Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ

General

FSIS does not recommend international travel due to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts to global travel. International travel is currently unpredictable and high risk. If you do choose to travel, be prepared for delays or the inability to re-enter the U.S. Be aware that travelers returning from CDC Risk Level 3 countries are required to follow UH Travel Policies following travel and re-entry. More information is available on the UH COVID-19 website.

A travel ban currently suspends entry into the U.S. of all aliens (except immediate family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and others excluded in section 2 of the proclamations) who were physically present within 1) Brazil; 2) United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe) or Ireland 3) the Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland), 4) the People's Republic of Iran, or 5) China (excluding the Special Autonomous Regions of Hong Kong and Macau) during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

Effective March 20, 2020 according to a U.S.-Canada Border Federal Register Notice and a U.S.-Mexico Border Federal Register Notice, entry is only allowed to the United States through land ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada and U.S. Mexico borders for “essential travel” only. “Essential travel” includes “Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions; Individuals traveling to work in the United States.” The restrictions have been extended until June 22, 2020 for both Canada and Mexico. However, the restrictions have been extended twice, and will be reviewed every 30 days.

A separate order from the CDC also suspends "the introduction of persons into the United States" who are traveling from Canada or Mexico "who would otherwise be introduced into a congregate setting in a land Port of Entry (POE) or Border Patrol station at or near the United States borders with Canada and Mexico." The order states that it is not applicable to "Persons from foreign countries that hold valid travel documents." It is unclear how this could apply for travelers sent to Secondary Inspection, because their documents cannot be verified or if they are missing appropriate travel documentation.

Additionally, many other countries may have travel restrictions of their own, which could impact your ability to enter those countries or move freely.

Global travel conditions are highly impacted and the Department of State is suspending U.S. visa services in most countries worldwide. Embassies and consulates in these countries will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 18, 2020. Visit your local U.S. embassy or consulate website to confirm operating status and find information about appointment rescheduling and/or emergency services. If you do make the personal decision to travel internationally, please contact FSIS. If your visa is expired, be aware that applying for a visa for entry could be unpredictable and could cause you to face further delays.

Even within the U.S., different states are experiencing travel impacts and restrictions. The CDC: COVID-19 Cases in the U.S. website has updated numbers per state, but this is changing quickly. The State of Hawai‘i has issued mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for anyone returning from U.S. travel. If you choose to travel domestically, please consider your own health and safety. We encourage you to follow the CDC and local recommendations for travel. Aside from any risk from COVID-19 itself, be prepared for possible localized shelter in place orders, transportation bans or infrastructure disruption which may impact your travel plans.

Currently, the State of Hawai‘i has a Stay at Home Order through June 30, 2020 which limits activity, travel, and business functions to only the most essential needs. You can review UH President Lassner’s message regarding the impact to the UH campuses.

To ensure the state continues to provide essential, core services, there are exemptions in the following categories: healthcare services, grocery stores and pharmacies, food production and farming, public and private schools, restaurants offering take-out services, hotels and motels, construction, and essential government functions.

Residents can leave their homes for essential needs, including healthcare, purchasing food, medicine and gasoline, taking care of the elderly, minors, and those with disabilities, returning to a place of residence outside of Hawai‘i, picking up educational materials for distance learning, receiving meals and any other related services, and outdoor exercise – including surfing, swimming, and walking pets.

Non-compliance would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, or up to one year in jail, or both.

J-1 Exchange Visitors

To abide by Governor Ige’s Order, we ask that faculty sponsors encourage their J-1 Exchange Visitor (EV) to transition to working from home or to limit their time on campus. We also understand that there may be disruptions in meeting program objectives. However, our highest priority is the EV’s health, safety, and welfare. We recommend faculty sponsors to communicate weekly with their EV via online methods. It is important now more than ever that faculty sponsors maintain communication with them.

If your EV would like to return to their home country, please contact our office. A J-1 visa is not necessary for the EV to continue collaborating with their faculty sponsor while in their home country. Although there are no restrictions for EVs to leave the US, they may be unable to reenter the US to complete their program. Therefore, we will suggest shortening program end date. For EVs who are in the Research Scholar category and subject to the 24-month bar on repeat participation, the department can invite them back as Short-Term Scholar during the 24-month bar. Please contact our office if your EV would like this option.

FSIS staff are working remotely through June 30 following statewide order and are available via email and voicemail.

During this period we will continue to process requests and advise colleges/schools remotely. Departments can continue to submit DS-2019 Initial Requests for September 1 start dates. Please keep in mind that start dates may be subject to change as US embassies and consulates have suspended visa services. Please submit all requests via UH FileDrop to the appropriate International Scholar Specialist:

  • EV’s last name A-M – Janet Murasaki (janetyz)
  • EV’s last name N-Z – Pei-Chin Liao (peichin)

We are still required to abide by the U.S. Department of State Exchange Visitor Program regulations and are unable to transmit Form DS-2019 electronically. FSIS will coordinate deliveries with department contacts.

H-1B, E-3, O-1, and TN Workers

A Labor Condition Application (LCA) is filed with each H-1B petition and the worker’s place of employment is reported on the LCA. During this time, H-1B workers are allowed to work from home without FSIS having to file a new LCA and H-1B petition. If your UHM H-1B employee is working outside of Honolulu County (or UHH H-1B employee working outside of Hawaii County) during this time for more than 30 days, please contact FSIS. We may need to file a new LCA and H-1B petition.

FSIS staff are working remotely through June 30 following statewide order and are available via email and voicemail.

Since USCIS is still paper-based, we need colleges/schools to continues submitting hard copies of all nonimmigrant petition requests.

UH Disbursing has made an exception for Colleges/Schools to request for Special Handling for checks made payable to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security." When creating the DV, please enter "Isis Bataluna" in the "Special Handling Name" field. Also, please include her name as a FYI AdHoc.  FSIS can create FedEx mailing labels for your department. Please either 1) email your FedEx account number; or 2) email the UH account number we can charge the invoice to.

US embassies and consulates have suspended all visa services and USCIS has suspended premium processing services for H-1B, O-1, TN, and E-3 petitions. It is unknown when these services will resume. This may affect college/school hiring faculty for the Fall 2020 semester. If you have a faculty candidate who is currently outside the US and needs a visa in order to enter the US OR is in the US in another visa status (F-1 OPT or J-1), it is recommended that you push their start date to January 1, 2021. Without premium processing services, we cannot guarantee that we will receive an approval notice from USCIS in a timely manner. If you have a faculty candidate that may be in this situation, please contact FSIS as soon as possible.