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.
- COVID Vaccine Requirement for Nonimmigrant Air Travelers End May 11 (updated 05/10/2023)
- Geographic Proclamations No Longer in Effect (updated 12/31/2021)
- U.S. Consular and Visa Services
- General Resumption of Visa Services (updated 10/21/2022)
- COVID-19 Surge Impacts Nonimmigrant Visa Appointments in China (updated 1/12/2023)
- Expansion of Renewal Visa Interview Waivers (updated 12/27/2022)
- Controls at Land Ports of Entry on Canadian and Mexican Borders End May 12 (updated 01/24/2022)
- Vaccination requirements for individuals traveling through land ports of entry at the Canadian and Mexican borders scheduled to end at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on May 12, 2023.(updated 05/10/2023)
- Airports and Flights
- Mask Mandate Vacated (updated 4/18/2022)
- CDC Terminates COVID Test Requirement for Passengers Flights Originating in PRC (updated 03/10/23))
- COVID Viral Tests No Longer Required for Boarding All U.S.-Bound Flights Effective June 12, 2022 (updated 06/11/2022)
COVID Vaccine Requirement for Nonimmigrant Air Travelers
From November 8, 2021 through May 11, 2023, Presidential Proclamation 10294 of October 25, 2021, Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic, required all "noncitizens who are nonimmigrants" entering the United States through an air POE to show proof that they were fully vaccinated with an acceptable COVID vaccine. Presidential Proclamation of May 9, 2023, Revoking the Air Travel COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement, revokes Proclamation 10294's vaccination requirement effective 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on May 12, 2023.
For details, see NAFSA's page: COVID Vaccine and Test Requirements for U.S. Entry.
Geographic COVID-19 Proclamations No Longer in Effect
There are currently no geographic COVID-19 entry ban proclamations in effect.
- See NAFSA's page COVID Vaccine and Test Requirements for U.S. Entry for other current COVID-19 entry requirements and restrictions.
- See NAFSA's page Archive: Geographic COVID-19 Proclamations Affecting Entry from Certain Countries for historical information on revoked geographic COVID-19 proclamations.
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.
Advocacy on Visa Delays
Senators Ask DOS to Address Visa Backlog for International Students
On August 10, 2021, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) led a group of 23 Senators in calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the State Department to address the backlog of visas for international students, which grew significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read NAFSA's press release.
NAFSA Meets With Department of State Regarding Consular Operations
On July 12, 2021, Esther Brimmer, DPhil, NAFSA's executive director and CEO, met with U.S. State Department Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, Edward Ramotowski, to discuss growing concerns regarding limited visa appointment availability and processing delays affecting international students and scholars planning to arrive on U.S. campuses this fall. NAFSA members can read a meeting summary.
General Resumption of Visa Services
The Department of State suspended routine visa services worldwide in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 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."
Read DOS' October 21, 2022 Update on Worldwide Visa Operations, transcribed below, for a DOS progress report.
"Update on Worldwide Visa OperationsLast Updated: October 21, 2022
Worldwide Visa Operations Are Recovering Faster than Expected from the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Department of State is successfully lowering visa interview wait times worldwide, following closures during the pandemic. We’ve doubled our hiring of U.S. Foreign Service personnel to do this important work, we are recovering faster than projected, and this year we will reach pre-pandemic processing levels.
Backlogs and Wait Times – How We Got Here
As for many service providers, the COVID-19 pandemic forced profound reductions in the Department’s visa processing capacity in two main ways. First, restrictions on travel to the United States, and local restrictions on public places like our overseas consular waiting rooms, curbed our ability to see visa applicants. As most applicants are required by U.S. law to appear in person, these restrictions forced a reduction in the number of visa applications the Department could process.
Second, as revenue from the application fees that fund visa processing operations was cut nearly in half, the Department was forced to leave more than 300 overseas consular officer positions unfilled in 2020 and 2021. This further reduced the number of visa applications we could process.
Where We Are Now
Since COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, we are back in business worldwide. Ninety-six percent of our embassies and consulates are again interviewing visa applicants, and we are processing nonimmigrant visa applications at 94 percent of pre-pandemic monthly averages and immigrant visa applications at 130 percent. In the past 12 months (through September 30, 2022), we processed 8 million non-immigrant visas, well above our best-case projections. We are well on the way to meeting and exceeding pre-pandemic visa processing capacity.
