Learn how to get a visa appointment and approval even from countries with covid-related travel bans to the U.S.
When the covid pandemic started in March 2020, the U.S. suspended routine visa services worldwide. In July 2020, the U.S. government announced that it would begin to resume visa services at consular posts on a case-by-case basis depending on the situation at each post.
Based on presidential proclamations issued by President Biden earlier this year, there are currently covid-related travel bans in place for the Schengen Area, comprising 26 Europeans countries, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, India, Iran and Brazil. The ban includes travelers from those countries as well as those who have merely transited through those countries.
However, there are exceptions that apply to all of these travel bans. If you are from one of these countries or have traveled through one of these countries, it is important to understand how you can become eligible for an exception to these bans. The rules are murky and constantly in flux, it is therefore a good idea to speak to an experienced attorney to discuss the particulars of your case.
The exceptions include:
- immigrants (people with green cards or immigrant visas)
- spouses, fiances and dependents of U.S. citizens
- certain students and exchange visitors
- journalists and academics
- health and humanitarian travel, including medical escorts and support
- travelers providing vital support for “critical infrastructure sectors”
On May 27, 2021, the Secretary of State revised and clarified the National Interest Exception (NIE) guidance for securing a waiver for students and for those providing vital support to critical infrastructure.
According to this guidance, students with valid F and M visas will be automatically considered for an NIE without having to contact a consulate. However, the student may not enter the U.S. more than 30 days before their academic studies are scheduled to begin. Moreover, the studies must begin after August 1 for people from non-European countries under the travel bans.
The government has not specifically defined “critical infrastructure”, though they have provide an illustrative list of eligible industries. The list includes such sectors as transportation, water projects, nuclear, information technology, agriculture, health care, energy, defense, communications, emergency services, and other important sectors.
For a more in-depth discussion of each of these sectors, you can refer to the document, “Guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response Version 4.0”.
Please note that travelers that already possess valid visas or ESTA must still receive NIE approval if subject to the geographic travel bans.
In addition, all airline passengers to the United States aged two years and older must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within three (3) calendar days of travel. Alternatively, travelers to the U.S. may provide documentation from a licensed health care provider of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel. Check the CDC website for additional information and Frequently Asked Questions.
Without specific guidance from the government, it is important to obtain help from an experience attorney, who can present the strongest possible case that you should be eligible for the exception based on your work sector. Contact the attorneys at Salmon Haas Law for a free consultation if you seek an attorney to help with this process.