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U.S. Travel Ban Exemption for Professional Athletes Announced

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump issued a series of proclamations prohibiting the entry of all aliens who were physically present in China, Iran, the Schengen Area (comprised of 29 European countries), the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland during the 14-day period prior to their entry or attempted entry to the U.S. 

On May 22, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting secretary, Chad Wolf, signed an order exempting certain foreign-born professional athletes from the travel restrictions imposed by the president’s proclamations under their “national interest” exemption. That exemption provides that the proclamations shall not apply to “any alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.”

According to the order, the entry of foreign-born professional athletes is in the national interest, because professional sports provide powerful benefits to the U.S. economy through advertising, broadcasting, hospital, and food service revenue. Professional sporting events also contribute to the civic pride and national unity of the country. 

Due to the benefits professional sports provide to the U.S. economy, the exception allows alien professional athletes who compete in events organized by certain groups, including Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the Professional Golfers’ Association, the National Hockey League, the Association of Tennis Professionals and the Women’s Tennis Association, along with their spouses and dependents to enter the U.S. even if they have been in one of the prohibited countries within the 14 days prior to their entry. The exemption also applies to alien professional staff and team and league leadership who are required to hold professional sporting events. 

All individuals entering the U.S. under this exemption must enter through one of 13 specified airports and undergo Customs and Border Protection inspection and an enhanced medical entry screening. Following entry, individuals must self-quarantine for 14 days per CDC guidelines. The self-quarantine requirement may impact some foreign professional athletes’ decision to participate in U.S. sporting events being held in the coming weeks and months. 

If you have questions about entering the U.S. under the foreign-born professional athlete exemption, be sure to contact Berardi Immigration Law to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys today!