Since the end of January 2020, the U.S. government has increasingly taken measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus and to protect the U.S. labor market. Now the abolition of the U.S. entry ban has been announced for November 8, 2021. Read below to learn about the implications for travelers, visa applicants, and visa holders.
On October 15, 2021, the Biden administration announced that current restrictions on travel to the United States will be lifted for fully vaccinated individuals with a negative COVID-19 test beginning November 8, 2021.
After U.S. President Biden lifted the Immigrant Visa Ban introduced by former President Trump on February 24, 2021, and allowed the Nonimmigrant Visa Ban to expire on March 31, 2021, the U.S. government now plans to lift the current geographic COVID-19-related travel ban on November 8, 2021 and to replace it with uniform rules for all U.S. travelers.
Beginning November 8, 2021, all foreign persons traveling to the United States by land or air who can prove that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to re-enter the United States. This also applies to travelers from Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen Area, South Africa, and the United Kingdom (= travel ban countries). This means that tourist travel, family visits, etc. with a visa or ESTA will be possible again from November 8, 2021.
At the same time, entry into the U.S. will be made more difficult for unvaccinated travelers from countries not named in the Presidential Proclamation who were not previously subject to restrictions, beginning November 8, 2021. This will affect, for example, foreign unvaccinated travelers from Japan or Canada.
In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will issue a new order requiring airlines to collect contact information from U.S. travelers to enable contact tracing. It is likely that the contact-tracing system will be implemented for all travelers regardless of their vaccination status.
Which vaccines are accepted by U.S. authorities has now been described in more detail by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Individuals are considered fully vaccinated
As of November 8, 2021, vaccines approved or licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and vaccines on the World Health Organization's (WHO) emergency list are eligible in all cases. These include the following vaccines:
Participants in studies for vaccines that are still in the clinical approval phase in the U.S. (e.g. Novavax) may also enter the U.S. as fully vaccinated individuals under certain conditions.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals with so-called cross-vaccines can be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their last dose if they have received
The form in which proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination must be provided (e.g., digital vaccination record, immunization card, certificate) has not yet been announced.
How recovered individuals will be handled remains to be seen; however, it is likely that they will be allowed to enter the United States with appropriate documentation.
Mandatory testing for airline passengers worldwide entering the U.S. from abroad, in effect since Jan. 26, 2021, remains in place.
To continue to contain the spread of new variants of SARS-CoV-2, travelers – including fully vaccinated individuals – must either continue to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing within 3 days prior to departure for the United States and provide a negative test result or provide evidence of COVID-19 recovery.
Nevertheless, it remains to be seen what testing strategy will be implemented. The same applies to possible quarantine requirements in the United States, but these are expected to be waived for vaccinated individuals.
U.S. citizens who are not fully vaccinated must present a negative COVID-19 test no more than one day old, including proof that a test has been acquired, prior to their entry into the U.S. in order to be retested upon arrival in the United States.
Whether there will be a waiver for for foreign unvaccinated individuals (e.g. holders of valid visas, ESTA authorizations or green cards), and if so, under what conditions, remains unanswered.
It is still unknown at this time whether, and if so under what conditions, exemptions will be made for, for example, children and persons traveling for an important reason who do not have timely access to vaccination. Whether individuals who are exempt from the vaccination requirement may need to be vaccinated upon arrival in the United States also has not been confirmed.
As of November 8, 2021, two scenarios are possible: On the one hand, U.S. visas could be issued exclusively to vaccinated persons. On the other hand, U.S. visas could continue to be issued regularly to all qualified visa applicants, with subsequent verification of vaccination status by the respective airline.
More detailed instructions from the U.S. Department of State are needed before visa issuance changes are implemented at U.S. consulates worldwide or visa applications that have been suspended due to COVID travel restrictions are reconsidered.
Whether visa appointments for additional categories will be released, and if so, to what extent, must also be seen. We expect that B-1 / B-2 interview appointments, for example, could be re-released with the removal of the travel ban (likely associated with long wait times).
In any case, until travel relief is implemented, U.S. travelers and their family members are still required to comprehensively check whether they are subject to the applicable entry regulations based on their country of residence and under which circumstances, if any, they may be allowed to enter the United States by exception.
