This page tracks U.S. visa and entry restrictions related to COVID-19. See NAFSA's Coronavirus Critical Resources Page for related information and resources.

Page Contents

Coronavirus Presidential Proclamations

The President has issued several COVID-19-related proclamations. Currently all are in effect. They are also independent one from another. For example, if someone is exempt from the June 22, 2020 proclamation on H, J, and L nonimmigrants, they may still be subject to one of the country-specific COVID-19 proclamations (i.e., if present in China, Iran, European Schengen Area, U.K, Ireland, or Brazil in the 14-day period before attempting entry to the U.S.) unless specifically exempt from those as well.

June 22, 2020 Proclamation 10052 Suspends Entry of Certain H, J, and L Nonimmigrants

On June 22, 2020, the President issued Proclamation 10052 titled Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak. Effective June 24, 2020, the proclamation suspends "entry into the United States of any alien seeking entry pursuant to any of the following nonimmigrant visas" until December 31, 2020, subject to section 3 of the proclamation:

  • "an H-1B or H-2B visa, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien;"
  • "a J visa, to the extent the alien is participating in an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien;"
  • "an L visa, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien"

Section 3(a) states, however, that the suspension will only be applied to individuals who:

"(i) is outside the United States on the effective date of this proclamation;

[as amended] (ii) does not have a nonimmigrant visa, of any of the classifications specified in section 2 of this proclamation and pursuant to which the alien is seeking entry, that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation; and

(iii) does not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission."

Proclamation 10054 of June 29, 2020 amended Proclamation 10052 at Section 3(a)(ii) to clarify that the exception in that paragraph applies only to individuals with a valid H, J, or L visa who seek admission to the United States in one of those categories. For example, an individual outside the United States wishing to enter the United States in H-1B status who had valid B-2 visa but not a valid H-1B visa would be subject to the proclamation and would not be eligible for an H-1B visa. Proclamation 10054 also extends the April 22, 2020 Proclamation 10014 suspending entry of certain immigrants until the end of the year.

On October 1, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of Proclamation 10052, but that injunction is limited to visa applicants whose petitioner (for H-1B or L-1 beneficiaries) or sponsor or host organization (for J-1 applicants) are either one of  the plaintiffs (the National Association of Manufactures (NAM), the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, the National Retail Federation, Technet, and Intrax, Inc)or  are members of the plaintiff associations at the time of adjudication. The case is National Association of Manufacturers, et al. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, et al..

Resources

April 22, 2020 Proclamation 10014 Limits Entry of Certain Immigrants

Immigrant Visa Proclamation. Proclamation 10014 of April 22, 2020, published at 85 FR 23441, titled Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak. This proclamation suspends entry of certain new immigrants who do not already have an approved immigrant visa. The proclamation does not currently impact applicants for adjustment of status or nonimmigrants such as students, H-1B workers, visitors for business or pleasure, etc. Section 6 of the proclamation, however, calls upon DOL, DOS, and DHS to within 30 days of April 22 "review nonimmigrant programs and... recommend... other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers."

The initial effective period was 60 days starting 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020. This was extended to December 31, 2020 by the Proclamation 10052 of June 22, 2020.

Geographic Proclamations Affecting Entry from Certain Countries

The President has issued five COVID-19-related proclamations to limit travel to the United States from certain countries. These proclamations will remain in effect until terminated by the President. The proclamations state that the "Secretary of Health and Human Services shall recommend that the President continue, modify, or terminate" the proclamations.

  • On July 14, 2020, the Department of State included this question and response in a brief FAQ related to the gradual reopening of consulates on a country-by country basis: "Do the various Presidential Proclamations/travel restrictions still apply, or are those lifting with the resumption of visa services? The five geographical COVID-19 Proclamations (P.P. 9984, 9992, 9993, 9996, 10041) and the two COVID-19 Labor Market Proclamations suspending the entry of certain aliens (P.P. 10014 and 10052) remain in effect."
  • A DOS news item titled National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland, originally published on July 16, 2020 and last updated on October 1, 2020 implies the following:
    • that an F-1 or M-1 student who already has a visa can travel to the United States on that visa (if otherwise eligible) under a general national interest exception without needing to first visit a U.S. consulate
    • that a national interest exception will be given almost automatically to an F-1 or M-1 visa applicant who needs a visa, but
    • that the decision may still “case-by-case” for J-1 students needing a visa, and
    • that unlike F-1 and M-1 students who already have a visa, J-1 students who already have a J-1 visa should also contact the consulate “before traveling."
    • Another question is whether reference to “academics” in the new paragraph would cover J-1, H-1B, and O-1 professors and researchers to be treated in a fashion similar to J-1 students.

