Below are the latest updates on U.S. consular operations and entry requirements to the U.S. Please note that it is imperative to check the requirements of any country you seek to visit, as well as any country you may transit through, as the impact of the global pandemic may change admission requirements for citizens and foreign nationals alike. We are all hopeful that increasing vaccination rollouts will mean consular appointments will be more readily available and the remaining bans will lift, but we’re not quite there yet.
State Dept. Updates National Interest Exceptions for Regional COVID Proclamations – April 8, 2021 Immigrants, fiancé(e) visa holders, certain J-1 exchange visitors, and pilots and certain aircrew traveling to the United States have been deemed to be in the national interest for purposes of approving exceptions under the geographic COVID Presidential Proclamations (9984, 9992, and 10143). These proclamations restrict the entry of individuals who were physically present, within the 14-day period prior to seeking entry into the United States, in the People’s Republic of China, Islamic Republic of Iran, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Federative Republic of Brazil, or Republic of South Africa.
The update also reiterates that the volume and type of visas each post is able to process given the ongoing impact of the pandemic will depend on local circumstances. Further, U.S. citizen services will be prioritized; followed by cases for immediate family members of U.S. citizens, fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens. Therefore, the expansion of NIE qualified categories may not immediately translate to appointment availability. Updates to National Interest Exceptions for Regional COVID Proclamations (state.gov)
State Dept. Issues Visa Services Operating Status Update – April 6, 2021 update advises the COVID-19 pandemic continues to severely affect the ability of embassies and consulates to resume routine visa services. Provision of services to U.S. citizens abroad is prioritized, as is nonimmigrant visa applications for travelers with urgent needs, foreign diplomats, and mission critical categories of travelers. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/visa-services-operating-status-update.html
PP10052 Expires; State Dept. Issues Update on Suspension of Entry for Certain Nonimmigrants – April 1, 2021 The travel ban imposed by the Trump Administration which applied to issuance of certain H-1B, L-1A, L-1B, some J-1 and H-2B visas expired on March 31, 2021 and was not renewed by the Biden Administration. The State Department has advised that applicants who have not yet been interviewed or scheduled for an interview will have their applications prioritized and processed in accordance with existing “phased resumption of visa services” guidance. Update on Presidential Proclamation 10052 (state.gov)
PP 9984, 9992 and 10143 Remain in Effect – As noted above, the three geographical COVID-19 related travel bans remain in effect. With few exceptions, nonimmigrants from who seek entry to the U.S. within 14 days of physical presence in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, Ireland, the UK, and the 26 countries in the Schengen region will require a National Interest Exception. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html and LAC Client Alert: Department of State Revises Standards for National Interest Exceptions (NIE) for travel to the United States. Please note that the detailed guidance issued by the State Department for NIEs relates only to Ireland, the UK and the Schengen region. For noncitizens traveling from China, Iran, Brazil, and South Africa, the guidance is more limited, and references “any noncitizen whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.”
CBP Extends Temporary Travel Restrictions Between U.S. and Canada/Mexico – U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that temporary travel restrictions between the United States and Canada, and between the United States and Mexico, at land ports of entry along the border (including passenger ferry services and pleasure boat travel) will remain in effect through April 21, 2021, and may be extended thereafter. Travel continues to be limited to that deemed “essential.” Temporary Travel Restrictions to Land Border and Ferries Between the United States, Canada and Mexico (cbp.gov)
Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Air Passengers Arriving in the United States Remains in Effect – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html
Some helpful websites:
- Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
- US Embassies and Consulates
- DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application
- Wait times for visa stamping appointments at U.S. Consulates abroad
- I-94 Arrival/ Departure Record Retrieval
- Border Wait times
This update was prepared by Fausta M. Albi, Partner, Larrabee Albi Coker LLP.
Legal Disclaimer: This e-blast is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute for legal advice based on the circumstances of a specific matter. Immigration laws and policies change frequently, often without notice. It is therefore important to seek direct legal counsel based upon individual circumstances.