Following the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump has introduced new visa and immigration regulations. Whether you’re planning to visit the US on business, for a vacation, or to study, it’s more important than ever to keep checking the latest information. Here are some of the questions most frequently asked by people wishing to travel to the United States.
Can I still submit an ESTA application?
Despite the restrictions on travel caused by the COVID pandemic, you can still apply for an ESTA. Applications are currently being processed within the typical time frame. You do not have to confirm your travel plans when making your application. If you wish to travel to the US st some time within two years (the period for which an ESTA remains valid), you can apply for an ESTA as usual.
Can I enter the United States at present?
According to the Presidential Proclamations 9992, 9993, 9996, and 9984, foreign nationals who were present in any of a long list of countries (see below) during a 14-day period immediately before their planned travel to the United States will be prevented from entering the country. The list of countries covered by the Proclamation in August 2020 includes:
- The United Kingdom (Great Britain and Northern Ireland, excluding overseas territories outside of Europe)
- The Republic of Ireland
The 26 Schengen area countries. In alphabetical order, these are:
- Czech Republic
Other countries covered by the temporary ban include:
- The People’s Republic of China ( excluding Hong Kong and Macau)
US citizens and their immediate family members, legal permanent residents, and other specific individuals identified by Presidential Proclamation 9996 are exempt from the travel ban. Travelers in these categories who have been present in any of the above countries will be advised by the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) to enter the US via selected airports where enhanced screening procedures are in place.
Students with F-1 or M-1 visas who are traveling from the UK, Ireland, and Schengen area countries will not need to apply for a vocational interest exception before traveling.
Can I travel to the USA with an ESTA while COVID-19 has restricted travel?
Your ESTA will be valid until its expiry date unless the passport with which you applied for it expires before this date. However, the United States government has taken several measures to restrict the spread of COVID-19, including a temporary ban on entering the US for travelers who have visited high-risk areas.
Might my ESTA be canceled?
If USCIS suspects that a traveler has not adhered to the travel restrictions, they will cancel their ESTA. They can reapply for an ESTA once they have agreed to abide by the temporary regulations. There have been some cases where an airline has mistakenly informed USCIS that a traveler has visited one of the countries on the travel ban list in the 14 days before traveling, and their ESTA has been canceled in error. If this should occur, travelers should contact their airline in the first instance.
Can I enter the US via a country that is not in the banned list covered by the Proclamation?
Traveling to the US via a country that is not at present covered by Proclamation 996 may, in theory, be possible. However, it is advisable to check whether the country through which you plan to travel has implemented any travel restrictions of its own. Travelers should also bear in mind that even if you do not leave the airport of a country on the restricted list, it still counts as having been physically present.
I have a valid registration with ESTA or a valid immigrant, nonimmigrant, or fiance visa. I believe I am exempt from the temporary restrictions covered by Presidential Proclamation 9996, so how should I proceed?
Should you believe that you are exempt from the latest travel restrictions, it is advisable to contact your airline for any recent changes to the restrictions and advice about your travel plans.
- If you decided to travel, please note the following advice:
- If you have registered with ESTA, do not try to check-in for the flight online.
- Arrive early to check in for your flight
- You may be asked to provide evidence of why you are exempted from the travel restrictions. Bring with you any relevant documents such as Green Card (permanent resident card), birth certificate, or marriage certificate.
- Many travelers also back up their claim by bringing a copy of the Presidential Proclamation.
- United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials will review your status. If applicable, they will reinstate your ESTA so that you can board the flight.
US embassies are unable to provide official documentation proving your exemption from travel restrictions.
My COVID-19 test result is negative. Can I travel to the US?
None of the Presidential Proclamations include any exemptions on the basis of a negative COVID-19 test result.
Will I have to self-quarantine after entering the US, and if so, for how long?
During the pandemic, the situation can change quickly so the US Department of State advises that you check the CDC website for the latest information on COVID-19 quarantine policies.
Is my immigrant visa the equivalent of a Green Card, and does it give me LPR status?
You can only apply for a Green card (Permanent Resident Card) from inside the United States. If you travel to a United States port of entry while holding an immigrant visa, and are then admitted to the country as an LPR (lawful permanent resident), you will then be given the necessary paperwork to apply for a Green Card.
You passport will be stamped to allow you to travel abroad while waiting for your Green Card. If you have an immigrant visa but have not been admitted to the US on that visa, you will be considered only to be the holder of an immigrant visa rather than an LPR.
When will it be safe to travel to the United States again?
No information has yet been released regarding when the temporary travel ban will be lifted. In this fluid situation, travelers with an ESTA should keep themselves informed of the latest developments as the rules are subject to frequent change.
What if I am currently in the US and wish to travel to a country on the travel ban list?
There are no restrictions on traveling from the US to countries on the travel ban list, but travelers should self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival. Failure to do so can result in a fine. Coronavirus guidelines vary from one US state to another, but as a minimum, the following should be observed:
• Do not visit vulnerable people
• Keep a minimum social distance of 1.5 meters
• Do not shake hands or hug
• Wash your hands frequently with warm soapy water
• Try not to touch your face
• Use paper tissues and dispose of them hygienically
• Wear a mask when social distancing is impossible
If your ESTA is about to expire and you cannot leave the US as scheduled, for example, because of illness or if your flight has been canceled, you can apply for a 30-day ESTA extension. Contact a USCIS Center or an airport border post for more information.