"National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland

Last Updated: October 1, 2020

Certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, students, and journalists may qualify for national interest exceptions under Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9993 (Schengen Area) and 9996 (United Kingdom and Ireland). Qualified travelers who are applying for or have valid visas or ESTA authorization may travel to the United States even as PPs 9993 and 9996 remain in effect following the procedures below.

Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual national interest exception to travel. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for a national interest exception to travel.

Business travelers, investors, academics, J-1 students, journalists, and treaty traders who have a valid visa or ESTA authorization that was issued prior to PP 9993 or 9996’s effective date or who are seeking to apply for a visa, and believe they may qualify for a national interest exception should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling. If a national interest exception is approved, they may travel on either a valid visa or ESTA authorization, as appropriate.

The Department of State also continues to grant national interest exceptions for qualified travelers seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security.

Granting national interest exceptions for this travel to the United States from the Schengen area, UK, and Ireland, will assist with the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and bolster key components of our transatlantic relationship.

We appreciate the transparency and concerted efforts of our European partners and allies to combat this pandemic and welcome the EU’s reciprocal action to allow key categories of essential travel to continue."

The COVID-19 Country-Specific Proclamations

  1. China Travel Proclamation. January 31, 2020 - Proclamation 9984 of January 31, 2020, published at 85 FR 6709, titled Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus. The proclamation cites INA 212(f) to suspend entry into the United States of all aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants, and other non-U.S. citizens) who were physically present within the People's Republic of China, excluding the Special Autonomous Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. This coronavirus travel ban is effective starting 5 p.m. on Sunday, February 2, 2020.
  2. Iran Travel Proclamation. February 29, 2020 - Proclamation 9992 of February 29, 2020, published at 85 FR 12855. The proclamation cites INA 212(f) to suspend entry into the United States of all aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants, and other non U.S. citizens) who were physically present within the Islamic Republic of Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. This coronavirus travel ban is effective starting 5:00 p.m. eastern standard time on March 2, 2020. This proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 5:00 p.m. eastern standard time on March 2, 2020.
  3. European Schengen Area Proclamation. March 11, 2020 - Proclamation 9993 of March 11, 2020, published at 85 FR 15045 (March 16, 2020). "The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation... This proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020. This proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020." Although in his address President Trump reportedly said the ban would last 30 days, the proclamation language itself states that it "shall remain in effect until terminated by the President." The European Schengen area includes Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. *see national interest waiver exemption note below.
  4. Ireland and United Kingdom Proclamation. March 14, 2020 - Proclamation 9996 of March 14, 2020, published at 85 FR 15341 (March 18, 2020). Covers England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. "The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the United Kingdom, excluding overseas territories outside of Europe, or the Republic of Ireland during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States is hereby suspended and limited ... This proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 16, 2020.  This proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 16, 2020." *see national interest waiver exemption note below.
  5. Brazil. May 24-25, 2020. Proclamation 10041 of May 24, 2020. Also published in the Federal Register at 85 FR 31933 (May 28, 2020). Suspends entry into the United States of all aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants, and other non-U.S. citizens) who were physically present within the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. The May 24, 2020 proclamation contained a May 28, 2020 effective date, but a May 25, 2020 amendment to the proclamation, also published in the Federal Register at 85 FR 32291 (May 28, 2020) as Proclamation 10042, revised the effective date to May 26, 2020. Section 5 of the May 24, 2020 proclamation has been amended to provide: "This proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on May 26, 2020. This proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on May 26, 2020."

