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COVID-19 and Travel Ban / Executive Order Information for Scholars and their Departments

What are Bechtel’s hours during the pandemic?

Bechtel is currently closed for traffic due to the shelter in place order. Individuals and department administrators with documents to pick up will be sent an email with instructions on how to arrange to have documents mailed.  If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach us via email at internationalscholars@stanford.edu.

 

International Travel

There is currently concern about international travel both from and to the US, related to the pandemic, US Consular Office closures, and Executive Orders. Note that Stanford University has rules about travel:  Please review Health Alerts. Additional information about travel and the Executive Order can be found below. If you still find your question unanswered, you can email internationalscholars@stanford.edu.

 

What does the Executive Order say?

*NOTE: The Executive Order has expired as of March 31, 2021 and is no longer in effect. H-1B holders with an I-797 Approval Notice may now apply for a visa entry stamp at US consulates abroad (as appointment availability allows) and travel to the US with a valid H-1B visa stamp. Please contact your local US consulate directly for instructions and further information* On Monday, June 22, 2020, Donald Trump signed an Executive Order barring the entry of H-1B applicants outside the U.S.,  and certain J-1 categories (intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program).  This proclamation will remain in effect until December 31, 2020, and certain government agencies can make recommendations for modifications within 30 days of June 24, 2020, and every 60 days thereafter until December 31, 2020.

 

What visa types are not affected by the Executive Order?

This Executive Order does not impact:

  • those who already have a valid H-1B visa stamp in their passport or
  • those who are already in the U.S, in H-1B status
  • those in the J Research Scholar and Short-Term Scholar category
  • F-1 students on or applying for OPT or STEM OPT
  • J-1 students on or applying for Academic Training

 

Can I still change status to H-1?

Nothing in the Order imposes new restrictions on individuals already present in the US. In other words, if you are seeking to change status within the U.S. to H-1B ( F-1 to H-1B, or J-1 to H-1B) or are porting (transferring) from one H-1B sponsor to another, you will not be impacted by this order.

 

What if I get a change of status to H-1, then go home and apply for an H-1 entry visa?

Unless you qualify for any of the National Interest Exceptions (see below), your application will be denied under the terms of the Executive Order, and you will not be able to reenter the US.

 

What if I already have a valid H-1 entry visa in my passport?

You should be admitted, but there may still be a risk of being denied entry.

 

Canadians are exempt from the entry visa requirement. How does this affect their ability to enter the US in H-1 status?

Canadian citizens are exempt from the need to apply for an entry visa in their passport in most cases. They still need any enabling documentation that is relevant to the status they seek on entry (DS-2019, I-797, I-20). According to US Customs and Border Protection, "local Ports of Entry" have been provided with guidance to allow Canadians to enter the US in the prohibited classifications, including H-1. Canadian permanent residents, including dependents, will continue to need an entry visa, and may be prohibited from entry, depending on the classification and whether it falls under the terms of the Executive Order. Note that at this time it's strongly suggested to limit travel from Canada to the US to flying. Canadians seeking to enter the US from countries affected by the COVID-related ban on travel continue to be subject to those prohibitions.

 

Are there any exemptions from the Executive Order?

Yes. There have been two U.S. Department of State announcements (July 15 and August 12) regarding the National Interest Exception (NIE). The first announcement specifies that J visa holders coming from the Schengen Area, the UK and Ireland are eligible to apply for the NIE. The second announcement specifies that  H1-B and J visa holders whose research benefits the national interest, can apply for the NIE, regardless of geographical location. National interest is broadly defined, but does not appear to be limited to COVID research alone, and may include humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security, including ongoing medical research in an area with a substantial public health benefit (e.g. cancer or communicable disease research).

Additional exception criteria for H-1B holders include:

  • Travel as a public health or healthcare professional, or researcher to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, or to conduct ongoing medical research in an area with a substantial public health benefit (e.g. cancer or communicable disease research)
  • Travel by scholars seeking to resume ongoing employment in the United States in the same position with the same employer and visa classification
  • Travel by technical specialists, senior level managers, and other workers whose travel is necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.  Consular officers may determine that an H-1B applicant falls into this category when at least two of the following five indicators are present:
  1. The petitioning employer has a continued need for the services or labor to be performed by the H-1B nonimmigrant in the United States. Labor Condition Application, or LCA, was approved during or after July 2020 (unless the scholar is currently performing or is able to perform the essential functions of the position remotely from outside the United States). 
  2. The individual will provide significant and unique contributions to an employer meeting a critical infrastructure need (including healthcare and public health).
    • Must show senior level placement within the petitioning organization, OR
    • the individual will provide significant and unique contributions to the petitioning company.
  3. The wage rate paid to the H-1B applicant meaningfully exceeds the prevailing wage rate by at least 15 percent. 
  4. The H-1B applicant’s education, training and/or experience demonstrate unusual expertise in the specialty occupation in which the applicant will be employed.
  5. Denial of the visa pursuant to P.P. 10052 will cause financial hardship to the U.S. employer.

