The US government suspended travel from Europe to US, except for countries which are not in the Schengen area such as the UK and Ireland.

Many comments from EU leader seem to assume that this is a political decision rather than a health-based decision, especially with regard to this exception.

Is there any official rationale for this exception?

  • 4
    Is the immigration tag appropriate? This question covers people going on holiday or attending business meetings much more so that those migrating.
    – Jontia
    Mar 13, 2020 at 14:48
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    I have removed the immigration tag since it is clearly a travel ban not related to immigration.
    – Alexei
    Mar 13, 2020 at 14:57
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    @Jontia even visitors and other travelers who are not migrating pass through immigration control. This sense of the word does not seem to fall under the definition of the immigration tag here at Politics, however.
    – phoog
    Mar 13, 2020 at 15:23
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    @Alexei permanent residents of the US are also excluded from the ban (Section 2(a)(i)). I'm just pointing out that someone with an immigrant visa who hasn't yet reached the US is not yet a permanent resident and therefore would not benefit from that exclusion. Therefore, there is in fact an effect on US immigration (in the sense of the tag).
    – phoog
    Mar 13, 2020 at 16:00
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    Today the travel ban was extended to the UK.
    – Barmar
    Mar 14, 2020 at 20:04

1 Answer 1


The official rationale, according to Trump's presidential proclamation, is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could become overwhelmed "if sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus occurred in the United States on a large scale". It continues:

The World Health Organization has determined that multiple countries within the Schengen Area are experiencing sustained person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2.


The Schengen Area currently has the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of the People’s Republic of China. As of March 11, 2020, the number of cases in the 26 Schengen Area countries is 17,442, with 711 deaths, and shows high continuous growth in infection rates. In total, as of March 9, 2020, the Schengen Area has exported 201 COVID-19 cases to 53 countries. Moreover, the free flow of people between the Schengen Area countries makes the task of managing the spread of the virus difficult.

The United States Government is unable to effectively evaluate and monitor all of the travelers continuing to arrive from the Schengen Area. The potential for undetected transmission of the virus by infected individuals seeking to enter the United States from the Schengen Area threatens the security of our transportation system and infrastructure and the national security. Given the importance of protecting persons within the United States from the threat of this harmful communicable disease, I have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

The reasoning exposed in the proclamation, then, is that due to the lack of travel restrictions between Schengen countries, it is far harder to manage the spread of the disease by controlling inter-Schengen migration. This factor is attributed by the proclamation as the main cause of community spread throughout the 26 member countries, and even goes as far as to tacitly blame the international spread of the disease on the area.

At a practical level, consider someone arriving to the USA from Slovenia, a member of the Schengen area. While Slovenia itself only has 31 cases currently, it is impossible for USA immigration officials to tell whether that person has just driven from Italy, which has over 10,000 cases. As a result, the Trump administration seems to have decided that the best way to deal with this issue is a blanket ban (with some exceptions, e.g. US citizens, travellers invited by the US to aid efforts against Covid-19 etc. See proclamation for full details) on travel from the Schengen area countries and visitors who have visited the area within the last 14 days, the incubation period of the disease.

Travellers from a non-Schengen area, however, seem to be presumed to be able to prove that they haven't been in any Schengen countries in the last 14 days by their passport records, and as such the level of risk they pose should be able to be more easily evaluated.

However, as pointed out in the comments, inter-European travel does not involve passport stamping in some cases, for example from Italy to the UK, so it will be difficult to identify these travellers practically. It is unclear how immigration officials will mitigate this.

The reasoning of the proclamation, however, remains that travel restrictions could be easily imposed between, to use our example, Italy and the UK, meaning that travellers from the UK are lower risk.

Update 14/03: The travel ban has now been extended to the UK and Ireland, which calls into question the original official rationale, but does not change it.

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    Comments deleted. This comment section is not for debating the pro's and con's of travel restrictions.
    – Philipp
    Mar 12, 2020 at 21:46
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    Travellers from a non-Schengen area, however, seem to be presumed to be able to prove that they haven't been in any Schengen countries in the last 14 days by their passport records Not necessarily. I am in the UK. Last week I was in France, there is nothing on my passport that shows this (unless this is recorded electronically somewhere?)
    – Rodney
    Mar 13, 2020 at 8:21
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    @Rodney did you show the passport at the port of entry? I think there's a record kept of people entering and leaving the schengen area, due to the treaty.
    – bobsburner
    Mar 13, 2020 at 9:05
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    This answer seems to blur the line between travel records and travel restrictions. In the example of Slovenia you give, for instance, there now are travel restrictions preventing people entering from Italy. It's harder under Schengen rules to impose restrictions based on past travel history but specific new movements can still be stopped.
    – Will
    Mar 13, 2020 at 9:40
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    @bobsburner yes I showed my passport in both directions, question is, is that record available to US border control?
    – Rodney
    Mar 13, 2020 at 16:33

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