The proclamations do not apply to U.S. citizens, or to any alien who is:

  1. a lawful permanent resident of the United States
  2. a spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  3. a parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  4. a sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  5. a child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  6. an alien traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
  7. C (transit) or D (air or sea crewmember) nonimmigrants
  8. seeking entry into or transiting the United States pursuant to an A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 visa;
  9. an alien whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the virus, as determined by the CDC Director, or his designee;
  10. an alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee; or
  11. an alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.*
  12. a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

* National Interest Waivers

  • A May 22, 2020 DHS order established a "national interest exemption" under Proclamations 9984 (China), 9992 (Iran), 9993 (Schengen Area), and 9996 (UK and Ireland), for "certain foreign professional athletes who compete in professional sporting events organized by certain leagues, including their essential staff and their dependents." The order will not benefit individuals covered by the Brazil COVID-19 Proclamation 10041. See NAFSA's page on the order.
  • A DOS news item last updated October 1, 2020 confirms, "Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual national interest exception to travel. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for a national interest exception to travel...Business travelers, investors, academics, J-1 students, journalists, and treaty traders who have a valid visa or ESTA authorization that was issued prior to PP 9993 or 9996’s effective date or who are seeking to apply for a visa, and believe they may qualify for a national interest exception should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling. If a national interest exception is approved, they may travel on either a valid visa or ESTA authorization, as appropriate." Travelers who would otherwise be subject to the Schengen, UK, and Ireland proclamations should contact the U.S. embassy in the country from which they will be traveling to the United States to verify if an exception applies to them.
  • A July 24, 2020 Information Sheet from CBP's Carrier Liaison Program contains a good summary of the national interest exception for F-1 and M-1 students and their F-2 and M-2 dependents who are traveling to the United States from the Schengen area, UK, or Ireland. (08/06/2020)

For aliens not excluded by the ban, the proclamations direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish standards and procedures at and between all United States ports of entry to regulate the travel of persons and aircraft to the United States to facilitate the orderly medical screening and, where appropriate, quarantine of persons who enter the United States and who may have been exposed to the virus. "Such steps may include directing air carriers to restrict and regulate the boarding of such passengers on flights to the United States."

U.S. Consular and Visa Services

The Department of State Visa Office does not maintain a COVID-19 portal page with information dedicated to U.S. visas, although the DOS travel.state.gov website does list COVID-19-related news alerts on its U.S. Visa News page. This NAFSA page has highlights from that and other sources.

General Suspension of Routine Visa Services

The Department of State suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. A March 20, 2020 news alert on travel.state.gov (U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Office) stated:

  • "In response to worldwide challenges related to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Department of State is suspending routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. Our overseas missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.
  • Services to U.S. citizens continue to be available. More information is available on each Embassy's website.
  • This does not affect the visa waiver program. See https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/faq?focusedTopic=Schengen%20Travel%20Proclamation for more information.
  • Although all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments are cancelled, the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee is valid and may be used for a visa appointment in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment.
  • Applicants with an urgent matter and need to travel immediately should follow the guidance provided at the Embassy's website to request an emergency appointment."

On July 13, 2020, DOS tweeted the following update from @TravelGov:

"US embassies and consulates are beginning the phased resumption of routine visa services. The dates for each embassy or consulate will depend on local conditions. We are unable to provide details for each location. Please monitor the embassy or consulate website for updates."

Phased resumption of visa services. DOS last updated its resumption of routine visa services message on November 12, 2020. It was originally posted on July 14, 2020. The page also contains several FAQs.

"Phased Resumption of Routine Visa Services

  • The Department of State suspended routine visa services worldwide in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  In July 2020, U.S. Embassies and Consulates began a phased resumption of routine visa services.
  • The resumption of routine visa services, prioritized after services to U.S. citizens, will occur on a post-by-post basis, consistent with the Department’s guidance for safely returning our workforce to Department facilities. U.S. Embassies and Consulates have continued to provide emergency and mission-critical visa services since March and will continue to do so as they are able.  As post-specific conditions improve, our missions will begin providing additional services, culminating eventually in a complete resumption of routine visa services.
  • We are unable to provide a specific date for when each mission will resume specific visa services, or when each mission will return to processing at pre-pandemic workload levels.  See each U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website for information regarding operating status and which services it is currently offering..."

To find embassy or consulate websites, go to https://www.usembassy.gov/. The embassy links get you to the right embassy website, but you will have to do some clicking to find relevant COVID-19 information, as each embassy website is structured a bit differently.

