries and regions around the world begin to reach their plateau of COVID-19 infections and hit the downside of the pandemic curve, the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths nevertheless continue to increase in the United States. It is quite possible that some countries will place similar restrictions on U.S. citizens from entering their countries for this reason.
Moving forward, aside from the exemptions made above, traveling into or out of Europe could be prohibited or strongly discouraged until September, if not longer. During a video conference, the President of France raised the prospect of closing the borders of the Schengen area until September. While the pandemic in France seems to have hopefully plateaued, such a prognosis remains to be seen, and this is entirely dependent on the continued implementation of strict social distancing measures both in France and throughout the world.
With respect to entry into the USA in the near future, those nationals from the Schengen Region of Europe, as well as nationals from the U.K. and Ireland, should make other plans. With the travel ban already in place, and the predictions from top health experts of a second wave of infections this fall that may be worse than the current wave of infections, it would not be surprising if the U.S. government extended the ban through the rest of 2020.
About Nicolas Flachet von Campe
Nicolas Flachet von Campe is an attorney based in Paris. Since 1991, he has maintained a national and transnational platform for his practice. He has worked in Miami and London and he lectures in the UK, Egypt and Romania. His focuses his practice on Commercial Law, Corporate Asset Recovery, Creditors’ Rights and Bankruptcy, Employment and Labor Law, Immigration and Real Estate.
About Wong Fleming
Wong Fleming is a nationally recognized, AV-Rated law firm that represents Fortune 500 companies and other corporate clients in the areas of Commercial Law, Corporate Asset Recovery, Creditors’ Rights and Bankruptcy, Employment and Labor Law, Environmental, Insurance Defense and Coverage, Intellectual Property, Immigration, Real Estate, and Premises and Product Liability. The firm maintains offices in the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, California, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Florida, Texas, Washington, Canada, Mexico, and Germany.