Granted a Temporary Visa Before Coronavirus Outbreak, Can I Still Come to the U.S.?

If you applied for and were granted a temporary ("nonimmigrant") visa to come to the United States before the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic began, but you have not yet entered the country, your next step depends on various factors.

If you applied for and were granted a temporary ("nonimmigrant") visa to come to the United States before the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic began, but you have not yet entered the country, your next step depends largely on:

  • what country you are from
  • what type of visa you received
  • how long the visa lasts, and
  • whether your need for it will outlast any restrictions placed by the pandemic.

We'll look further into these concerns below.

Travel From Certain Countries Blocked Entirely

In an attempt to limit spread of COVID-19, the Trump Administration has flat-out blocked travel to the U.S. from various countries, with only limited exceptions. See the State Department's summary of relevant Presidential proclamations and other information on which countries are affected.

Obviously, if you are from one of the blocked countries, and you do not fall into an exception (which are mostly for people whose entry would be in the U.S. national interest or serve its law enforcement objectives), you should not consider U.S. entry at this time.

You might notice that one of the exceptions is for U.S. lawful permanent residents. Although this article mainly addresses temporary visa holders, switching your focus to getting a permanent, immigrant visa won't likely help either. One is not considered a U.S. lawful permanent resident until having set foot, with permission, on U.S. soil. In effect, it appears that only RETURNING lawful permanent residents can make use of this exception.

Besides this issue, you will likely find it difficult to find transportation to the U.S., as many airlines are grounding much of their fleet.

Different Types of Visas Lead to Different Considerations

If you received a visitor (B-2) visa for holiday travel to the United States, or you come from a Visa Waiver country, you'll probably need to put your plans on hold, even if your entry would be permitted.

Remember that even if you're allowed to board a plane or other transport, you will be screened upon entering the United States. Any sign of COVID-19 symptoms could result in you spending your vacation in quarantine.

If your stay was meant to be a longer one, perhaps as an H-1B worker or F-1 student, your future depends in part on who petitioned you. The job must still be in existence, and the school must remain open, in order for a visa to remain valid either for entry or after arrival in the United States. Unfortunately, this pandemic has led to the closure of many businesses and schools.

What's the Expiration Date on Your Visa?

Visas for tourists are often issued with expiration dates years into the future, so at least you might be able to use it at a later time. And employment-based visas usually don't expire for a few years. The H-1B visa, for instance, is good for three years.

Some visas, however, expire on shorter timelines. A K-1 fiance visa, for example, is good for only 90 days.

U.S. immigration authorities are still working out the details of how to deal with visa-expiration issues, but you'll want to keep a close eye on the matter. Obviously, you cannot enter the U.S. with an expired visa.

Will You Be Eligible for the Same Visa After It Expires?

If your eligibility for the original visa remains completely unchanged (for instance, you still plan to marry your U.S. citizen fiance, who still has a job that's sufficient to support you), but your U.S. entry visa will soon run out, you might be in luck.

Contact the U.S. consulate and embassy that issued the visa, and ask for a visa stamp with a new date.

If that situation doesn't describe you, you might, unfortunately have to start the entire process over, with a new visa petition or application to the U.S. consulate.

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