Expansion of Renewal Visa Interview Waivers

On August 25, 2020, the Department of State announced a temporary expansion of visa interview waiver eligibility under 22 CFR 102(b)(3). That provision allows consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying to renew a visa in the same visa classification and category if not more than 12 months have passed since the prior visa expired. Until December 31, 2020, the temporary expansion allows such wivers if the prior visa has not expired more than 24 months ago. See NAFSA's page for additional details.

Mission India Update

The U.S. embassy in India posted the following on its website:

"We are pleased to announce that consular sections at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and our Consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata will begin processing of student and academic exchange visitor visa applications on a limited basis on August 17... We will first process emergency student and exchange visitor appointment requests received prior to August 12 and then offer public appointments. We will refresh appointments as we have availability, generally two weeks in advance. Prospective students and exchange visitors should schedule an appointment no more than three weeks prior to their class start date. We expect appointment slots to be filled quickly. Please continue to monitor our website for availability.

Student visas are a high priority, and we will make every effort to assist student visa applicants in a timely fashion, while keeping our customers and staff safe. However, due to our very limited appointment availability we will not be able to accommodate all requests in time for the start of the fall semester. We will try to handle requests based on when we receive them and when classes will start. We ask for your patience during this time...

"Applicants for H1B, H2B, H4, L and certain J categories covered by Presidential Proclamation 10052 should request an appointment only if you have reason to believe you may qualify for one of the exceptions listed here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/exceptions-to-p-p-10014-10052-suspending-entry-of-immigrants-non-immigrants-presenting-risk-to-us-labor-market-during-economic-recovery.html."

Update on Visas for Medical Professionals

April 8, 2020 message on travel.state.gov. "Despite the worldwide suspension of routine visa services, U.S. embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services to the extent possible, given resource constraints and local government restrictions.  Medical professionals with an approved U.S. non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129 or I-140 with a current priority date, or similar) or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor program (DS-2019), particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, should review the website of their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for procedures to request an emergency visa appointment.  Local government restrictions may limit the ability of some embassies/consulates to process emergency visas at this time.  Applicants' travel may also be subject to local laws, regulations, and travel restrictions."... "For those foreign medical professionals already in the United States: J-1 Alien Physicians (medical residents) may consult with their program sponsor, ECFMG, to extend their programs in the United States.  Generally, a J-1 program for a foreign medical resident can be extended one year at a time for up to seven years."

March 26, 2020 on travel.state.gov. "We encourage medical professionals with an approved U.S. non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129, I-140, or similar) or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor program (DS-2019), particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, to review the website of their nearest embassy or consulate for procedures to request a visa appointment..." The Washington Post reported that on Friday, the Department of State clarified that they were "only processing people already accepted for jobs or studies in the United States." The Post quoted Ian Brownlee, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, as saying that "we are not going out looking for others. These are people who were ready to come in." DOS later tweeted this clarification: "Please note that you must have an approved U.S. non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129, I-140, or similar) or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor program (DS-2019) to apply."

Consular Affairs Theme from EVP March 27, 2020 Teleconference

On March 27, 2020, the Department of State hosted a teleconference for J-1 exchange program sponsors, and posted a set of questions and answers arising out of that event. Reproduced below are the questions and answers from the "Consular Affairs theme."

Q1: When do you expect US Embassies and Consulates to open for J1 interviews? Will there be refunds available for the applicants if they cannot attend because the US Embassies and Consulates are not open?

(A) Routine visa services will resume as soon as possible, but a specific date cannot be provided at this time. A visa fee is valid to make an appointment one year from the date of payment. No visa fee refunds are available at this time for those applicants who have not been able to schedule or cannot attend a visa interview due to a COVID-19-related closure.

Q2: Once nonimmigrant visa interviews start happening again, will priority be given to those whose visa eligibility deadline would be coming up soon in terms of an interview slot?

(A) At the appropriate time, the Visa Office will provide guidance to our visa sections worldwide on the resumption of routine visa services. As a matter of general operating procedure, most visa sections worldwide schedule visa interviews for students and exchange visitors separately from regular B1/B2 visa applicants (visitors for business and tourism). Therefore, the wait time for a student or exchange visitor is generally much shorter than the wait time for a B1/B2 applicant. In addition, our visa sections worldwide routinely expedite visa interviews for students and exchange visitors upon request if there is a compelling need to expedite visa processing.

