Developing News - India: (April 30, 2021) News outlets reported that in an April 30, 2021 White House press briefing, spokesperson Jen Psaki said the administration, citing recommendations from the CDC, will enact an entry ban on travelers coming from India that will go into effect on Tuesday May 4, 2021. NAFSA will update this page as soon as more details are available.


Three COVID-19-related presidential proclamations limit travel to the United States by individuals who were physically present in a covered country during the 14-day period prior to their planned entry or attempted entry to the United States.

The Covered Countries

  • Brazil
  • China
  • Iran
  • Ireland
  • Schengen Area (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)
  • United Kingdom
  • South Africa

The COVID-19 Geographic Proclamations Currently in Effect

  1. Proclamation 9984 of January 31, 2020 (Trump), published at 85 FR 6709 (February 5, 2020), effective February 2, 2020, continued in effect by Proclamation 10143 of January 25, 2021 (Biden), published at 86 FR 7467 (January 28, 2021). Covers:
    • China.
  2. Proclamation 9992 of February 29, 2020 (Trump), published at 85 FR 12855 (March 4, 2020), effective March 1, 2020, continued in effect by Proclamation 10143 of January 25, 2021 (Biden), published at 86 FR 7467 (January 28, 2021). Covers:
    • Iran.
  3. Proclamation 10143 of January 25, 2021 (President Biden), published at 86 FR 7467 (January 28, 2021). Covers:
    • South Africa. Effective January 30, 2021.
    • The European Schengen Area. Originally went into effect March 12, 2020 by Proclamation 9993 of March 11, 2020 (Trump), published at 85 FR 15045. (March 16, 2020). Terminated effective January 26, 2021 by Proclamation 10138 of January 18 2021 (Trump), but reestablished without interruption through Proclamation 10143 of January 25, 2021 (Biden), published at 86 FR 7467 (January 28, 2021).
    • The United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Originally went into effect March 12, 2020 by Trump Proclamation 9984 of January 31, 2020, published at 85 FR 6709 (February 5, 2020). Terminated effective January 26, 2021 by Proclamation 10138 of January 18 2021 (Trump), but reestablished without interruption through Proclamation 10143 of January 25, 2021 (Biden), published at 86 FR 7467 (January 28, 2021).
    • Brazil. Originally went into effect on May 26, 2020 by Proclamation 10041 of May 24, 2020 (Trump), published at 85 FR 31933 (May 28, 2020). Terminated effective January 26, 2021 by Proclamation 10138 of January 18 2021 (Trump), but reestablished without interruption through Proclamation 10143 of January 25, 2021 (Biden), published at 86 FR 7467 (January 28, 2021).

On February 24, 2021 the Department of State included this updated 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 three geographical COVID-19 Proclamations (P.P. 9984, 9992, and 10143) and one of the COVID-19 Labor Market Proclamations suspending the entry of certain aliens (P.P.10052) remain in effect."

Exceptions to the geographic COVID-19 travel restrictions

The geographic COVID-10 travel restriction 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 Exceptions for Certain Travelers

It may be possible for an individual otherwise covered by one of the geographic COVID-19 travel restriction proclamations to receive a national interest exception (NIE) to allow travel to the United States.

National Interest Exceptions for F-1 and M-1 students and other nonimmigrants

On April 26, 2021, DOS updated its National Interest Exception (NIE) page to expand certain NIE eligibilities to all countries subject to a geographic COVID-19 entry ban. Key eligibilities include:

  1. F-1 and M-1 Students.
    • "Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies. 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 an NIE to travel."
  2. Travelers "who are seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure; journalists; students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs" (emphasis added)
    • "Travelers in categories described above who have a valid visa in the appropriate class or who have a valid ESTA authorization for travel under the Visa Waiver Program and seek to travel for purposes consistent with ESTA authorization, should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling, if they believe they may qualify for a National Interest Exception. If a National Interest Exception is approved, they may travel on either a valid visa or ESTA authorization, as appropriate."
  3. "[Q]ualified travelers seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security."

Also reference an April 27, 2021 Department of State Media note announcing the policy, titled Uniform Global National Interest Exceptions to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions.

Here is the notice on the travel.state.gov website:

"National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland

Last Updated: April 26, 2021

On April 26, 2021, the Secretary of State made a national interest determination regarding categories of travelers eligible for exceptions under Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9984, 9992, and 10143 related to the spread of COVID-19.  As a result of this determination, together with national interest determinations already in place, travelers subject to these proclamations, due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, who are seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure; journalists; students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs, may now qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE).  Students and academics subject to these proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa, may qualify for an NIE only if their academic program begins August 1, 2021 or later.  Qualified travelers who are applying for or have valid visas or ESTA authorization may travel to the United States following the procedures below, even as PPs 9984, 9992, and 10143 remain in effect.

Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies. 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 an NIE to travel.

Travelers in categories described above who have a valid visa in the appropriate class or who have a valid ESTA authorization for travel under the Visa Waiver Program and seek to travel for purposes consistent with ESTA authorization, should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling, if they believe they may qualify for a National Interest Exception.  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 NIEs for qualified travelers seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security.  These travelers and any others who believe their travel to be in the United States’ national interest should also review the website of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for instruction on how to contact them.  

There are a number of ambiguities in this language. We try to address some of these in the bullets below:

  • 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 blanket national interest exception without needing to first visit a U.S. consulate, and a national interest exception will be given almost automatically to an F-1 or M-1 visa applicant who needs a visa.
    • The August 1, 2021 program start date requirement is ambiguous. In the first paragraph, DOS states that "Students and academics subject to these proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa, may qualify for an NIE only if their academic program begins August 1, 2021 or later," which seemingly limits the August 1, 2021 condition to travel from China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa, and does not include travel from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, or Ireland. Paragraph 2, though, refers more broadly to "Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021," and does not limit that condition to only China, Iran, Brazil, and South Africa.
    • For continuing students subject to the August 1, 2021 condition, this could mean that students may not be able to reenter under this NIE policy sooner than 30 days before their next session start date.
  • The term "students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs" likely refers to J-1 students and J-1 professors, research scholars, and short-term scholars. A DOS Bureau of Consular Affairs tweet confirms this, by saying: "Travelers offering support to critical infrastructure, J-1 visa holders, and journalists who have a valid visa who may qualify for an NIE should contact their embassy before traveling. If an NIE is approved, they may travel on a visa/ESTA, as appropriate." These J-1 exchange visitors must apply for an NIE at a U.S. consulate, but their chances of getting the NIE are improved under the April 26, 2021 policy. They are instructed to "contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling, if they believe they may qualify for a National Interest Exception. If a National Interest Exception is approved, they may travel on either a valid visa or ESTA authorization, as appropriate." This provision, though, is applicable "only if their academic program begins August 1, 2021 or later."
  • Travelers "who are seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure" and "journalists" must also individually apply for and be granted an NIE before entering the United States, like the above-referenced J-1 exchange visitors.
  • The prior versions of the NIE policy's reference to "academics" in general is no longer mentioned in the April 26, 2021 version. This might mean that immigration categories like H-1B, L-1, O-1 nonimmigrants may have to qualify for an NIE by establishing that they are "seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure," or "for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security."
  • Reports from the field indicate that national interest exceptions given on a case-by-case basis to individuals other than F-1 or M-1 students are limited in duration (e.g., 30 days, for a single entry)

National Interest Exceptions for immigrants, fiancé(e) visa holders, certain exchange visitors, and certain pilots and aircrew traveling to the United States

On April 8, 2021, DOS announced the following additional NIE exceptions. Most significantly in this set of exceptions: "Immigrant Visa processing posts may now grant immigrant and fiancé(e) visas to applicants otherwise eligible, notwithstanding these proclamations."

"Updates to National Interest Exceptions for Regional COVID Proclamations

Last Updated: April 8, 2021

The Secretary has determined that the travel of immigrants, fiancé(e) visa holders, certain exchange visitors, and pilots and aircrew traveling to the United States for training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance is in the national interest for purposes of approving exceptions under the geographic COVID Presidential Proclamations (9984, 9992, and 10143).  These proclamations restrict the entry of individuals physically present, within the 14-day period prior to their attempted entry into the United States, in the People's Republic of China, Islamic Republic of Iran, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Federative Republic of Brazil, or Republic of South Africa. This article provides further details regarding this determination.

National Interest Exceptions for Immigrants and Fiancé(e)s

On April 8, 2021, the Secretary of State determined that travel on an immigrant or fiancé(e) visa is in the national interest for purposes of granting exceptions under the geographic COVID proclamations.   Immigrant Visa processing posts may now grant immigrant and fiancé(e) visas to applicants otherwise eligible, notwithstanding these proclamations.

