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President Biden Adds India to the List of COVID-19 Public Health Travel Ban Countries

Today, President Joseph Biden issued a presidential proclamation imposing a COVID-19 public health travel ban which prohibits the entry of foreign nationals who have been physically present in India within 14 days of their travel to the United States.  India joins a list of countries already subject to regional COVID travel bans, currently consisting of Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, countries in the European Schengen Area, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. The India ban restrictions take effect at 12:01 am EDT on May 4, 2021.

Like the other bans, the India travel restrictions will remain in place until terminated by the President.

Travel ban exceptions and implementation

The following travelers are not subject to the ban, but may be required to undergo screening and other measures upon arrival:

  • U.S. citizens and nationals;
  • U.S. lawful permanent residents;
  • 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 agency periodically issues guidance on the criteria and standards for the national interest exception under the existing regional COVID travel bans. It is expected that the agency will soon issue updated guidance that addresses the national interest exception for India. Under the existing regional bans, with some exceptions, foreign nationals with valid visas or ESTA registrations must still seek permission from the U.S. government to travel under the national interest exception.

If a foreign national is subject to a regional ban and does not qualify for an exception, the State Department will not issue a visa to that individual. 

What this means

U.S. consular operations in India are significantly reduced due to the COVID pandemic.  Those seeking a national interest exception from a U.S. consulate are likely to have difficulty obtaining appointments unless emergency circumstances exist.

As a reminder, regional COVID travel ban restrictions are in addition to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order that requires a negative COVID test or evidence of recent COVID recovery for any international air travel to the United States. The CDC requirement affects all travelers ages two years and older – including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents – seeking to enter the United States from any foreign country. 

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