Entry ban makes Germans prisoners

New York, Washington Alexandra’s father has been in a German hospital for a long time after a serious operation. His daughter, who lives in the USA, cannot visit him. Because the German does not get an exception permit to then return to the United States. Alexandra * and her husband are stuck with their children.

“I submitted doctor’s letters, a letter from the hospital. It didn’t help, ”says Alexandra, who doesn’t want to see her real name published in order not to worsen her chances any further.

Alexandra has two primary school children. Her parents haven’t seen her grandchildren for two years. “If someone had asked me, ‘Do you want to go to the US if you can’t see your family for two years?’ then I would have said clearly no, ”says the woman from Hamburg.

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Thousands of Germans have been sent to the USA by their companies with so-called L-1 visas or are working for American companies on another work visa. If they leave the country, they have not been allowed to re-enter since March 14, 2020, the restrictions have now been in place for more than 15 months. The EU meanwhile lifted its entry ban for Americans at the weekend.

There are special permits for certain employees whose presence is “in the national economic interest of the USA” or who are necessary to maintain “critical infrastructure”. But the criteria are difficult to meet and do not apply to the accompanying family.

Due to the strict rules, German companies find it difficult to find employees who can deploy them to locations in the USA – for example to carry out maintenance work. These companies, but also American ones – especially airlines and companies in the tourism sector – have therefore been demanding that the Travel Ban be lifted for months. But without success. The visits by Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier and Chancellor Angela Merkel (both CDU) to Washington are now supposed to help.

German ambassador hopes for reciprocity in the entry rules

The German ambassador to the USA appealed to the US government via Twitter to relax the entry rules for citizens of the international community after the EU. “I hope that we can find a similar solution in terms of reciprocity for trips from Germany and the EU to the USA,” wrote Haber.

Hilde Holland knows what problems the strict entry rules pose for German companies in the USA. The lawyer, who sits on the board of the German-American Chamber of Commerce in New York, writes four to six applications for the National Interest Exceptions (NIE) every day: The exception regulation allows people to re-enter the USA because of national interests.

Most of them have now passed, but there is no guarantee that it will, reports Holland. “Lately they even turned down a president,” says the lawyer.

But bosses of large companies also have problems. Mads Ryder, CEO of the US porcelain manufacturer Lenox, visited his wife and adult son in Denmark in March and was then not allowed to return to the USA. The Dane resigned. Lenox has to look for a new CEO.

The chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer is also burdened by the entry ban. The NIE rules have made traveling a little easier, says a spokesman. However, since the permit is neither guaranteed nor foreseeable, it is recommended that permanent foreign residents in the USA not leave the United States.

At BASF, they speak of a challenge due to travel restrictions. The German company has sent around 100 employees to the USA. “Since the restrictions are constantly changing, we are closely monitoring the situation and continuously adapting the travel recommendations for our employees,” explains a spokeswoman.

Tilman Bender, head of the headhunting company TH Bender and Partners in Washington, feels the frustration of the economy every day. He is in contact with executives and decision-makers in German medium-sized companies. In “countless customer conversations”, his clients expressed surprise – and increasingly also lack of understanding, reports the native German.

German medium-sized companies run into problems

Bender observes that companies are postponing plans for new locations in the US because of the rules. Many companies have now concentrated on hiring American employees.

One of Bender’s clients, a manager of a medium-sized mechanical engineering company, is now even of the opinion: “It is easier to send employees to China or Russia than to the USA or Canada. All of this is no longer comprehensible. “

After Biden’s trip to Europe brought no relief, the companies are now hoping for Altmaier’s visit this Wednesday. Merkel will then travel to Washington in July. Attorney Holland has already heard from several quarters that this visit should increase the pressure on the US government to ban entry if it does not relax the rules beforehand.
* Name changed

More: Joe Biden also believes in “America first”.

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