Q3: Is the Department considering a visa application process that substitutes video interviews for in-person interviews in order to expedite the process when consular sections reopen?

(A) The Department of State has no plans to substitute video interviews for the in-person visa interview.

Q4: Could the Consulates and Embassies especially in China and India where we have high student populations consider issuing student and scholar visas (F & J) via mail in documents and interviews via skype or face time, instead of in person?

(A) The Department of State has no plans to substitute video interviews for the in-person visa interview. Consular officers may grant interview waivers for those renewing a visa in the same visa classification. To be eligible for a potential interview waiver, the F, M, or J visa applicant's application must have been filed within 12 months of the expiration of his or her prior visa in the same category.

Controls at Land Ports of Entry on Canadian and Mexican Borders

For additional background, also see: Congressional Research Service (CRS) Legal Sidebar: Entry Restrictions at the Northern and Southern Borders in Response to COVID-19 (updated April 27, 2020).

Canada-Mexico "Essential Travel" Restrictions

Two Federal Register notices published on March 24, 2020 announced the decision to temporarily allow entry to the United States through land ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada and U.S. Mexico borders for "essential travel" only. The restrictions have been extended eight times, and will be in effect until 11:59 p.m. EDT on December 21, 2020.

The notices are modeled identically for entry through the respective land borders. The restrictions went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on March 20, 2020 and have been extended until 11:59 p.m. EDT on December 21, 2020.

According to the notices, during the effective dates of the restrictions:

"... travel through the land ports of entry and ferry terminals along the [... United States-Canada and United States-Mexico borders] ... shall be limited to "essential travel," which includes, but is not limited to-

  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
  • Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States);
  • Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions; *
  • Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Canada in furtherance of such work);
  • Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support Federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies);
  • Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Canada);
  • Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and
  • Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.

The following travel does not fall within the definition of "essential travel" for purposes of this Notification-

  • Individuals traveling for tourism purposes (e.g., sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events).

At this time, this Notification does not apply to air, freight rail, or sea travel between [the United States and Canada and the United States and Mexico], but does apply to passenger rail and ferry travel between the [the United States and Canada and the United States and Mexico]. These restrictions are temporary in nature and shall remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. EDT on [October 21, 2020]. This Notification may be amended or rescinded prior to that time, based on circumstances associated with the specific threat."

* The Canada and Mexico land port of entry restrictions include as coming for essential travel "Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions." It is unclear whether "traveling to attend" also covers students who are studying online under their school's COVID-19 policy and who wish to travel through land ports of entry.

Canada-Mexico "Congregate Settings" Restrictions

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) orders suspend "the introduction of persons into the United States" who are traveling from Canada or Mexico (regardless of their country of origin) "who would otherwise be introduced into a congregate setting in a land Port of Entry (POE) or Border Patrol station at or near the United States borders with Canada and Mexico," subject to important exceptions described below. The congregate settings restrictions will remain in effect "until the CDC Director determines that the danger of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States from covered aliens has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health."

Sources

  • 85 FR 17060 (March 26, 2020), original CDC Order effective for 30 days from March 20, 2020 through April 20, 2020
  • 85 FR 17060 (April 20, 2020), 30-day extension through May 20, 2020
  • 85 FR 31503  (May 26, 2020), indefinite extension "until the CDC Director determines that the danger of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States from covered aliens has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health," to be reviewed every 30 days

The order states that it is not applicable to, among others, "Persons from foreign countries who hold valid travel documents." While this appears to cover properly documented nonimmigrants such as students, exchange visitors, H-1B workers, TN workers, etc. it is still unclear whether a port of entry's regular "secondary inspection" area would constitute a "congregate setting" under the order, and if so how it might impact individuals with valid travel documents who would need to pass through ordinary "secondary inspection" at a port of entry."

Summary

The original order was effective March 20, 2020, for 30 days. In a Federal Register notice published on April 21, 2020, but effective April 20, 2020, the CDC extended the "congregate settings" restrictions for 30 additional days, until 11:59 p.m. on May 20, 2020. On May 26, 2020, the CDC issued an indefinite extension notice at published at 85 FR 31503  (May 26, 2020), under which the congregate settings restrictions will continue "until the CDC Director determines that the danger of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States from covered aliens has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health." That notice also says that "CDC shall review the latest information regarding the status of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health risks every thirty days to ensure that the Order remains necessary to protect the public health."