Improved efficiency through Interview Waivers
During the pandemic, the Department of State coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security to waive in-person interviews for several key visa categories, including for many students and temporary workers integral to supply chains. In addition, applicants renewing nonimmigrant visas in the same classification within 48 months of their prior visa’s expiration are now eligible to apply without an in-person interview in their country of nationality or residence. This has already reduced the wait time for an interview appointment at many embassies and consulates. We estimate 30 percent of worldwide nonimmigrant visa applicants may be eligible for an interview waiver, freeing up in-person interview appointments for those applicants who still require an in-person interview.
Building on Success
Our focused efforts during the pandemic recovery period have yielded substantial results in facilitating travel to the United States. Here are just some of our successes in the last year:
We reduced the immigrant visa (IV) backlog and reunited families: As of October 2022, our consular sections worldwide have reduced the overall IV interview scheduling backlog by 25 percent (nearly 135,000 applicants), from its peak in July 2021. Our embassies in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras eliminated an IV backlog of 22,000 applicants, and our consulate in Ciudad Juarez reduced the IV backlog for Mexican applicants by nearly 44 percent.
We set records for student and academic exchange visitor visas. Consular sections worldwide adjudicated more student visas in July 2022 than in any other month since 2016, with nearly 180,000 F, M, and academic J visas processed.
We exceeded pre-pandemic levels of visa processing for seasonal agricultural and nonagricultural workers who are vital links in the nation’s food supply chain and help ease labor shortages and inflation, with more than 395,000 H-2 visas issued in fiscal year 2022.
We issued thousands of crewmember visas essential for maintaining the global supply chains that support both the U.S. and global economy. By Summer 2022, the issuance rates of crewmember visas were comparable to pre-pandemic levels.
We issued all available E-3 visas in FY 2022, the immigrant visa category most sought by healthcare workers, who are crucial to the health and wellbeing of our communities.
We issued 54,334 Diversity Visas during the DV-2022 program year. That is the highest number of DVs issued in 25 years, and all available DV numbers were exhausted when that total was combined with the domestic adjustments of status approved by USCIS under the DV program.
For Those Navigating Long Interview Wait Times
Our goal is to provide a visa interview for every applicant who requires one, worldwide, in a reasonable timeframe. Although our processing capacity is rebounding faster than projected, we know that visa applicants still face lengthy wait times at some embassies and consulates. We urge any visa applicant who can travel to another embassy or consulate with shorter wait times to consider doing so. There is no penalty for applying anywhere appointments are available, even outside your home country. For the latest information about wait times, see https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas.html."
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.
COVID-19 Surge Impacts U.S. Mission China Visa Appointments
"Due to the operational impacts caused by the surge of COVID-19 infections across China, U.S. Embassy Beijing and U.S. Consulate General Shanghai are providing passport and emergency citizen services only. U.S. Consulates General Wuhan, Shenyang, and Guangzhou will only be providing emergency consular services until further notice. Please go to https://china.usembassy-china.org.cn/services/ for more information on emergency consular services. All routine Visa Services, with the exception of some previously scheduled for Consulate General Shanghai — are temporarily suspended; all regularly scheduled appointments at Embassy Beijing and the other Consulates General have been canceled."
"Consular Sections at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and Consulates Guangzhou and Shenyang will resume routine consular services on January 3. Consulate General Wuhan has resumed providing limited U.S. citizen services. Shanghai will continue operating in emergency operations status until further notice. Please note that the number of appointments available for routine services will be based on staffing."
Expansion of Visa Interview Waivers
In a December 23, 2022 announcement, DOS extended until December 31, 2023 the discretionary authority given to consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain "F, M, and Academic J Visa Holders" and "Petition-Based H, L, O, P, and Q Visa Holders."
Controls at Land Ports of Entry on Canadian and Mexican Borders
From January 22, 2022 through May 11, 2023, all noncitizens who are nonimmigrants had to show proof that they were fully vaccinated with an acceptable COVID-19 vaccine under the same vaccine standards as air travelers. Unlike air travel, however, travelers entering through land or ferry ports of entry were never subject to a pre-entry COVID-19 testing requirement. The U.S.-Canada-Mexico COVID restrictions ceased to have effect as of 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on May 12, 2023, under a pair of Federal Register Notice published on May 10, 2023. Canada notice | Mexico notice.
