To combat the spread of the coronavirus and to protect the U.S. labor market the US government had increasingly taken measures and imposed a ban on entry into the United States from January 31, 2020 until November 7, 2021.
Since November 8, 2021 the US has eased entry requirements and for many nations travel is possible again with compliance of a variety of COVID-19 and sanitary guidelines.
Read below to learn about the implications for travelers, visa applicants, and visa holders when entering the United Staes now.
US President Joe Biden signed the "Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic" on Monday, October 25, 2021, replacing the Corona Travel Ban with new uniform rules for all U.S. travelers worldwide beginning November 8, 2021, with this Presidential Proclamation 10294.
In accordance with the Presidential Proclamation, three regulations issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, are taking effect:
As of November 8, 2021, travel to the U.S. will only be permitted for individuals fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (with very few exceptions).
All international travelers who can present a valid COVID-19 vaccination record will benefit from the travel relief – regardless of whether they wish to enter the country on a U.S. visa or under the Visa Waiver Program with an ESTA authorization.
This means that tourist travel, family visits, transit travel, etc. with a visa or ESTA from the former Travel Ban countries (Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, Schengen Area, United Kingdom) is once again possible – provided corona vaccination and a negative test result.
The US embassies and U.S. consulates of the former affected Travel Ban countries have gradually resumed issuing visas for all US visa categories, depending on capacity.
Since November 8, 2021 entry by land via Mexico or Canada is again be possible for foreign persons fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – including non-essential purposes (e.g. tourist entries). Currently, the only exceptions to this rule include children under 18 years of age, U.S. citizens and Green Card holders.
The official vaccination status in accordance with CDC standards must be proven at the border, as well as a verbal confirmation of the reason for travel and the accuracy of the information.
During a transition period until January 2022, foreign individuals may continue to enter the U.S. by land under essential travel purposes – even if they are unvaccinated. However, beginning January 22, 2022, this provision will be eliminated. This means that entry into the United States – regardless of the reason for entry – will then be uniformly possible only for fully COVID-19 vaccinated foreign persons traveling via land to the United States.
Entry into the United States is no longer be possible for COVID-19 unvaccinated international travelers or persons who do not have complete vaccination, with a few exceptions.
In addition, entry into the United States will be denied unless a negative Corona test or certificate of recovery result can be provided.
First of all, individuals are considered fully vaccinated
This means that entry can take place from the 15th day after the final dose.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only vaccines approved or authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and those listed in the World Health Organization's (WHO) Emergency Use Listing (EUL) are accepted. These currently include:
Click here for the list of CDC-approved vaccines.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals with so-called "mix-and-match" combinations can be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last dose if they have received a vaccine approved by the named FDA / WHO (e.g., AstraZeneca / BioNTech) and provided that the second vaccination was administered no earlier than 17 days after the initial dose.
Proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination must be provided prior to departure, i.e., at check-in or via the respective airline app. Thus, verification of vaccination documentation is the responsibility of the airlines.
The CDC has listed exactly which documents are considered proof of vaccination (= Verifiable Vaccination Credential) and which proofs are not accepted.
Proof should preferably and usually be provided via a digital vaccination certificate with QR code (e.g. European COVID-19 vaccination certificate). However, other paper documents such as an official vaccination card or certificate (e.g. yellow vaccination certificate, CDC vaccination certificate, etc.) can also be used as proof.
This proof of vaccination (digital or paper) must in any case be issued by an official source / authority and include the name and date of birth of the traveler(s) as well as the vaccine product and date of administration for all doses received by the traveler(s).
As the airlines are responsible for checking vaccination certificates, no vaccination certificates are required as part of the visa application process, according to current information. At the U.S. border, on the other hand, routine checks by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may occur. It is therefore advisable to have the proofs ready for the border control.
The new regulation lists a very limited number of people who can travel to the United States without a full COVID-19 vaccination record, i.e., unvaccinated:
The airlines are responsible for verifying the proof required for exemptions at check-in.
Persons exempt from the vaccination requirement must be vaccinated against COVID-19 no later than 60 days or as soon as medically feasible if staying in the US for more than 60 days. Exceptions apply to US citizens, Green Card holders, US military personnel, airline crew members, persons with medical contraindications and children under the age of 18.
As of June 12, 2022, the official COVID-19 testing requirement for international travelers entering the U.S. has now been permanently waived.
It also eliminates the alternative of submitting evidence of recovery status in lieu of a negative COVID-19 test.