Since there is new information for U.S. travelers, visa applicants and visa holders almost daily, we have listed below the current visa and entry restrictions for the United States. We would like to address the most common errors in our U.S. visa fact check.
Information is updated regularly. If you have specific questions about your visa case, please feel free to contact our visa specialists.
As of January 31, 2020, entry into the United States from certain regions has been increasingly restricted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, 9993, 9996, and 10041). As a result, foreign U.S. travelers from numerous countries are currently unable to enter the United States. In the meantime exceptions have been introduced for certain travelers, and the issuance of and entry under certain temporarily blocked visa categories has been resumed. It has now been announced that the Corona Travel Ban will be lifted on November 8, 2021.
The U.S. government does not allow entry if a foreign traveler does not have U.S. citizenship and has stayed in one of the following countries within 14 days before its planned entry into the United States:
COVID-19 related travel restrictions will be eliminated beginning November 8, 2021. Until then, the U.S. entry ban affects the following foreign nationals:
Only a few select travelers are exempt from the entry ban.
The following individuals may continue to enter the U.S. – even without prior application for a National Interest Exception (NIE):
Individuals from countries affected by the Travel Ban (Schengen Area, Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom) whose entry is of national interest may enter the United States with official National Interest Exception (NIE) authorization. The following individuals may apply for a NIE:
Which individuals are covered by the exemption is determined by the U.S. Department of State or U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The NIE criteria are subject to change and were last revised by the DOS on June 29, 2021.
Both holders of a valid visa or ESTA travel authorization and applicants for a new visa may qualify for this waiver, which allows multiple entries into the United States within 12 months from the date of approval. This new rule also applies retroactively to all NIEs issued since June 29, 2020.
Until now, NIEs could only be used for a single entry within 30 days and had to be reapplied for upon re-entry.
Certain quarantine and COVID-19 rules apply to the United States. Since January 26, 2021, U.S. travelers worldwide who are exempt from the U.S. entry bans (including U.S. citizens, Green Card holders, individuals with NIE, etc.) must present a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen test) which must not be older than 3 days before departure and must meet certain requirements and contain certain information. Alternatively, recovered persons may present a medical certificate of COVID-19 disease.
The requirement to submit a negative COVID-19 test remains in place even after the travel ban is lifted.
By the way, the COVID-19 negative test will remain mandatory even after the U.S. entry ban is lifted.
Nevertheless, it is recommended to always consult the current information of the respective U.S. consulate in your home country in advance of a planned U.S. entry or visa application in order to prevent possible problems. If you need assistance in applying for a NI Exception, our visa consultants will be happy to help you.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. authorities have been operating in a more or less restricted manner, and in some cases numerous field offices around the world were closed for several months. Below we provide an overview of which applications are currently possible or have been made more difficult or suspended until further notice.
As of March 19, 2020, U.S. embassies and U.S. consulates worldwide had temporarily restricted their visa services and public access. In close coordination with the relevant authorities and while ensuring the safe return of embassy and consulate staff, a gradual reopening took place.
Which U.S. consulates are open in which form and to what extent, which visa categories or applicants are processed at all and under which conditions, varies from country to country.
The available appointment capacities have been considerably reduced since the outbreak of the Corona crisis and there is a backlog of visa applications. Whether appointments are available in your home country and for which visa categories depends on several factors and is subject to constant change (including local pandemic situation, local conditions and restrictions, current NIE regulations). Therefore, it is advisable to regularly check your visa profile for bookable appointments and to check the website of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for the current application status.
Applicants worldwide should continue to be prepared for the possibility that already booked appointments at the U.S. consulate will be canceled again by e-mail and / or SMS and that further delays may occur.
At the same time, we will of course keep our customers informed about further cancelations of appointments.
By the way, postponement of appointments are free of charge. Visa fees already paid or proof of payment for individuals who have not been able to attend an appointment since March 2020 due to the pandemic and the resulting closure of U.S. consulates are exceptionally valid until September 30, 2022 (instead of one year) in the country where the fee was paid. In some countries (e.g., Argentina, Brazil, India, Canada, Mexico, etc.), the one-year expiration period has been extended under a Visa Fee Validity Extension due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this has to be checked in detail depending on the country.