More details regarding the exceptions can be found on the Department of State website.

We continue to advise scholars not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary, as there is no guarantee that they will be able to get a visa stamp and re-enter the US, even if they fall under the criteria for an exception. US consulates/embassies around the world remain slow to reopen with very limited visa appointments.

If a scholar/employee chooses to travel or a new H-1B outside the US meets the criteria for an exception, they need to contact their local US embassy/consulate for instructions on how to request an emergency visa appointment.

 

Does the Executive Order state that green cards will be affected in the future?

At this time the only areas affected are those discussed elsewhere on this page. Any further proposals to change the immigration system more fundamentally would require extensive regulatory changes, including a notice and comment period.

 

How do I apply for the National Interest Exception?

Applicants should contact their local U.S. embassy (we recommend embassy not consulate), usually by email, regarding application procedures. Most likely, the applicant will be asked to submit a letter of support from their Stanford faculty sponsor, along with other documents. If you need a sample of the letter, please email us at internationalscholars@stanford.edu. Please note that the NIE issued by most U.S. embassies or consulates is valid for 30 days only. This means that the visitor must enter the U.S. within 30 days of the date of issuance of the NIE.

 

Which countries of origin are prohibited from sending travelers to the US?

See this page from the Centers for Disease Control. Note that it is the origin of the flight, not the nationality of the traveler, that determines the prohibition.

 

Can I travel to a third country, and then fly to the US as a way to avoid the COVID travel ban?

You can try this strategy if you choose to. Note that the Department of Homeland Security has access to airline manifests and other information that may reveal your prior travel. People attempting to enter the US after spending 14 days in a third country have been denied entry to the US.

 

Are US consulates closed?

Information about consulate closures may be found here.

 

Information for H-1B Employees who are telecommuting (if you are telecommuting from an address not noted on your LCA and I-129):

Department of Labor rules allow H-1B employees to telecommute from within an area defined by the “normal commute distance.” It is not necessary to determine whether an H-1B employee lives in a particular county. Stanford H-1B employees who live within normal commuting distance of Stanford and who need to telecommute during this time do not need to calculate the number of days spent at their home office.

H-1B telecommuters need to do the following:

  1. Complete the appropriate telecommuting agreement form, depending upon whether they are postdocs or staff,
  2. Post two copies of their LCA in two separate locations in their home for ten days,
  3. Return the notice of posting to their administrator after the ten-day period. Administrators should scan and send the completed notices to internationalscholars@stanford.edu.


If an H-1B employee continues to telecommute after receiving an extension or amendment to their current H-1B status (and their telecommuting address was not included in the new petition), they are required to repeat the LCA posting confirmation steps within 30 days of their new approved period.

H-1B employees who are telecommuting outside of the "normal commute distance" (SF Bay Area) but within the United States are limited to working at that location for no more than 60 (cumulative) business days in a calendar year. The H-1B employee is required to document and track this time.

Once the 60 day limit has been reached, the H-1B employee is no longer eligible to continue working from that location. If the H-1B employee intends to telecommute from this location beyond the 60 day limit, an amendment will need to be filed to add the telecommuting address. An amendment requires a new workflow transaction, new packet of documents, and new checks (except for the $500 anti-fraud fee). Processing time for an amendment is the same as any other request. The H-1B employee may not continue working until the receipt notice has been received and the requested start date of the amended petition is current.

 

Is Bechtel still processing visa documents?

Bechtel International Center continues to process employment visa petitions and to issue DS-2019 forms. Please use Axess Workflow to place these requests as usual. Please note that Stacey F. Bent, Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs, and Kathryn Moler, Vice Provost and Dean of Research have extended restrictions on new appointments of Visiting Student Researchers, Visiting Postdoctoral Scholars and Visiting Scholars until at least September 1, 2021.

 

Where can I get information about Stanford visa procedures?

See our web page on the various visa types.

 

Updated 4/2/2021