The U.S. government has extended the measures to combat the spread of coronavirus. Read below how visa applicants and visa holders are affected.
All foreign travelers who are not U.S. citizens and who have stayed in one of the following countries within 14 days before their planned entry into the U.S. are denied entry into the U.S:
The entry ban affects both visa holders and persons who wish to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA). Transit travelers are also affected.
The Schengen Area comprises 26 European countries:
U.S. President Trump has now announced that the travel ban, initially valid for 30 days, will be extended. It is currently not clear until which date the entry ban, which actually lasts until mid-April 2020, will be extended. Furthermore, it is uncertain whether the current travel restrictions will be further tightened and whether other countries will be affected.
The U.S. travel ban for foreigners has been gradually extended since February 2020.
The following groups of persons are excluded from the entry ban:
Certain individuals, such as U.S. citizens and U.S. immigrant visa holders, may still travel to the United States.
Exempt individuals, such as U.S. citizens and U.S. immigrant visa holders,
Due to the current situation, we strongly recommend all travelers and transit travelers to check their travel plans to the United States.
U.S. embassies and consulates around the world have restricted their visa services and public access since March 19, 2020. However, emergency services for U.S. citizens and visa applicants will continue to some extent.
According to the U.S. State Department, visa appointments were cancelled from March 25, 2020 in all countries with a so-called Travel Advisory Level of 2, 3 or 4 (Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions, Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution, Level 3: Reconsider Travel, Level 4: Do Not Travel). Initially 14 countries were affected. In the meantime all countries have been set to level 4 "Do Not Travel".
However, since the end of March 2020, U.S. consulates worldwide have been required to allow the following applicants to attend visa interview appointments in any case:
It is currently not known when the visa services will be resumed. For specific information please visit the official websites of the U.S. embassies and consulates in your home country.
At the same time, we will of course keep our customers informed about further consulate closures or cancellations of appointments.
Several U.S. consulates in Europe have cancelled all regular visa appointments for immigration and non-immigrant visas until the end of April 2020. The U.S. consulates informed visa applicants by e-mail and / or SMS about the cancellation of their visa appointment.
For urgent matters applicants can contact the U.S. consulate in their respective home country to request an emergency appointment. Please note that travel regulations can still not be waived.
However, visa applicants in the entire Schengen area as well as Great Britain and Ireland should be aware that appointments already made at the U.S. consulate may be cancelled or delays may occur.
The U.S. consulates recommend the following procedure for postponing the visa interview:
Postponement of appointments are free of charge and the visa fee or proof of payment is valid for one year in the country where the fee was paid.
We recommend all travelers to the United States or visa applicants to be prepared for further changes at short notice and to inform themselves comprehensively about the current regulations and the legal situation before entering the country or applying for a visa.
From March 18, 2020 until at least May 3, 2020 all USCIS offices worldwide will be closed to the public. However, there will still be emergency appointments and processing. A further extension of these measures cannot be excluded at this time.
The "regular" business of the USCIS Service Centers in the United States will otherwise continue. This means that applications such as L petitions can still be submitted for processing. However, since March 20, 2020, the Premium Processing Service has been suspended for I-129 (e.g. H or L) and I-140 applications (employment-based Green Card). This means that these applications can now only be submitted on a regular basis. Depending on the USCIS Service Center, processing times vary around 4 to 8 months.
No public access means, conversely, no more personal interviews or walk-in appointments at the USCIS offices. This concerns in particular:
You will find detailed information on this topic in our recommendations for action.
Anyone who, due to the current situation, does not appear for an appointment with the USCIS through no fault of their own or does not react in time to notifications from the USCIS (such as RFEs) 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 problems, etc.). In particular, the USCIS allows more time to respond to RFE letters (Request for Evidence) in the context of petition-based requests (e.g. L-1). Until now, queries had to be answered within 90 days, otherwise there was a risk of rejection. Now the USCIS allows a further 60 days if companies are unable to submit all the required documents in time due to the crisis.
Foreigners who are currently in the United States (with a U.S. visa or ESTA) are uncertain about leaving the U.S. in time or about a possible overstay in the USA.
First of all it is important to differentiate between the status you have in the United States (e.g. visa-free entry with ESTA under the Visa Waiver Program, B visitor visa, L work visa etc.). Do not confuse visa and status here. The I-94 entry form indicates the date on which you must leave the United States at the latest.
Should your status expire soon, your departure be delayed due to the current events, or you wish to extend your stay in the United States we recommend the following:
For the J-1 visa category, which allows for example a stay in the United States as intern or au pair, concrete changes have already been made in the implementation of the programs as a result of the measures taken by the U.S. government.
On March 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of State, which regulates and monitors all J-1 programs, announced that new J-1 programs or entries with J-1 visas will be suspended for 60 days. Consequently, a program start would be possible again at the earliest on May 11, 2020. There may be changes in this matter.
The exchange organizations, which are certified by the U.S. Department of State and act as visa sponsors for the J-1 category, offer in many cases the postponement or cancellation of already planned J-1 programs. In such cases, everyone concerned should contact the visa sponsor in order to clarify the exact possibilities for continuing the program.
J-1 visa holders already in the United States are also encouraged to regularly check the travel warnings of their respective home countries and, if necessary, to return home earlier than planned. Updated information on the handling of the J-1 programs can be found on the official J-1 website of the U.S. Department of State.
The effects of COVID-19 on the F and M visa categories, which, for example, enable stays for highschool or studies in the USA, are currently being closely monitored by the SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program), which administers all educational institutions, students and their relatives on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This ensures that all F and M visa holders can continue to carry out their studies in the United States in accordance with the legal requirements.
It is important for students to document all changes (e.g. e-learning, changes in lecture schedules, etc.) to their respective programs so that they can be presented to the SEVP upon request. At the same time the SEVP is currently trying to be as flexible as possible in order to be able to make special adjustments and recommends following official updates on the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) COVID-19 information page.
In addition, it is also very important that the respective F or M nonimmigrant status remains valid, even in emergency situations. This means that all visa holders must continue to take all necessary steps that are possible under the given circumstances to maintain their status. Visa holders must also contact their Designated School Official (DSO) to discuss, for example, emergency plans for school premises or changes. If you stay in the U.S. is for a practical training (e.g. OPT), we strongly recommend that you speak with your U.S. employer to ensure that the training agreement is maintained. The Department of Homeland Security provides important information on maintaining status.
Should the current developments regarding COVID-19 or other unforeseen circumstances result in financial difficulties (Severe Economic Hardship) in the USA, there is the possibility to apply for a General Work Permit (EAD) for activities off-campus. The USCIS provides more detailed information on the possibilities in special situations as well as additional instructions for international students.
You can be assured that our entire US Visa Service team is there for you and your needs as usual. Our employees are also already mainly working remotely, but this does not mean any restrictions for you. In addition, an emergency team will now be on site in our Berlin office.
Especially in these challenging times we will continue to provide you and your employees with the best possible support and case handling. We are also working hard to find solutions for companies and their employees
Of course, we will continue to keep you informed about the latest developments.
Updated on 1.4.2020