No More Covid Travel Bans? Changes are Coming!

No More Covid Travel Bans…

By Brianne Donovan, Sumner Immigration Law

On September 20, 2021, the Biden Administration announced a change in international travel restrictions previously put in place at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The current travel restrictions require non-U.S. citizen or green card holders in designated countries to quarantine in another country for two weeks. This ban is known as the country-specific ban.

Who does the country-specific ban affect?

This policy affects many nonimmigrant visa holders such as those on H-1B, L-1, and E status (among others). Countries currently on the list include India, China, Brazil, South Africa, and the Schengen Area. Different consulates seem to have interpreted the travel bans differently. Some consulates have not scheduled visa interviews unless the applicant also submits an NIE request.

Are there exception to the country-specific ban?

For foreign nationals seeking to fly directly to the United States, they can apply for a National Interest Exception (NIE). NIEs are granted by U.S. consulates or embassies abroad if the foreign national’s job falls within a critical infrastructure category, such as “Education” or “Finance.” Each NIE is valid for 12 months.

What is the new policy?

As the world adjusts to a new “normal,” with the COVID-19 virus determined to stay, new travel restrictions are set to be implemented in November of this year. This ban will be based on an individual’s vaccination status, regardless of country. Fully-vaccinated individuals must show proof of vaccination, and show proof of a negative test taken within 3 days prior to air travel.

When will this new policy go into effect?

The Biden administration announced that the changes will go into effect, November of this year, to give airlines time to implement new protocol. They have not announced a specific date.

Does this policy affect land travel?

No, this policy only affects air travel.

How will this policy affect interviews and visa stamps?

Even with the new policies, it is still too soon to tell how this policy will affect interviews and visa stamping. We hope this change will make travel easier. However, we do not expect that interview slots will be available any sooner. We still expect to see significant delays with consular processing for both nonimmigrant and immigrant visa processing. We will be sure to update the blog and our social media once we have more information.

If you have questions about how this policy may affect your travel plans, reach out to our office at (804) 396-3412 or to set up a consultation today. Stay tuned for more information.