Airports and Flights
Mask Mandate Vacated
Executive Order 13988 of January 21, 2021, titled Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel, directed relevant agencies to incorporate, to the extent feasible, CDC recommendations on public modes of transportation and at ports of entry to the United States, including recommendations such as mask-wearing, physical distancing, appropriate ventilation, timely testing, and possibly self-quarantine after U.S. entry. See NAFSA's page on Executive Order 13988 for details.
CBP announced that on February 2, 2021 it began "enforcing the requirement that travelers wear face masks at all air, land and sea ports of entry in the United States in accordance with President Biden's Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Order Regarding the Requirement for Persons to Wear Masks While on Public Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs...With limited exceptions, travelers must wear a face mask while physically present at a U.S. air, land, or sea port of entry. CBP Officers will require travelers to temporarily lower their mask during the inspection process to verify their identity."
However, On April 18, 2022, a Federal District Court judge in Tampa, Florida issued a ruling that the "Mask Mandate exceeds the CDC's statutory authority and violates the procedures required for agency rulemaking under the APA. Accordingly, the Court vacates the Mandate and remands it to the CDC." The case was Health Freedom Defense Fund, Inc. et al. v. Biden. Case 8:21-cv-01693-KKM-AEP.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) followed up with an April 18, 2022 statement saying: "Due to today’s court ruling, effective immediately, TSA will no longer enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs. TSA will also rescind the new Security Directives that were scheduled to take effect tomorrow. CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time."
CDC Terminates COVID Test Requirement For PRC Travelers
The Centers for Disease Control announced on March 10, 2023, that:
"On March 10, 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rescinded the Order titled “Requirements for Negative Pre-Departure COVID-19 Test Result or Documentation of Recovery from COVID-19 for Aircraft Passengers Traveling to the United States from the People’s Republic of China.”
This rescission takes effect for flights departing to the United States from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Designated Airports* at or after 3:00pm ET (8:00pm GMT) on March 10, 2023, and will be published in the Federal Register.
This means that starting March 10, 2023 at 3pm ET, air passengers will no longer need to get tested and show the negative COVID-19 test result, or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19, prior to boarding a flight to the U.S. from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, and Macau, or through a Designated Airport.
*Designated Airports included Incheon International Airport (ICN) in Seoul, Republic of Korea; Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) in Canada; and Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in Canada.
View the Rescission [PDF – 5 pages]."
The requirement had applied to air passengers regardless of nationality and vaccination status, if they wanted to enter the United States on a flight:
- originating from the PRC, Hong Kong, or Macau; or
- transiting Incheon International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, or Vancouver International Airport on their way to the United States, if they have been in the PRC in the last 10 days.
Covered travelers had to take an acceptable COVID test ("such as a PCR test or an antigen self-test administered and monitored by a telehealth service or a licensed provider and authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or the relevant national authority") no more than 2 days before their departure to the United States, and the traveler must show a negative test result to the airline upon departure.
CDC Rescinds Order Requiring all Passengers on U.S.-Bound Flights to Have COVID-19 Viral Test, Effective June 12, 2022
Proclamation 10294 of October 25, 2021 did not institute new negative COVID-19 test requirements. Rather, in addition to being subject to the proof of vaccination requirements instituted by Proclamation 10294, nonimmigrants who were entering the United States through an air port of entry prior to June 12, 2022 were also subject to CDC rules that required all travelers (regardless of citizenship) to present proof of receiving a negative pre-departure viral test result for COVID-19. Nonimmigrants subject to Proclamation 10294 of October 25, 2021 must, however, still show both proof of being fully vaccinated (or qualify under one of the narrow exceptions) in order to enter the United States.
Update from the CDC website:
"As of 12:01AM ET on June 12, 2022, CDC will no longer require air passengers traveling from a foreign country to the United States to show a negative COVID-19 viral test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board their flight. For more information, see Rescission: Requirement for Negative Pre-Departure COVID-19 Test Result or Documentation of Recovery from COVID-19 for all Airline or Other Aircraft Passengers Arriving into the United States from Any Foreign Country."
See NAFSA's page COVID Vaccine and Test Requirements for U.S. Entry for additional details.