U.S. entry restrictions

Current visa and entry regulations

To combat the spread of the coronavirus and to protect the U.S. labor market the U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

 

Who may re-enter the U.S.?

U.S. 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 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are taking effect:

  1. Global Contact Tracing Order
  2. Amended Global Testing Order
  3. Vaccination Order

Regulations for travel by air to the U.S.

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 U.S. embassies and U.S. consulates of the former affected Travel Ban countries have gradually resumed issuing visas for all U.S. visa categories, depending on capacity.

Tip: All those who want to travel visa-free with ESTA to the U.S. should check to be on the safe side before departure whether their ESTA travel authorization is still valid, as some ESTA authorizations have been revoked due to the travel ban.

Regulations for entry by land

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.

Who is not anymore allowed to enter the USA?

UNVaccinated persons

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.

Which corona vaccines qualify for entry into the U.S.?

Full COVID-19 vaccination status

First of all, individuals are considered fully vaccinated

  • two weeks after the second dose of a 2-dose vaccine series
    or
  • two weeks after a single-dose vaccination.

This means that entry can take place from the 15th day after the final dose.

Note: According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulations, COVID-19 recovered individuals are not considered fully vaccinated with only one vaccination of a 2-dose vaccine. While individuals recovered from Corona in several European countries (including Germany) receive only a single dose of vaccine after infection and are considered fully vaccinated with only one dose of vaccine, this practice is not recognized by CDC. As a result, affected individuals cannot travel unless they qualify for another exemption.

Approved Corona vaccines

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only vaccines approved or authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and those listed in the World Health Organization's (WHO) Emergency Use Listing (EUL) are accepted. These currently include:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty)
  • Moderna (Spikevax)
  • Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)
  • AstraZeneca/Oxford (Vaxzevria and SII/Covishield)
  • Sinopharm (BBIBP-CorV)
  • Sinovac (CoronaVac)
  • Covaxin
  • Novavax/Covovax

Click here for the list of CDC-approved vaccines.

According to the U.S. 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

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).

Recommendation: We strongly advise you to contact the airline in question in advance to find out which proofs are accepted in a specific case. If your vaccination documents are in a language other than English, we recommend that you check with the airline or aircraft provider before traveling to see if a translation is required.

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.

Exemptions from the mandatory vaccination

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:

  • U.S. citizens
  • Green Card holders (lawful permanent residents)
  • diplomats, government officials or their family members (A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3, E-1 TECRO / TECO, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO visas) and representatives of the United Nations
  • crew members of airlines or shipping companies (C-1/D visas)
  • members of the U.S. Armed Forces or their spouses and children (under 18 years of age)
  • children under the age of 18 (i.e., from 0 to 17 years old at the time of travel)
  • participants in certain COVID-19 vaccine studies (with official verification)
  • individuals with an officially confirmed medical contraindication to COVID-19 vaccination
  • individuals, with an official exemption from U.S. authorities based on a medical / humanitarian emergency
    NOTE: CDC will be extremely restrictive in its use of this exemption, such as when health and safety protection is required (e.g., emergency medical evacuations) and travelers are unable to complete the required vaccinations prior to U.S. travel. Please contact the U.S. embassy / consulate in the country from which you are traveling to the U.S.; then the information will be forwarded to CDC for review.
  • persons whose entry is in the national interest of the U.S. (including an official confirmation in this regard)
    NOTE: This is determined by the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Transportation. However, it is still unclear on what basis, in what form and with which U.S. authorities a confirmation can be requested. Currently, all that is known is that an official U.S. government letter regarding a national interest exception must be presented upon entry.  
  • citizens of countries with limited availability of COVID-19 vaccines who enter on a nonimmigrant visa (other than B-1, B-2, B-1/B-2 visas; see CDC's country list)

Note: Explicitly, no vaccination certificate exemptions are provided for moral or religious reasons. Even COVID-19 recovered persons must provide proof of vaccination, so they are not exempt from the regulations. While COVID-19 recovered individuals in some European countries (e.g., Germany) receive only a single dose of vaccine and are thus considered fully vaccinated, this is not recognized under CDC regulations. According to CDC, two doses of a two-dose vaccination series or one dose of a single-dose vaccination are mandatory.

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 U.S. for more than 60 days. Exceptions apply to U.S. citizens, Green Card holders, U.S. military personnel, airline crew members, persons with medical contraindications and children under the age of 18.

COVID-19 testing requirements eliminated

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 U.S. were tightened, just like vaccination, negative testing and face masks.

Bild vom Corona-Test

Additional requirements for USA entry

The U.S. 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 prior to their arrival in the U.S. 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 U.S. travelers prior to travel:

  • Signed passenger attestation statement (available through airlines)
    I.e. a written confirmation by signature about the correctness of the information given before departure and the compliance with the further requirements on site.
  • At least 72 hours prior to departure, airlines must request the following data on all travelers (including transit) and make it available to CDC for contact tracing upon request (= CDC Data Collection):
    - full name of travelers
    - U.S. address during the stay
    - travelers' telephone number
    - travelers' e-mail address
    - emergency contact telephone number
    The query is usually made during the booking process. The data is stored for 30 days and then deleted.

To see which COVID-19 requirements apply to your entry, check the CDC's online tool in your individual case.

What are the quarantine regulations in the U.S.?

