Immigration Update

U.S. lifts COVID-19 test requirement for international travel

As of 12:01 a.m. 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.

June 13, 2022

Non-U.S. Citizen, Non-U.S. Immigrants: Travel to and from the United States

Make sure you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines before you travel internationally.

You must be fully vaccinated with the primary series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine to travel to the United States by plane if you are a non-U.S. citizen, non-U.S. immigrant (not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa). Only limited exceptions apply.

Historical Reference:

CBP Announces New COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement for Non-U.S. Travelers Entering Via Land and Ferry From Canada, Mexico

As of January 22, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is requiring non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals at the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination. DHS said this was necessary as COVID-19 cases continue to rise nationwide.

The new restriction applies to non-U.S. individuals who are traveling for both essential and non-essential reasons. It does not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or U.S. nationals.

The Biden administration previously ordered that noncitizen nonimmigrants be vaccinated against COVID-19 before entering the United States by air, except in limited circumstances.

Related Links:

On December 02, 2021 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) amended its October 25, 2021 Amended Order, titled, “Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Air Passengers Arriving in the United States.”

This amendment updates COVID-19 testing requirements for air passengers 2 years or older boarding a flight to the United States. 

  • The viral test must be conducted on a sample taken no more than 1 day before the flight’s departure from a foreign country, regardless of vaccination status. This also includes nonimmigrants who are not fully vaccinated, but who are requesting admission to the United States under an exception to the vaccination requirement of Proclamation 10294 of October 25, 2021.

This Amended Order is effective for flights departing to the US from a foreign country on December 6, 2021.

November 29, 2021 – Presidential Proclamation 10315 Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019

  • “The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of noncitizens who were physically present within the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, and the Republic of Zimbabwe 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.”

The proclamation is effective on November 29, 2021, and operates in addition to the November 8, 2021 vaccination requirement

Neither the Department of State nor the Department of Homeland Security have published the eligibility criteria for national interest exceptions (NIE) under Proclamation 10315. Travelers should not assume that NIEs approved under the four prior, now-revoked geographic proclamations will be available under Proclamation 10315 of November 26, 2021.

Please be sure to review the information provided as well as understand any testing or entry requirements for the country to which you may be traveling. Travel during the pandemic may result in delays to your plans as the situation evolves. OIA will continue to keep you updated.

Additional information can be found here.

Update Sept. 2021

In a briefing on Monday, Sept. 21, 2021, the White House announced a new policy, expected to start in November 2021, that will require all international airline travelers to show proof of full COVID vaccination in order to board a flight to the United States. The requirement will be in addition to the existing COVID testing requirement for all international travelers.

  • The White House plans to rescind the regional COVID travel bans currently in place for those recently physically present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen Area, South Africa, or the United Kingdom. The bans will remain in place until officially rescinded, which should occur by early November.
  • Limited exceptions to the new vaccine requirement may apply to children, COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants, and certain individuals traveling for an important reason if they lack access to a vaccine in a timely manner.
  • Those permitted to board an airplane without vaccination, including unvaccinated U.S. citizens, will be required to undergo stricter pre- and post-travel COVID testing requirements.
  • The new policy is expected to ease travel for many, but processing backlogs at U.S. consulates could increase, which will impede travel for those who need a U.S. visa.

OIA will update this page as new information becomes available.

Update July 6, 2021

Extension of validity for National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) for Travelers from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and India

On June 29, 2021, the Department of State extended the validity of National Interest Exceptions (NIE) for travelers subject to restrictions under Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9984, 9992, 10143, 10199, and similar subsequent PPs related to the spread of COVID-19. Unless otherwise indicated, existing NIEs will be valid for 12 months from the date of approval and for multiple entries, as long as they are used for the purpose under which they were granted.

This extension applies to travelers subject to these proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and India who currently have approved NIEs or who were granted NIEs in conjunction with a visa application.

Among the qualifications for NIEs are those traveling to provide vital support or executive direction to critical infrastructure; those traveling to provide vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the United States; journalists; travel due to extraordinary humanitarian circumstances; or travel in support of national security or public health. Students holding F or M visas and travelers with immigrant or fiancé visas have been granted NIEs and do not need to obtain NIEs in advance from a consular section. NIE eligibility for students who have been present in Brazil, China, India, Iran or South Africa applies to programs that begin on or after August 1, 2021.

Travelers should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling if they have not previously been approved for a NIE and have a valid visa in the appropriate class or have a valid ESTA authorization for travel under the Visa Waiver Program and seek to travel for purposes consistent with ESTA authorization. If an NIE is approved, they may travel on either a valid visa or ESTA authorization, as appropriate. Each approved NIE is valid for 12 months from the date of approval and may be used to travel to the United States multiple times for the purpose indicated in the approved NIE. 

Additional Information:

It may be possible for an individual covered by one of the geographic COVID-19 travel restriction proclamations to receive a “National Interest Exception” (NIE) to allow travel to the U.S. However, the U.S. Department of State posted policy statements on NIE’s have contained ambiguous wording and have raised a number of questions centering on the “August 1 condition.” No new information has been shared or posted since June 1, 2021. Consider the following:

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.

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

August 1 Condition & National Interest Exceptions (NIEs)

It may be possible for an individual covered by one of the geographic COVID-19 travel restriction proclamations to receive a “National Interest Exception” (NIE) to allow travel to the U.S. However, the U.S. Department of State posted policy statements on NIE’s have contained ambiguous wording and have raised a number of questions centering on the “August 1 condition.” No new information has been shared or posted since June 1, 2021. Consider the following:

  • Broader exception in place for students present in the Schengen Area, UK, and Ireland – students in these countries are not subject to the August 1 condition and may be granted an NIE at the time of visa application. For continuing students (including students on OPT), if you are in one of these countries and have a valid visa, please check with the nearest embassy or consulate to be considered for an NIE to travel. If you’ve recently been granted a new visa sticker, your NIE may be noted there.
  • Narrower exceptions in place for students present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, or South Africa – students in these countries are subject to the August 1 condition and may arrive in the U.S. directly no earlier than 30-days before the start of an academic program beginning August 1, 2021 or after (including OPT). The ambiguous wording creates confusion and uncertainty for continuing students and those on OPT who have program start-dates well in advance of August 1. Given the ambiguity, we recommend that students reach out to the nearest U.S. consulate/embassy to seek clarification. Students from Brazil, China, India, Iran, and South Africa may need to plan their travels with the August 1 condition in mind, and travel to the U.S. after that date.

In collaboration with peer schools and professional associations, the University has pressed for clarification on these matters. OIA will continue to work for clarity and will communicate any new information as it becomes available.

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, India, and South Africa, bringing them in line with existing criteria for travel from Ireland, the Schengen Area, and the United Kingdom. 

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.

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Last modified: Sep 19, 2023