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. As a result, an extensive entry ban currently applies to the United States as well as stricter entry regulations. Read below to learn about the implications for travelers, visa applicants, and visa holders.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the administration of former President Donald Trump had issued several far-reaching entry and visa bans by Presidential Proclamation or Executive Order since the end of January 2020.
After U.S. President Biden initially lifted the Immigrant Visa Ban on February 24, 2021, he has let the Nonimmigrant Visa Ban to expire on March 31, 2021.
However, the Corona Travel Ban remains in effect until further notice – even for vaccinated persons. The U.S. entry ban affects various regions (such as the Schengen area).
The requirements for obtaining a National Interest Exception, or NIE for short, for travelers from Travel Ban countries were recently revised and extended to other categories of persons. Furthermore, the NIE validity period was adjusted and the possibility of multiple entries was introduced.
Previously, travelers could only use a NIE waiver for a single entry within 30 days. Effective immediately, National Interest Exceptions are valid for 12 months from the date of approval by U.S. authorities and entitle the holder to multiple entries for the granted purpose of stay within that period.
NIEs issued since July 5, 2020, have been automatically extended for 12 months from the date of issuance and allow multiple entries for the authorized purpose of stay.
If you have obtained a new U.S. visa or NIE since July 5, 2020, you do not need a new NIE and you do not need to contact the U.S. consulate for entry into the United States.
In any case, 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.
Beginning January 26, 2021, mandatory testing has been implemented for airline passengers worldwide entering the U.S. from abroad to help contain the spread of new variants of SARS-CoV-2. Travelers are required to either be tested for COVID-19 infection prior to departure and provide a negative test result or provide evidence of recovery from COVID-19.
In addition to the aforementioned entry restrictions, certain application procedures (e.g. the issuance of U.S. visas) are more or less restricted due to the Corona crisis, depending on the respective U.S. authority.
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 and indefinitely 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. However, the Corona Travel Ban remains in effect!
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:
The entry ban for the United States applies until further notice and affects the following foreign individuals:
To date, there has been no official statement or announcement from the U.S. authorities regarding the abolition of the travel ban.
Only a few select travelers are exempt from the entry ban. Individuals seeking to travel to the United States (including U.S. citizens or individuals with National Interest Exception) will require a negative COVID-19 test.
Since the Corona Travel Ban came into effect, the following persons may continue to enter the U.S.:
In addition, the following persons may enter the U.S. from countries affected by the Travel Ban (Schengen Area, Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom):
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) from January 26, 2021, which must not be older than 3 days before departure and must meet certain requirements and contain certain information. 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.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. authorities have been working to a more or less limited extent since mid-March 2020 and in some cases numerous offices worldwide have been 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 the meantime, a gradual resumption of routine visa services has begun. However, a gradual reopening can only be achieved in close coordination with the responsible authorities and only by ensuring the safe return of embassy and consulate staff.
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.
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 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.
If you think you are eligible for the exception and would like to apply for an emergency appointment at the consulate, you should inform yourself in advance on the website of the nearest U.S. consulate about the respective procedure and the current status. We have also compiled more detailed information on the NI Exception for you.
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:
From March 18, 2020 through June 3, 2020, USCIS Offices worldwide were closed to the public. Only emergency appointments and processing were offered during this period of time. Beginning June 4, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration and Services began reopening certain domestic offices for routine services. In doing so, stricter guidelines for entering USCIS facilities are in effect.
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.
The detour to certain U.S. airports equipped with special health centers has been lifted since September 14, 2020. As a result, U.S. travelers from Corona Travel Ban regions can use every U.S. airport that is served. More information can be found on the official CBP website or in the federal register.
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.
If your residence status does indeed expire soon, if your departure is delayed due to events, or if 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.
Foreign nationals holding valid, unexpired visas may continue to travel internationally &ndash provided COVID travel restrictions, such as the Corona Travel Ban, do not prevent them from doing so.
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.
Also, at the current time, there is no exemption for already vaccinated individuals to enter the United States. That is, vaccinated persons intending to enter the United States from countries affected by Corona Travel Ban must continue to apply for a National Interest Exception if they do not qualify for a general exception.
In addition, vaccinated persons entering the United States will still be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test no more than 3 days old or provide confirmation that they have recovered from Corona disease. Thus, vaccination does not replace the testing requirement for entry into the United States.
Whether and when vaccinated persons may be able to benefit from travel relief is not known at this time.
Updated on 19.7.2021