Immigrant and K fiancé visa applicants present in South Africa, Brazil, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the People's Republic of China, and the Islamic Republic of Iran should review the website of the nearest embassy or consulate which processes immigrant visas to verify which visa services are currently available, as the volume and type of visa cases each post is able to process, given the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, will depend on local circumstances.  At posts where immigrant visa processing is available, immigrant visas will be prioritized in accordance with the Department's guidance on the phased resumption of visa services.  An embassy or consulate will resume adjudicating all routine visa cases only when it is safe to do so and adequate resources are available.  As local 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.  Applicants should monitor embassy and consulate websites for updates on availability of visa services.

After meeting demand for services for U.S. citizens, embassies and consulates will continue to prioritize immediate  family members of U.S. citizens including intercountry adoptions and spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens, as well as fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens, and certain Special Immigrant Visa applications, in accordance with the phased resumption of visa services guidance.

National Interest Exceptions for Certain Exchange Visitors

On April 8, 2021, the Secretary of State determined that travel by certain exchange visitors is in the national interest for purposes of granting exceptions under the geographic COVID Presidential Proclamations.  Based on the Secretary's determination, national interest exceptions under these proclamations may be approved for the following categories of travel:

  • Travel by an au pair to provide care for a minor U.S. citizen, LPR, or nonimmigrant in lawful status when the au pair possesses special skills required for a child with particular needs (e.g., medical, special education, or sign language).
  • Travel by an au pair that prevents a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or other nonimmigrant in lawful status from becoming a public health charge or ward of the state or of a medical or other public funded institution.
  • Travel by an au pair to provide childcare services for a child whose parents are involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 or medical research at United States facilities to help the United States combat COVID-19.
  • Travel for an exchange program conducted pursuant to an MOU, Statement of Intent, or other valid agreement or arrangement between a foreign government and any federal, state, or local government entity in the United States that is designed to promote U.S. national interests if the agreement or arrangement with the foreign government was in effect prior to June 24, 2020.
  • Travel by Interns and Trainees on U.S. government agency-sponsored programs (those with a program number beginning with "G-3" on Form DS-2019): An exchange visitor participating in an exchange visitor program in which he or she will be hosted by a U.S. government agency and the program supports the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.
  • Travel by Specialized Teachers in Accredited Educational Institutions with a program number beginning with "G-5" on Form DS-2019: An exchange visitor participating in an exchange program in which he or she will teach full-time, including a substantial portion that is in person, in a publicly or privately operated primary or secondary accredited educational institution where the applicant demonstrates ability to make a specialized contribution to the education of students in the United States.  A "specialized teacher" applicant must demonstrate native or near-native foreign language proficiency and the ability to teach his/her assigned subject(s) in that language.
  • Travel in support of critical foreign policy objectives: This only includes exchange visitors participating in a small number of exchange programs that fulfill critical and time sensitive foreign policy objectives.

Travelers in these categories who wish to visit the United States and have a valid visa in the appropriate class, 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.

National Interest Exceptions for Pilots and Air Crew Traveling for Training and Aircraft Pickup, Delivery, or Maintenance

On April 8, 2021, the Secretary of State determined that travel by pilots and aircrew for training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance is in the national interest for purposes of granting exceptions under the geographic Presidential Proclamations. This includes individuals who are traveling to the United States for training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance on B-1/B-2, B-1, or M-1 visas, or Visa Waiver Program authorizations. The determination also covers certain M-2 dependents when the principal's necessary training is four weeks or more.  Access by qualified pilots and other essential air crew to aircraft maintenance, as well as simulator training, continuing education such as proficiency checks, and other vital safety certification courses offered in the United States, is an important component of safe skies.  Therefore, we intend to continue issuing visas to eligible applicants for such travelers, on the basis of national interest exceptions, as permitted by post resources and local government restrictions.

Visa applicants will be considered for an exception at the time of interview.  Travelers who already hold valid visas or Visa Waiver Program authorization and believe they meet the exception criteria should follow the procedures set forth on the Embassy/Consulate website where their visa was processed or nearest their residence for consideration for an exception under the geographic Presidential Proclamations."

Litigation on the COVID-19 geographic entry bans

On April 7, 2021, a suit was filed in federal district court against the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to challenge DOS's position that a suspension of entry under one of the COVID-19 geographic travel bans requires a suspension of visa processing and issuance. Under the DOS policy, individuals without the required visa must travel to a third country not subject to a COVID-19 14-day entry ban and apply for a visa in that country. The plaintiffs argue that DOS should allow visa applicants within one of the designated countries to apply for and receive a visa in that country, to allow them to then go to a third country to quarantine for 14 days before continuing on the the United States.

The case is Kinsley et al v. Blinken et al, Case #: 1:21-cv-00962, District Of Columbia District Court, filed April 7, 2021. Docket on PacerMonitor. Read the redacted complaint.