India Travel Ban
On April 30, 2021, the Biden Administration announced a COVID-19 public health travel ban prohibiting entry of foreign nationals who have been physically present in India within 14 days of their arrival to the United States.
The India travel ban went into effect at 12:01 AM EDT on May 4, 2021 and will remain in place until terminated by the President.
The India travel ban does not impact the following travelers:
- U.S. citizens and nationals;
- U.S. lawful permanent residents (“green card holders”);
- Spouses of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents;
- A foreign national who is the parent or legal guardian of an unmarried U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident under the age of 21;
- A foreign national who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided they are both under 21;
- A foreign national 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 on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa;
- A foreign national traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the COVID-19 virus;
- A foreign air or sea crewmember;
- Certain A, C, E-1 (TECRO or TECO employees), G, and NATO nonimmigrants or whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement;
- A foreign national whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives;
- A foreign national whose entry would be in the national interest; and
- Members of the U.S. armed forces and their spouses and children.
The U.S. Embassy in India issued a FAQ on the travel ban and how to apply for a National Interest Exception to travel to the U.S.
The Department of Status (DOS) has published a list of individuals who are eligible to seek a National Interest Exception. This list includes the following. For the complete list, please visit the DOS website.
- Students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs.
- Travelers who are seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure sectors
- Derivative family members accompanying a noncitizen who is exempt from or otherwise not subject to the Proclamation and who is engaging in certain types of long-term employment, studies, or research of four weeks or longer.
- Travelers whose purpose for entry is related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security or otherwise in the national interest of U.S.
CDC’s negative COVID test requirement remains in effect for all persons arriving in the U.S. including US citizens and lawful permanent residents.
MT’s immigration team is available to discuss options for travelers who hold a valid U.S. visa but who are subject to the travel ban. Options may include quarantining in a country for 14 days that is not on the U.S.’ banned country list and then travel to the U.S.
U.S. consular operations in India have been reduced to emergency services. All routine visa appointments and services, both in-person and interview waiver, at the U.S. Embassy New Delhi, and the consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai are cancelled until further notice.
Those seeking a National Interest Exception may not be able to secure an appointment. Consular officers have wide discretion on determining requests for a National Interest Exception.
MT is closely monitoring the COVID-19 travel ban and restrictions and will continue to provide updates.
Biometrics Requirement Suspended for Certain I-539 (H-4, L-2, and E-1/2/3D)
On May 3, 2021, USCIS announced that it will suspend the biometrics requirements for certain I-539 applicants for a two-year period beginning on May 17, 2021. The biometrics suspension will apply to the H-4, L-2, and E-1, E-2, and E-3 categories of Form I-539 applications if they are 1) pending on May 17, 2021, and have not yet received a biometric services appointment notice, and 2) are new applications received by USCIS from May 17, 2021, through May 23, 2022.
This suspension is welcome news and is intended to help reduce the extraordinary backlogs for Employment Authorization Document applications by derivative spouses in H-4, L-2, and E-1/2/3D status (spouses of H-1B, L-1, and E-1/2/3 status).
Those who have received a biometrics appointment notices should attend their appointments. USCIS has not yet provided a detailed guidance on how it will implement the suspension. MT will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional updates.