You should also check with the U.S. consulate in your home country to find out what security regulations apply during interviews. The U.S. embassy and the U.S. consulates in Germany have implemented appropriate hygiene and distance rules. Applicants (except children under the age of six and persons who cannot wear a mask) are required to wear a mask. However, there is no test requirement.
Applicants who are subject to entry restrictions under the regionally oriented Presidential Proclamations 9984 / 9992 / 9993 / 9996 / 10041 in connection with COVID-19 (= Corona Travel Ban) can only receive a U.S. visa, if they also qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE), in addition to the general entry requirements for the corresponding visa category. The prerequisite is that the nearest U.S. consulate has reopened.
Individuals with valid ESTA authorizations or corresponding U.S. visas who believe they qualify for such an exemption must contact the respective U.S. consulate in their country to obtain a NIE. Since the consulates do not act uniformly, please check the website of the respective consulate in advance to find out how to contact them.
Usually, an e-mail with appropriate documentation must be sent to the consular section as a request. In particular, there must be a justification as to why you qualify for an NIE. Thus, there must be an urgent reason for travel.
Individuals applying for a new visa who wish to request an (emergency) appointment at the consulate must also contact the U.S. consulate in their home country (if it is open / issuing visas) and ask for the particular procedure.
As a general rule, when applying for a derogation on grounds of national interest, you should provide – in addition to the regular application documents – documents demonstrating the urgency of your application.
Our visa consultants will be happy to assist you in obtaining a National Interest Exception. Contact us today!
The decision on whether to grant you a NIE waiver is made by the U.S. consular officer either at the time of the visa interview (for new applicants) or via e-mail (for holders of a valid visa or ESTA authorization). If the National Interest Exception is approved, you may enter the United States. The NIE can then be used for multiple entries within a 12 month period (from approval).
The services previously provided to U.S. citizens, as well as emergency services, will continue to be offered if the respective U.S. representative offices are able to do so. Applicants who urgently need to travel to the United States may continue to seek emergency appointments.
However, U.S. consulates worldwide have been required to allow the following applicants to attend visa interview appointments in any case:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration and Services has reopened some domestic offices for routine services. Tougher guidelines for entering USCIS facilities apply.
This primarily affects:
The "normal" operation of USCIS service centers in the United States continued throughout the entire period. This means that applications such as L petitions could and may continue to be filed for processing.
Anyone who, through no fault of their own, fails to appear for an appointment with the USCIS or does not react in time to notifications from the USCIS (e.g., Request for Evidence, RFE) due to the current situation should not have any disadvantages. Provided one is able to prove that it is directly related to the Corona crisis (travel restrictions, illness, internal company issues, etc.). In particular, the USCIS is allowing more time to respond to RFE letters in the context of petition-based applications (e.g. L-1). Previously, queries had to be answered within 90 days, otherwise there was a risk of rejection. Now, the USCIS is allowing an additional 60 days if companies are unable to submit all required documents in time due to the crisis situation.
Beginning January 26, 2021, the U.S. requires air travelers worldwide to either test negative for COVID-19 or certify that they have previously experienced COVID-19 and have recovered.
This testing requirement affects U.S. citizens as well as Green Card, visa and ESTA holders – except crewmembers (C-1/D visas), certain U.S. government personnel, military personnel and travelers under the age of two.
To learn more about the exact rules associated with this, see our article on quarantine and COVID-19 rules when entering the US.
Whether or not it is advisable to leave the USA depends on a number of factors and should, more than ever, be examined on a case-by-case basis, taking into account current travel regulations. Especially when family members on derived visas are involved, a thorough weighing of pros and cons is advised.
First of all, it is important to determine the status you have in the United States. Do not confuse visa and status. The I-94 entry form indicates the date on which you must leave the United States at the latest.
Please also note that status extension applications, in particular, can require a considerable amount of work and time. We recommend that companies check the status of their foreign employees in the U.S. and take timely action.
We are happy to assist you with assessment and implementation.
Please contact our visa consultants.