From January 2021 - June 2022, COVID-19 testing was mandatory for airline passengers worldwide who wished to enter the U.S. from abroad. In order to contain the spread of new variants of SARS-CoV-2 (e.g., omicron), the requirements for travelling to the US were tightened, just like vaccination, negative testing and face masks.
However, due to the sharp Corona infection increase in the Chinese population in December 2022, mandatory testing for travelers 2 years of age and older flying from China, Hong Kong, or Macau to the United States or traveling through the United States via transit flight has been in effect since January 5, 2023.
The testing requirement applies to all nations and is independent of vaccination status.
In addition to direct flights from China, the testing requirement also affects flights that have transited through Incheon International Airport (Seoul/South Korea), Toronto Pearson International Airport and Vancouver International Airport in Canada on their way to the U.S. and carry passengers who have had a layover in China in the 10 days prior to departure.
Travelers are required to provide the airline with a negative PCR or antigen test no more than 2 days old prior to departure. Check here which tests are officially accepted.
Find all further information on testing regulations for travelers to China here.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new order, "Requirement for Airlines and Operators to Collect Contact Information for All Passengers Arriving into the United States," on October 25, 2021. This will require airlines and other aircraft operators to collect contact information from U.S. travelers (from age 2) prior to their arrival in the US from abroad, retain it for 30 days, and submit the information to CDC upon request, beginning November 8, 2021. The contact tracing system will be implemented for all travelers regardless of vaccination status.
The following information is required from US travelers prior to travel:
To see which COVID-19 requirements apply to your entry, check the CDC's online tool in your individual case.
The local quarantine regulations and hygiene measures – i.e. after entry into the United States – differ since November 8, 2021 depending on the vaccination status of the persons traveling:
|Behavior in case of contact with a COVID-19 positive person||
The monitoring and verification of the necessary documents regarding the vaccination status, possible exemptions, etc. is mainly done by the airlines before departure. Thus, according to current information, in the course of the introduction of the new regulations, nothing changes in the issuance of visas. This means that it can be assumed that no relevant evidence (e.g. vaccination certificates, etc.) will need to be submitted in the visa application process. This means that, as it stands now, unvaccinated individuals can continue to apply for and receive U.S. visas, but may not be allowed to enter the United States with them.
More detailed instructions from the US Department of State must be awaited before US embassies and US consulates worldwide will reconsider visa applications that have been suspended due to COVID travel restrictions.
As expected, with the lifting of the travel ban, visa appointments for almost all visa categories have now been released (including B-1/B-2 visas), but with limited availability. Depending on the US embassy or US consulate, one has to expect long waiting times. Requests for emergency appointments are possible, but are given priority for medical or humanitarian emergencies (e.g. family death).
From January 31, 2020 to November 7, 2021, 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 were unable to enter the United States.
The US government had banned all foreign travelers who are not US citizens and who have been in any of the following countries within 14 days prior to their planned U.S. entry:
Only a few selected US travelers were exempt from the entry ban, such as US citizens, Green Card holders and their close family members, and persons whose entry was of national interest (National Interest Exception (NIE)).
Only a few weeks after the end of the international travel ban for many regions, the new Omikron COVID-19 virus variant again resulted in restrictions for the South Africa area. All travelers who have been in certain South African countries for 14 days prior to U.S. entry have been banned from entering the country between November 29, and December 31, 2021.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US 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.
Even in the end of 2021 some US embassies and US consulates worldwide have still 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 US 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 certain 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). 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 US 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 US 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 US consulate in your home country to find out what security regulations apply during interviews. The US embassy and the US 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 medical mask. However, there is no test requirement.
The services previously provided to US citizens, as well as emergency services, will continue to be offered if the respective US representative offices are able to do so. Applicants who urgently need to travel to the United States may continue to seek emergency appointments.
US 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.
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.
Tip: Check whether visa-free entry with ESTA is an alternative, as the application for ESTA approval is possible without restrictions.
Foreign nationals holding valid, unexpired visas may continue to travel internationally – provided they comply with the new entry rules under Presidential Proclamation 10294, which went into effect on November 8, 2021.
For individuals who have been fully vaccinated, travel facilitations will be implemented beginning November 8, 2021.
Please note that vaccinated persons must still present a negative COVID-19 test or confirmation of recovery from corona disease upon entry into the United States. Thus, vaccination is not a substitute for mandatory testing upon entry into the United States.
Updated on 30.9.2022