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COVID-19: Current Travel Restrictions and

Quarantine Measures

Updated March 17, 2020
The United States, along with many countries, is responding to an outbreak of a respiratory disease, now
referred to as COVID-19, which is caused by a novel coronavirus first detected in mainland China's
Hubei Province in late 2019. Cases of COVID-19 have now been detected in several countries, including
the United States.
To date, the federal government has taken two key actions to deter persons with suspected COVID- 19
infection from entering the country or spreading the virus to persons within the United States. First, the
federal government has restricted the entry of many non-U.S. nationals (aliens) who recently have been
physically present in mainland China, Iran, or much of Europe. Second, the federal government has
imposed a quarantine requirement on all persons entering the United States, regardless of citizenship
status, who have recently been to those areas. This Legal Sidebar examines the legal authorities
underlying these actions, as well as possible legal challenges to their use.

Entry Restrictions
To deter the entry of aliens into the United States who may have been exposed to COVID- 19, President
Trump has invoked his authority over alien entry under Section 212(t) of the Immigration and Nationality
Act (INA). That provision allows the President to suspend the entry of all aliens, or any class of aliens
whose entry he finds ... would be detrimental to the interests of the United States. Under this authority,
President Trump has issued several proclamations to restrict the entry of aliens who were recently present
in countries affected by COVID- 19. A Proclamation on January 31, 2020, generally suspended the entry
of any foreign national who had been in mainland China at some point within the prior 14 days. But
lawful permanent residents (LPRs), most immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and LPRs, and some other
groups, such as some airplane and ship crew members, are exempted from this restriction, as are those
with prior presence in Hong Kong or Macau. On February 29, 2020, President Trump issued a second
Proclamation that similarly suspends the entry of any foreign national who has been in Iran within the
prior 14 days, in addition to making minor amendments to the earlier Proclamation. In March 2020,
President Trump issued two Proclmnations imposing the same restrictions on foreign nationals who have
been in the Schengen Area of the European Union, Ireland, or the United Kingdom within the prior 14

                                                                Congressional Research Service

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