Eligibility for Overcoming J-1 Travel Ban

National Interest Exceptions: Eligibility for Overcoming J-1 Travel Ban

Earlier this year, President Trump signed a presidential proclamation suspending entry to the U.S. of certain immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants based on their “risk to the U.S. labor market” due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

The Department of State has clarified some exceptions to the rule, allowing travel by applicants seeking to resume ongoing employment in the United States in the same position with the same employer and visa classification. The update states “forcing employers to replace employees in this situation may cause financial hardship.”

As we previously reported, the orders do not apply to:

  • Applicants in the United States on the effective date
  • Those with valid visas at the time of the effective date
  • Individuals with other official travel documents valid on the effective date
  • Spouses and children of the individuals above

The proclamation also allows travel for:

  • Public health or healthcare professionals and researchers entering to alleviate the effects of COVID-19 pandemic or in areas not directly related, but has been adversely impacted by the pandemic
  • Individuals invited to meet U.S. foreign policy objectives, satisfy treaty or contractual obligations with a U.S. government agency

Overcoming the J-1 Ban

Additionally, the proclamations included exceptions for individuals whose entry would be in the national interest. The Department of State recently allowed for the following types of travel for J-1 visa applicants:

  • Provide care for a minor U.S. citizen, LPR, or nonimmigrant in lawful status by an au pair possessing special skills required for a child with particular needs
    • Medical needs, special education, sign language, etc.
  • An au pair that prevents a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or other nonimmigrant in lawful status from becoming a public health charge or ward of the state of a medical or other public-funded institution.
  • Childcare services provided for a child whose parents are involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 or medical research at United States facilities to help the United States combat COVID-19.
  • An exchange program conducted pursuant to an MOU, Statement of Intent, or other valid agreement or arrangement between a foreign government and any federal, state, or local government entity in the United States that is designed to promote U.S. national interests.
    • Agreement or arrangement with the foreign government must have been in effect prior to the effective date of Proclamation
  • Interns and Trainees on U.S. government agency-sponsored programs (those with a program number beginning with “G-3” on Form DS-2019)
    • An exchange visitor participating in an exchange visitor program in which he or she will be hosted by a U.S. government agency and the program supports the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.
  • Specialized Teachers in Accredited Educational Institutions with a program number beginning with “G-5” on Form DS-2019
    • An exchange visitor participating in an exchange program in which he or she will teach full-time, including a substantial portion that is in person, in a publicly or privately operated primary or secondary accredited educational institution where the applicant demonstrates ability to make a specialized contribution to the education of students in the United States.  
    • A “specialized teacher” applicant must demonstrate native or near-native foreign language proficiency and the ability to teach his/her assigned subject(s) in that language.
  • Critical foreign policy objectives: This only includes programs where an exchange visitor participating in an exchange program that fulfills critical and time-sensitive foreign policy objectives.

Additional Resources

Next Steps

It will be at the consular officer’s discretion as to whether visa applicants meet the criteria above. Visa appointments will be limited as embassies and consulates begin to reopen. Applicants and employers should consult with their attorneys to prepare a package of strong evidence before scheduling an appointment.

Contact us at info@challalaw.com to schedule a time to discuss whether your critical employees are eligible for an exception to the travel ban.