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:

  Vaccinated Recovered Unvaccinated
Behavior in case of contact with a COVID-19 positive person
  • Get tested
  • No quarantine needed unless you develop symptoms
  • Watch for possible symptoms until 10 days after contact/illness
  • Go into quarantine if you develop symptoms
  • Wear a mask until day 10 as a precautionary measure
  • No quarantine needed unless you develop symptoms
  • Watch for possible symptoms until 10 days after contact/illness
  • Go into quarantine if you develop symptoms
  • Wear a mask until day 10 as a precautionary measure
  • Quarantine for at least 5 whole days, even if you do not show any symptoms.
  • Get tested regularly
  • Require masks for at least 5 days
  • Be aware of your symptoms for at least 10 days after becoming ill.
  • Avoid travel and contact before the 10th day of illness before your corona test is negative.
  • If you have to leave the house after the 5th day, take precautionary measures

 

How does the new regulation affect visa issuance and visa appointments?

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 U.S. Department of State must be awaited before U.S. embassies and U.S. 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 U.S. embassy or U.S. 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).

Important: The regular immigration regulations, such as the presentation of a valid ESTA authorization or a valid U.S. visa upon entry, still apply. In addition, the requirements of the respective Foreign Office must be observed when returning from the U.S. to your home country. If you have specific questions about your visa case, please feel free to contact our visa specialists

U.S. entry ban from 2020-2021 – Corona Travel Ban

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.

Which individuals were affected?

The U.S. government had banned all foreign travelers who are not U.S. citizens and who have been in any of the following countries within 14 days prior to their planned U.S. entry:

  • 26 countries of the Schengen Area
    Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
  • Brazil
  • China (except Hong Kong and Macau)
  • India
  • Iran
  • Ireland
  • South Africa
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (i.e. England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland excluding overseas territories outside Europe)

Only a few selected U.S. travelers were exempt from the entry ban, such as U.S. 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.

image of EU flag

Impacts in practice

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.

US consulates / visa appointments

Even in the end of 2021 some U.S. embassies and U.S. 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 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.

Visa appointment situation

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.

Note: The appointment situation in the U.S. consulates in Germany with locations in Berlin, Frankfurt am Main and Munich remains very tight and the backlog – depending on the visa category – is large. As a result, there are significantly fewer visa appointments available than before the pandemic. Emergency appointments will continue to be offered for urgent U.S. travel (e.g., medical or family emergencies).

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.

Note: The appointment situation may differ depending on the U.S. consulate and visa category. We recommend 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. Even after the lift of the U.S. travel ban on November 8, 2021 a lot of changes may occur (e.g., regarding visa issuance and availability of interview appointments). For specific information please visit the official websites of the U.S. embassies and consulates in your home country.

Security regulations

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 medical mask. However, there is no test requirement.

image from a US consulate


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.

USCIS Offices and Service Centers

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:

  1. Green Card applicants.
    Appointments for in-person interviews at any of the USCIS Field Offices that have been canceled will be rescheduled accordingly by the U.S. authorities.
  2. Individuals with visas who are in the process of renewing or changing their status
    The Application Support Centers (ASC) have been reopened. These offices handle, among other things, biometrics appointments. Individuals whose appointments have been canceled will automatically receive notification of a new appointment from the USCIS.

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.

Bild von dem Logo der US-Einwanderungsbehörde USCIS

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.

Note: Which restrictions and exemptions apply should be checked daily on the USCIS website, as there may be constant changes. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also provides ongoing updates on the reopening of its USCIS offices.

Entry and Border Control

Beginning December 06, 2021, the U.S. requires air travelers worldwide to either test negative for COVID-19 (proof not older than 1 day before departure) 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 airline crewmembers (C-1/D visas) 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.

Note: The testing requirement remains in effect for fully vaccinated U.S. travelers even after the corona-related U.S. entry ban is lifted.

Departure from the USA

Whether or not it is advisable to leave the USA depends on a number of factors. 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:

  1. Contact the appropriate U.S. authorities
    You can reach the USCIS at +1 800-375-5283 or the CBP at +1 202-325-8000.
    Alternatively, you can contact a CBP office directly at the airport or the Deferred Inspection Sites at the airport. This applies especially to individuals staying in the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA).
  2. Extension of stay / Change of status
    Check whether a status extension or change of status is possible in the United States. Note: The application must be submitted before your I-94 expires and is only possible for certain nonimmigrant categories, such as L-1, L-2, B-1, B-2, E-1 and E-2.
  3. Keep records of your overstay
    If the granted period of stay has already been exceeded or will be exceeded as none of the above measures will take effect, please make sure you have the best possible documentation. In other words, collect receipts for flight cancelations etc., in order to be able to document the not self-inflicted overstay for later entries into the U.S. It cannot be forseen, how the U.S. authorities will deal with these overstays at a later date. If the documentation is correct, however, there should be no disadvantages for foreign persons.

Note: The United States of America is still classified as a high risk area in some countries. Travelers returning from the USA are required to meet different requirements depending on their home country. For updated information regarding travel from the United States to your home country, please visit the website of the Foreign Office in your home country.

Of course, we will continue to keep you informed about the latest developments. Stay healthy.

 

Sources

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/international-travel/index.html

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/emergencies/covid-19-faqs-for-travel-to-the-us-information.html

https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/pdf/Vax-Order-10-30-21-p.pdf

https://www.dhs.gov/news/2021/10/29/dhs-releases-details-fully-vaccinated-non-citizen-travelers-enter-us-land-and-ferry

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/covid-19_testing_required_US_Entry.html

Frequently asked questions

I would like to go on vacation in the USA and apply for a B-1 / B-2 visa. Is this possible?

An application for a B-1 / B-2 visa always consists of two steps:

  1. Filling out the online application (DS-160) and
  2. the subsequent payment of the visa fee including making an appointment at the U.S. consulate.

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.

I have a valid visa stamp in my passport. Can I continue to travel internationally?

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.

I am fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Can I enter the USA?

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 30.1.2022


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  • Wird ein Umsteigen an einem Flughafen auch als Einreise bewertet? Man verlässt den Transitbereich ja nicht.