Biden Administration Issues New COVID-19 Travel Ban for Nonimmigrants from India Effective May 4, 2021


Happy Monday! It is another exciting week filled with new immigration updates unfolding in our ever-changing immigration landscape. Our office is committed to bringing you the latest immigration news, and keeping you informed on the evolving status of immigration during the COVID-19 global health crisis.

As the rates of COVID-19 have continued to erupt in certain regions of the world, applicants residing overseas have been forced to adapt to their “new normal.”

At the height of the pandemic, Consular posts worldwide found themselves forced to limit operations due to safety concerns, lack of resources, country conditions, and mandatory quarantines.

Complicating matters further, the Trump administration began issuing regional travel bans suspending and restricting the entry into the United States, of immigrant and nonimmigrant travelers, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. Those who have been physically residing within these regions have been unable to enter the United States.

When President Biden assumed the Presidency, his administration continued to enforce these regional travel bans and began “rolling out” new regional travel bans suspending the entry of travelers from other regions with high rates of COVID-19.

India Joins Countries Now Subject to Regional Travel Ban 

India is now the latest country to be added to a growing list of countries subject to a Regional travel ban. On April 30, 2021, President Biden issued a new Presidential Proclamation temporarily restricting and suspending the entry of nonimmigrants from the Republic of India into the United States. Just as the previous proclamations, the India travel ban will impact any nonimmigrant who has been physically present within the Republic of India during the 14-day period preceding his or her entry or attempted entry into the United States.

Certain exemptions have been made for green card holders, spouses of U.S. Citizens or green card holders, parents of U.S. citizens or green card holders, and others.

Section 1 of the new Presidential Proclamation will not apply to the following travelers physically present in India:

  • any lawful permanent resident of the United States (green card holders);
  • any noncitizen national of the United States;
  • any noncitizen who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder);
  • any noncitizen who is the 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;
  • any noncitizen who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • any noncitizen who is the 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;
  • any noncitizen traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
  • any noncitizen traveling as a nonimmigrant pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crewmember or any noncitizen otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew;
  • any noncitizen
    • seeking entry into or transiting the United States pursuant to one of the following visas:  A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 (or seeking to enter as a nonimmigrant in one of those NATO categories); or
    • whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement;
  • any noncitizen who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or who is a spouse or child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces;
  • any noncitizen 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
  • any noncitizen whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.

Will this Proclamation apply to immigrant visas?

No. The India travel ban only applies to non-immigrant visa classifications. It does not apply to IR-1, CR-1, nor K-1 fiancé visas.

When will the Proclamation be enforced? When will it terminate?

The India regional travel ban will be enforced at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on May 4, 2021. It does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on May 4, 2021.

Unfortunately, all COVID-19 Regional Presidential Proclamations do not have a termination date. The orders can only be terminated by a separate Presidential action in the future. We will provide updates on the termination of the COVID-19 Regional Presidential Proclamations when they have been made available by the White House.

Since Consulates worldwide have limited visa operations, will this new travel ban have much of an impact?

This Proclamation will prevent certain non-immigrant visa holders physically residing in India from entering the United States. However, it will likely have little impact on those currently waiting for nonimmigrant visa interviews at the Consulate in India, due to the dramatic scaling back of visa operations at posts currently preventing applications from obtaining interview appointments.

As a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the majority of Consulates and Embassies worldwide have dramatically restricted the availability of visa appointments and services for both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa types. The vast majority of posts are operating at a very limited capacity due to personnel shortages, lack of resources, local country conditions, and mandatory quarantines. Safety continues to remain a top priority.

Those with emergencies are encouraged to seek expedited processing of their visas. In addition, those who satisfy the National Interest Exception should request expedited processing as soon as possible. Those who can demonstrate their eligibility for expedited processing and/or the National Interest Exception can proceed with visa processing despite the enforcement of this Proclamation.

What is the National Interest Exceptions and how can I qualify?

In general, there are two ways a visa applicant can qualify for an expedited visa interview appointment despite the current travel ban and suspension of visa services. The first option, known as the National Interest Exception (NIE), is available to visa applicants who can demonstrate that their entry to the United States is necessary because it is in the National Interest.

One may generally receive a National Interest Exception:

(1) as a public health or healthcare professional or researcher to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, or to continue ongoing research in an area with substantial public health benefit (e.g. cancer or disease research);  OR

(2) to provide care for a U.S. citizen, including alleviating the burden of care from a medical or other institution, or to prevent a U.S. citizen from becoming a public charge or ward of the state or the ward of a medical or other institution; OR

(3) to join an active military member petitioner in the U.S.

In addition, the Department of State recently carved out additional National Interest Exceptions for travelers seeking to enter the United States (1) to provide vital support for critical infrastructure (2) journalists (3) F-1 and M-1 students (4) certain academic covered by exchange visitor programs.

Click here to read about the new National Interest Exceptions.

Is there any other way to bypass the Presidential Proclamation?

As a reminder, the India travel ban only applies to those who have been physically present within the Republic of India during the 14-day period preceding the traveler’s entry or attempted entry into the United States. This means that those who have been physically present in any other country, not subject to a COVID-19 Regional Presidential Proclamation, will not be impacted. For example, if you have spent at least two weeks in a third country outside of the Republic of India, your entry will not be impacted. However, if your visa has not yet been issued you will need to wait until interview scheduling is available at your local post – ideally a post not affected by the regional proclamation.

For even more information about the resumption of visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad please click here.

Do you qualify for an NIE? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.

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For other COVID 19 related immigration updates please visit our Immigration and COVID-19 Resource Center here.