How Does The Ebola Outbreak Affect US Immigration?

Ebola VirusEbola has caused quite the scare in recent weeks, with several cases being reported in the United States, with the most recent victim being in New York City. The situation is serious, with over 4,800 deaths to date. If you’re in any of the key affected areas of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone or Nigeria, you may be wondering if and how this affects you as a current or future immigrant.

Here’s some of the latest at the time of this writing:

You may qualify for relief measures if you are an affected national currently in the US

On August 15, 2014, the USCIS announced relief measures that affect current nationals from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia who are in the US. Of course, we don’t want to force you back to a disaster zone, so this outbreak qualifies as a “special situation“. Some of these relief measures include possible change or extension of nonimmigrant status or even consideration of fees being waived, to name a few. To see all of the measures, go here.

Ebola Infographic
Source: CDC

You may be subject to enhanced screening if you’re traveling from the affected area.

Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that all travelers from the affected countries would be subject to “enhanced screening“, and be funneled to one of five airports to get through customs. 

The enhanced screening consists of simply answering some questions and getting your temperature checked. This method for screening was used for the recently affected Ebola patient in New York, although it unfortunately didn’t work as intended.

You may be subject to quarantine.

An Obama administration official stated that the US is considering implementing a mandatory quarantine for all healthcare workers returning from West Africa. At the time of this post, it is just being considered, and not active. If implemented, it could eventually affect other travelers from West Africa.

At the time of this post, there is no travel ban.

Although many countries have implemented travel bans and suspension of visa applications from nationals of the affected areas, so far, the United States has not. President Obama’s position is that a travel ban would make things worse.

“Trying to seal off an entire region of the world – if that were even possible – could actually make the situation worse.” -President Obama

Legislation is being introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to implement a temporary visa ban on the affected countries, although it probably won’t pass the Senate. So at least for now, there is no need to fear that any future or current visa applications would be affected negatively. Of course, that could change at any moment, and if and when that does, we will update this post and post those updates in a new post.


For more information about the Ebola Virus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s post.

Disclaimer: The information herein is not intended as legal advice and is provided for general information only.Questions involving interpretation of specific U.S. laws should be addressed to an attorney and/or government officials.

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