The order is designed principally to block entry of "persons who are traveling from Canada or Mexico (regardless of their country of origin), and who must be held longer in congregate settings in POEs or Border Patrol stations to facilitate immigration processing, would typically be aliens seeking to enter the United States at POEs who do not have proper travel documents, aliens whose entry is otherwise contrary to law, and aliens who are apprehended near the border seeking to unlawfully enter the United States between POEs. This order is intended to cover all such aliens."

The order directs that the individuals covered by it (covered aliens) be moved "to the country from which they entered the United States, or their country of origin, or another location as practicable, as rapidly as possible, with as little time spent in congregate settings as practicable under the circumstances." U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) developed an operational plan for implementing the order, and DHS will, where necessary, use repatriation flights to move covered aliens.

The order states that it is not applicable to, among others, "Persons from foreign countries who hold valid travel documents." While this would appear to cover properly documented nonimmigrants such as students, exchange visitors, H-1B workers, TN workers, etc. it is still unclear whether a port of entry's regular "secondary inspection" area would constitute a "congregate setting" under the order, and if so how it might impact individuals with valid travel documents who would need to pass through ordinary "secondary inspection" at a port of entry.

The order does not apply to:

  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents
  • Persons from foreign countries who hold valid travel documents
  • Persons from foreign countries in the visa waiver program who are not subject to travel restrictions
  • Where a designated DHS customs officer determines, based on the totality of the circumstances, including consideration of significant law enforcement, officer and public safety, humanitarian, and public health interests, that the Order should not be applied to a specific person otherwise subject to the order
  • Members of the armed forces of the United States and associated personnel for whom the Secretary of Defense provides assurance to the Director that the Secretary of Defense, through measures such as quarantine, isolation, or other measures for maintaining control over such individuals, is preventing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to others in the United States.

Additional Background

To enable orders of this type, CDC published an interim final rule in the Federal Register at 85 FR 16559 (March 24, 2020, effective 11:59 p.m. EDT on March 20, 2020) that added a new regulatory provision at 42 CFR 71.40. CDC then published this as a final rule on September 11, 2020, at 85 FR 56424 (September 11, 2020). The authority cited for the regulation and the order is the Public Health Service (PHS) Act, codified at 42 USC 216, 243, and 361-369. These PHS Act provisions enable the CDC Director to prohibit the introduction into the United States of persons from designated foreign countries (or one or more political subdivisions and regions thereof) or places, for a period that the Director deems necessary for the public health, if the Director determines that:

(1) By reason of the existence of any communicable disease in a foreign country (or one or more political subdivisions or regions thereof) or place, there is serious danger of the introduction of such communicable disease into the United States, and

(2) This danger is so increased by the introduction of persons from such country (or one or more political subdivisions or regions thereof) or place that a suspension of the introduction of such persons into the United States is required in the interest of the public health.

Quarantine of U.S. citizens returning from China

In a January 31, 2020 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) press briefing, Secretary Alex Azar declared that the Novel Coronavirus represents a public health emergency in the United States. Secretary Azar also announced that effective 5 p.m. EST on Sunday, February 2, the following restrictions on U.S. citizens returning from travels in China will be implemented:

  • Any U.S. citizen returning to the United States who has been in Hubei province in the 14 days prior to their entry to the United States will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine to ensure they have been provided proper medical care and health screening
  • Any U.S. citizen returning to the United States who has been anywhere else in mainland China in the 14 days prior to their entry to the United States will undergo "proactive entry health screening at a select number of ports of entry," and up to 14 days of "monitored self-quarantine" to ensure they've not contracted the virus and do not pose a public health risk.

For details, see:

COVID-19-related sanctions under INA 243(d)

April 10, 2020. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump issued Presidential Memorandum of April 10, 2020, Memorandum on Visa Sanctions, to direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to notify the Secretary of State "if any government of a foreign country denies or unreasonably delays the acceptance of aliens who are citizens, subjects, nationals, or residents of that country after being asked to accept those aliens, and if such denial or delay is impeding operations of the Department of Homeland Security necessary to respond to the ongoing pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2." The memorandum then directs that after receiving such notification, the Secretary of State must "as expeditiously as possible, but no later than 7 days after receipt, adopt and initiate a plan to impose the visa sanctions provided for in section 243(d) of the INA." See NAFSA's INA 243(d) page for details on this provision of law. No countries have yet been added to the INA 243(d) sanction list pursuant to this Presidential Memorandum, which is based on different legal authority than the recent COVID-19 Presidential Proclamation entry bans currently in effect.

