In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the difficulties in screening incoming travelers, the U.S. government (originally the Trump administration, then the Biden administration) has issued a series of proclamations restricting travel from various countries to the United States. These are, for the most part, countries with serious COVID-19 outbreaks. The prohibition primarily affects people who've been in those countries within the 14 days prior to arriving and requesting U.S. entry.
This article will look at which countries are affected, and discuss who is and isn't subject to the bans.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The Biden Administration has announced plans to lift most COVID-related travel restrictions on international travelers coming into the United States, starting in early November of 2021. Instead of the ban, travelers will need to show proof of vaccination and of a negative COVID test done within three days of the trip. Details to come.
Also bear in mind that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials will continue to screen entrants from all countries around the globe, and can individually declare someone inadmissible for health or other reasons.
In addition, in January of 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) ordered that all air travelers to the U.S. get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the three days before their flight, and provide written documentation of the result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or of having recovered from COVID-19. This includes not only immigrants or visa holders, but U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The airlines will be expected to deny boarding to any passenger who does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery or chooses not to take a test.
Here is the complete list of countries from which travel is barred for an indefinite time as of April 30, 2021:
These travel bans do not affect most U.S. citizens and residents and families, including:
Nevertheless, people in these groups can expect long waits at the airport or other port of entry to the U.S., and to be screened and possibly quarantined or asked to quarantine at home.
Basically, anyone traveling from one of the above countries on a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa that's not one of the few visas listed above will be barred.
That includes, for example, travelers on the Visa Waiver program (VWP) or holding B visitor visas, F, M, or J student/exchange visitor visas, H-1B specialty technical worker visas, and so on.
It is possible for such travelers to get around the bar by spending a minimum of 14 days in a country from which travel is not barred. Be ready to provide proof of your minimum 14-day stay there, however.
Of course, the next immigration-law concern will be whether you still have a valid basis upon which to use your U.S. visa. If the school you were to attend is closed, or the company you were to work for has furloughed its employees, you might not be able to enter or maintain valid status under that visa.
It's possible to ask the U.S. government to make an exception to a travel bar or the testing requirement, if your entry would either:
Speak to an attorney for more information or to apply for one of these exceptions.