International athletes exempt from US travel ban

The US Government has announced that certain foreign professional athletes are exempt from the US’ current COVID-19 travel restrictions.

In an order dated May 22, 2020, signed by the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf, individuals who compete in professional sporting events organized by certain leagues will not be subject to the proclamations barring entry into the US.

Under the current US entry restrictions, people traveling to the US who are without a valid immigrant visa or an official travel document are not permitted entry for 60 days from April 23, 2020, the effective start of the suspension.

The order is intended to allow non-US national athletes to return to the country to resume professional activity and compete in US sporting leagues as the US Government moves to reopen the economy and restart competitive sports.

The exemption also extends to the athletes’ spouses, dependents and professional staff and team.

According to Wolf, the DHS is currently working with professional sporting groups in the US including the Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the Women’s National Basketball Association, the Professional Golfers’ Association Tour, the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, the National Hockey League, the Association of Tennis Professionals, and the Women’s Tennis Association, to identify the specific athletes, essential staff, team and league leadership, spouses, and dependents covered by this exemption.

Qualifying individuals remain subject to all other immigration and agency requirements, including Customs and Border Protection inspections.

While further easing of COVID-19 restrictions are expected as the US Government moves to reopen the country’s economy, the exemption remains subject to change in the interests of national health as the Department responds to changes in the public health guidance.

US immigration advice

NNU Immigration is actively monitoring the impact of the pandemic on US immigration policy and application processing.

As the situation continues to develop, please contact our US immigration specialists for the latest advice for your specific circumstances.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

Last updated: 24 May 2020