Designated U.S. airports

Proclamation 9984 of January 31, 2020 directed DHS "to regulate the travel of persons and aircraft to the United States to facilitate the orderly medical screening and, where appropriate, quarantine of persons who enter the United States and who may have been exposed to the virus. Such steps may include directing air carriers to restrict and regulate the boarding of such passengers on flights to the United States." To implement this, joint U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Federal Register notices directed all aircraft operators to ensure that all flights carrying persons, including U.S. citizens and permanent residents and others not subject to any of the five country-specific Presidential Proclamation coronavirus bans who within the last 14 days traveled from, or were otherwise present within, one of the countries designated in the Presidential Proclamations only land at one of 15 designated airports.

On September 15, 2020, CBP and TSA published a joint notice in the Federal Register (85 FR 57108) that terminated these designated arrival airport restrictions, effective September 14, 2020. However, this notice only terminates the restriction that required visitors arriving from one of the proclamation-subject countries to land at one of 15 designated U.S. airports. The country-specific coronavirus proclamations themselves remain in place until terminated by the President.

The notice states:

"Terminating this effort will allow public health resources to be more effectively reprioritized for other containment and mitigation efforts and will stimulate air travel.  Continuing activities will include an illness reporting system and a passenger education process carried out in tandem with other enhanced public health measures implemented within the passenger air transportation system in collaboration with industry.  This notice does not affect those other public health measures, which will remain in place as long as appropriate.  Appropriate traveler health education materials will continue to be made available to passengers arriving from foreign countries.  Health education information will continue to be displayed at ports of entry."

Also see a CDC statement for that agency's perspective on this change.

Status of Passenger Flights by Chinese Airlines to and from the United States

On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued Order 2020-6-6 "to permit Chinese carriers to operate, in the aggregate, a total of four weekly round-trip scheduled passenger flights to and from the United States, an aggregate level of scheduled passenger services that would be equivalent to that permitted by Chinese aviation authorities for U.S. carriers."

Background

On June 3, 2020, DOT issued Order 2020-6-1 that was set to automatically go into effect on June 16, 2020. Order 2020-6-1 would have suspended "passenger operations of all Chinese carriers to and from the United States," due to "the failure of the Government of the People’s Republic of China (China) to permit U.S. carriers to exercise the full extent of their bilateral right to conduct scheduled passenger air services to and from China." The The Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) began revising its restrictions on U.S. flights in response, which led to DOT revising its original order as follows:

  • On June 5, 2019, DOT issued Order 2020-6-3 to "permit Chinese carriers to operate, in the aggregate, a total of two weekly round-trip scheduled passenger flights to and from the United States, an aggregate level of scheduled passenger services that would be equivalent to that permitted by Chinese aviation authorities for U.S. carriers." Order 2020-6-3 left it up to the CAAC to communicate to DOT "by letter which carrier(s) it selects to operate each or both of these two services."
  • On June 15, 2020, DOT issued Order 2020-6-6, "to permit Chinese carriers to operate, in the aggregate, a total of four weekly round-trip scheduled passenger flights to and from the United States, an aggregate level of scheduled passenger services that would be equivalent to that permitted by Chinese aviation authorities for U.S. carriers."

The carrier(s) the CAAC selects to run the weekly flights will be from among the following list:

  1. Air China Limited (doing business as Air China)
  2. Beijing Capital Airlines Co., Ltd.
  3. China Eastern Airlines Corporation Limited
  4. Hainan Airlines Holding Co. Ltd.
  5. Sichuan Airlines Co., Ltd.
  6. China Southern Airlines Company Limited
  7. Xiamen Airlines

The DOT order applies to scheduled passenger flights coming into and going out of the United States, but does not impact cargo operations. DOT states that, "Our overriding goal is not the perpetuation of this situation, but rather an improved environment wherein the carriers of both parties will be able to exercise fully their bilateral rights."

NAFSA will update this page with any further announcements.