Here’s How COVID-19 Affected The U.S Travel Policies

Business traveler walking with mask on

The on-going global pandemic has transpired unforeseen circumstances around the world. Several restrictions are being imposed on overseas travel. Especially when traveling to the U.S, the chances of availing a U.S visa or extending a current visa have been severely bounded. The following information does not provide any legal advice. Consult an immigration attorney to resolve queries regarding personal circumstances. Here’s the list of restrictions being imposed as of 24 April 2020:-

List Of Travel Restrictions Imposed By The U.S

  • Swiss citizens and residents of other European countries are prohibited from traveling to the United States, as stated by The Presidential Proclamation of 11 March.
  • Permanent Swiss Citizens, those owning a green card, or close family members of U.S citizens do have to comply with the prohibition.
  • Diplomatic personnel, employees of international organizations, or health care professionals working against COVID-19 are free from the prohibition.

The U.S embassy in Bern is not permitting any regular appointments to procure a new U.S visa or the extension of the current visa. Only under exceptional circumstances of emergency, the appointments may be available. Before June 2020, no regular appointments will be undertaken due to embassy closures.

According to the Presidential Proclamation, the entry of immigrants to the U.S has been suspended for 60 days.

As per the proclamation, immigrant visas are being issued to certain beneficiaries only. These exceptions include close family members of U.S citizens and investors supervised under the EB-5 program.

The proclamation is only applicable to individuals residing outside of the United States. Individuals present in the United States who are applying for a Green Card are not affected. These prohibitions only apply to immigrant visas.

Non-immigrant visas, including the visitor visa B-1/B-2 or the work visas such as L-1, E-1, H-1 LB, E-2, J-1, O-1, etc., are not a part of the presidential proclamation. However, the proclamation notes that certain restrictions on non-immigrants may be imposed later.

Swiss citizens willing to work in the United States based on an H-1B, L-1, or O-1 visa have to take into account that USCIS has suspended expedited processing on visa petitions for the categories mentioned above.

For the issuance of visas, the approval of the petition is highly indispensable. The generation of a visa will now take several months to process instead of a few weeks. That includes not only the requests for new visas but also the extension of the already existing ones.

In rarest of the rarest cases, the USCIS may expedite a petition considering the difficulties.

General recommendations:

The U.S. government has strictly enforced all travel restrictions. Even minor attempts to violate travel restrictions could affect future visa applications. Bottom line: Without any authorization, do not travel to the U.S.

Given the current situation, the process to apply for a new visa or to extend an existing visa can now take up to several months. It would be best if you planned everything keeping this in mind.