One of the campaign promises that the Biden-Harris team made—and implemented on Day 1—was ending the travel ban enacted by the previous administration to block travelers from majority-Muslim and African countries. More than a week after inauguration, though, a number of legacy policies remain in place and new restrictions have been added due to developments in the COVID-19 pandemic.
- On January 25, 2021, President Biden signed a proclamation that continues the restrictions on entry to the U.S. by certain travelers from the Schengen Area (European Union), the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Brazil, China, and Iran, and adding South Africa to list. With some exceptions, noncitizens who were physically present in one of these countries within the preceding 14 days may not enter the U.S.
- The CDC issued an order that took effect on January 26, 2021, requiring all air passengers arriving to the U.S. from a foreign country to present a negative test taken within the past three days or evidence of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the U.S.
- In its final weeks, the previous administration extended a ban on certain applications for H-1B, H-2B, J-1, and L-1 visas, as well as immigrant visas, that would have expired on December 31, 2020. These restrictions—which were ostensibly put in place to protect the U.S. labor market during the COVID-19 recession by preventing new noncitizen workers from entering the country—are now set to remain until March 31, 2021. As of the day of this News Alert, President Biden has not taken any executive action to rescind or modify them.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has also informally restricted visa services due to consular closures and limited staffing. For example, routine visa processing is suspended at many of the U.S. consulates in India, with the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi resuming limited services in February and canceling routine appointments that had previously been scheduled in March 2021. For the latest information about visa processing abroad, visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas.html.
International travel continues to be a rapidly-changing situation. Individuals who depart the U.S. may not be permitted to reenter, so T&S recommends that individuals who are making international travel plans first consult with an immigration attorney or global mobility specialist.