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Coronavirus Crisis: Impact Of COVID-19 On Sports Immigration

It seems like a decade has gone by in the immigration world during the last two weeks! Per my article of March 16 in the following link, foreign athletes and their support personnel have been dramatically impacted by policy changes that have taken place over a wide range of immigration issues.

TRAVEL BAN: The Travel Ban currently bans the entry of non-U.S. citizens who are from or have recently been in China, Iran, or certain European countries per the DHS link below. Notably, American citizens, legal permanent residents, and their immediate families are exempt but if arriving from an impacted area, they must travel through one of 13 airports where DHS has established enhanced entry screening capabilities. All American citizens, legal permanent residents, and their immediate families who are returning from the impacted area must self-quarantine for 14 days after their arrival.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL: The ever-changing landscape of worldwide travel restrictions can be confusing as many foreign governments are restricting entry into their respective countries due to COVID-19. You can find more information about each travel restriction (by country) via the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This website provides specific details regarding international travel requirements worldwide due to COVID-19.

PLAYERS ON ESTA (VISA WAIVER) ADMISSIONS: The ESTA (VWP) ADMISSION is generally valid for 90 days. No routine extensions or changes of status are permitted. However, as I stated in my original article, there is an emergency extension permitted for an additional 30 days under the regulations. This process is evolving and parties needing this extraordinary assistance should contact their closest CBP deferred inspection site as listed below.

CONSULAR VISA APPOINTMENTS: In response to worldwide challenges related to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Department of State has suspended routine visa services in most countries worldwide. Embassies and consulates in these countries cancelled all routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments as of March 18, 2020. You should check the website of the individual embassy or consulate for its current operating status. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide urgent and emergency visa services.

A link to information on consulate specific information on closures can be found at:

PREMIUM PROCESSING OF VISA PETITIONS: Effective March 20, 2020, USCIS suspended the 15 day premium processing option for adjudication of I-129 and I-140 visa petitions used by professional athletes, among others, for O and P visa petitions as well as immigrant petitions for green cards.

60-DAY EXTENSION OF PERIOD OF TIME TO RESPOND TO REQUESTS FOR EVIDENCE AND NOTICES OF INTENT TO DENY VISA PETITIONS: On March 27, USCIS announced that it would allow a 60-day grace period beyond response due dates for Requests for Evidence (RFE) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID).

USCIS ALLOWS COPIES OF ORIGINAL SIGNATURES ON FORMS: On March 20, 2020, USCIS announced that the agency will accept all benefit forms and documents with reproduced original signatures, including the Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker, for submissions dated March 21, 2020, and beyond.

CLOSURE OF USCIS PUBLIC FACING OFFICES: Effective March 18, USCIS suspended in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices and Application Support Centers (ASCs) to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

As stated above, this information is subject to change and individuals, tours, leagues, teams and sponsors should verify with counsel before relying on this advice.

*Steven M. Ladik is past President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and represents numerous professional golfers on the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR. He also serves as the outside Immigration Counsel to the National Football League. He is a Partner at Seltzer Chadwick Soefje & Ladik, PLLC.

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