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Update on Global Travel Restrictions Update on Global Travel Restrictions

Update on Global Travel Restrictions

With the COVID-19 pandemic entering its second year, the United States continues to enforce global travel restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. Various Presidential Proclamations have continued to suspend the entry of foreign nationals from or recently present in China; Iran; South Africa; Brazil; the Schengen Zone, which includes most of Europe; the United Kingdom; and Ireland. Limited exceptions to these country-specific travel bans exist, including for lawful permanent residents and parents or spouses of U.S. citizens. Under previous policy, National Interest Exceptions were granted to senior-level managers and executives, technical experts, professional athletes, and traders and investors. However, in March 2021, the State Department rescinded this guidance and limited the issuance of National Interest Exceptions to those foreign nationals who will “offer vital support to critical infrastructure sectors.” See our prior article here. Under the new guidance, the State Department has been issuing fewer National Interest Exceptions to travelers from these areas.

There has been one area where the U.S. has loosened its restrictions: it has allowed the bans on immigrant and non-immigrant visas to expire. Under prior policy, foreign nationals seeking immigrant visas or new H-1B, H-2B, L-1, certain J-1 visa holders, and all dependents of foreign nationals in those visa categories were not permitted to apply for these visas. See our prior article here. The administration has allowed these bans to expire. However, even without these visa bans, U.S. Consulates worldwide continue to be closed or functioning with extremely limited staffing. As a result, they are operating on a much reduced capacity for visa appointments, only offering emergency appointments or scheduling routine appointments very far into the future. Even after U.S. Consulates resume more regular visa services, significant backlogs will continue to cause long wait times for visa appointments. International travelers should be prepared to wait weeks, if not months, for visa appointments, with the possibility of remaining abroad indefinitely while waiting for an appointment.

Finally, the U.S. continues to require all international travelers, including U.S. citizens and permanent residents, to provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their arriving flight. It will remain in effect until December 31, 2021 unless terminated earlier if the COVID-19 public health emergency expires or if the CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order. See our COVID-19 Resource Center for more details.

Please contact Kristin Kelley, Jenifer Brown or Christl Glier with questions regarding current travel and visa restrictions or any other business immigration matters.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances.
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