President Biden Adds India to the List of COVID-19 Public Health Travel Ban Countries
President Biden has issued a proclamation imposing a COVID-19 public health travel ban on foreign nationals with recent physical presence in India. This same type of travel ban is already in effect for Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, countries in the European Schengen Area, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
Starting at 12:01 am EDT on May 4, 2021, foreign nationals who have been physically present in India within 14 days of travel to the United States will be barred from entry, unless they qualify for an exception.
Consular operations in India are at a significantly reduced capacity due to the COVID pandemic, so those seeking exceptions to the new ban from a U.S. consulate are likely to experience delays and challenges.
The U.S. State Department periodically issues guidance on the criteria and standards for the national interest exception under the existing regional COVID travel bans. It is expected that the agency will soon issue updated guidance that addresses the national interest exception for India.
The following COVID-19-related presidential proclamations limit travel to the United States by individuals who were present in certain countries during the 14-day period prior to their planned entry to the United States. Also refer to the Department of State's web page Presidential Proclamations on Novel Coronavirus.
There are five COVID-19-related proclamations limiting travel to the U.S. originally signed by President Trump and extended on January 25, 2021, by President Biden, who added a proclamation limiting travel to the U.S. from South Africa as well.
These orders remain in effect since their implementation. All six proclamations suspend entry into the U.S. of a nonimmigrant (student visa holder) physically present in any of the countries listed below during the 14-day period preceding entry or attempted entry into the U.S.:
- China Proclamation – issued January 31, 2020
- Iran Proclamation – issued February 29, 2020
- European Schengen Area Proclamation – issued March 11, 2020
- Ireland and United Kingdom Proclamation – issued March 14, 2020
- Brazil Proclamation – issued May 24, 2020
- South Africa - issued January 25, 2021
- India - issued April 30, 2021
National Interest Exceptions (NIE) - updated April 26, 2021
The State Department has expanded eligibility for national interest exceptions (NIE) to the regional COVID-19 travel bans in place for Brazil, China, Iran, and South Africa, bringing them in line with existing criteria for travel from Ireland, the Schengen Area, and the United Kingdom. As of May 1, it is unclear if the same NIE's will be available to anyone in India. We will share more information as it becomes available.
NIE eligibility now exists under all of the regional bans for F students, certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs (J-1 visa holders), journalists, and those seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure. Existing policy already covered several other exchange visitor categories.
The new NIE policy became effective on April 26, 2021. However, many consulates worldwide are still operating at reduced capacity and facing steep application backlogs. Continued appointment delays and cancellations are to be expected in many areas.
On January 26, 2021, the Department of State informally confirmed that the Schengen, UK, and Ireland and other NIE exceptions continue in effect as set forth on the National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland page (originally published on July 16, 2020 and last updated on October 1, 2020). In connection with the July 13 announcement on the phasing in of routine visa services, the U.S. Department of State further indicated on July 16:
Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas, do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel. Students from those areas who are traveling on a J-1 may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request.
As indicated, all individuals are reminded that their admission remains subject to a determination by Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry and that they may be subject to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. DHS requires travelers using a NIE waiver to fly into one of 15 specifically designated airports found here.
For more information on all travel/entry restrictions, click here.