It may be possible to postpone your departure until after the travel ban is lifted. However, if your residence status expires soon, your departure is delayed due to the pandemic, or you wish to extend your stay in the United States, we recommend the following:
Please be assured that our entire US Visa Service team is here to serve you and your needs in the usual manner. Our employees are also mainly working remotely, but this does not mean any restrictions for you. In addition, our Berlin office is always staffed.
Especially in these challenging times, we will continue to provide you and your employees with the best possible support and case handling.
Currently, we are focusing on assisting companies and their employees who urgently need to travel to the U.S. for business purposes in applying for a NIE waiver. At the same time we are working hard to find further solutions for companies and their employees.
Of course, we will continue to keep you informed about the latest developments. Stay healthy.
An application for a B-1 / B-2 visa always consists of two steps:
The B visa application can be submitted online at any time using the DS-160 form. However, a visa application is only processed at the U.S. consulate after the personal visa interview. You can view the respective appointment availability of the individual consulates online after paying the visa fee. Due to the current situation, capacities are probably still very limited.
You can find more detailed information on visa application on the website of the visa service provider or on the websites of the U.S. consulates worldwide.
Tip: Check whether visa-free entry with ESTA is an alternative, as the application for ESTA approval is possible without restrictions.
Please note that individuals who are not U.S. citizens will be denied entry to the United States despite having valid travel documents when staying in certain countries due to the Corona Travel Ban (e.g. 26 countries in the Schengen Area). There are few exceptions for individuals whose entry is in the national interest of the United States.
The abolition of the U.S. entry ban has been announced for November 8, 2021.
Foreign nationals holding valid, unexpired visas may continue to travel internationally – provided COVID travel restrictions, such as the Corona Travel Ban, do not prevent them from doing so.
Note: Beginning November 8, 2021, the travel ban will be lifted and entry into the U.S. will be possible for all international travelers who are fully vaccinated and tested negative.
There will be no revocation of valid U.S. visas by the U.S. authorities.
If you have any questions about extending your status, please contact our visa consultants.
For individuals who have been fully vaccinated, travel facilitations will be implemented beginning November 8, 2021.
At the current time, there is no relief for entry into the United States. That is, vaccinated individuals intending to enter the United States from countries affected by the corona-related travel restrictions must currently still apply for a National Interest Exception (NIE) if they do not qualify for a general exemption.
Please note that vaccinated individuals must still present a negative COVID-19 test, no more than 3 days old, upon entry into the United States. Alternatively, a confirmation of recovery from a Corona disease can be handed in. Thus, vaccination is not a substitute for mandatory testing upon entry into the United States.
It depends. First, you have to comply with the general immigration law requirements. In other words, do you need a visa to enter the United States, and if so, which one? Or can you even travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) with ESTA? If you have a valid visa or ESTA, you can consider the possibility to stay at least 14 days with evidence in a country that is not affected by the Corona Travel Ban (= all countries that are not mentioned in the Presidential Proclamation) and travel from there directly to the United States.
Since the Travel Ban does not apply to citizens, but to stays in certain regions or countries, this would indeed be an option – although not entirely unproblematic.
On the one hand, you have to choose a country that is not affected by the travel ban. It should be noted, however, that the U.S. entry ban can be extended at any time at short notice by the U.S. authorities to other countries in which the COVID-19 case numbers are increasing dramatically. Since the case numbers in individual countries are unfortunately developing negatively, the situation must be carefully monitored.
On the other hand, the respective travel restrictions and quarantine regulations of the country in which you intend to stay for 14 days must of course be checked – these are also subject to strong changes in some cases. Currently, for example, many people try to travel via Mexico, but entry by land into the United States is not possible.
Furthermore, please note the requirement to provide proof of at least a 14-day stay in the respective country, e.g. in the form of entry stamps, booking receipts, etc.
By the way, the calculation of the days is not explicitly fixed and our customers report different experiences at the U.S. border. We recommend to calculate conservatively and to stay 14 full days on site before moving on, i.e. a total of 15, better 16 days.
So, in theory, such a procedure is possible, but in practice, your travel plans may be difficult and risky.
For non-urgent travel plans, we recommend postponing travel to the United States until after the U.S. entry ban is lifted.
Updated on 18.10.2021