The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in numerous presidential proclamations restricting travel and entry into the United States. Likewise, since the pandemic began, the criteria for “national interest exceptions” (NIEs) has also evolved. On March 2, 2021, the U.S. Department of State issued updated criteria for NIEs relating to certain travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland. Given the frequency of the changes, it can be difficult to track the current state of these matters. The following information is a summary of the latest updates with regard to U.S. travel restrictions.

Travel Restrictions Based on Country of Physical Presence

Presidential Proclamation Current Status Impact
Proclamation 9984 In effect Suspends and limits entry into the United States by individuals who were physically present in China during the 14-day period prior to their entry/attempted entry
Proclamation 9992 In effect Suspends and limits entry into the United States by individuals who were physically present in Iran during the 14-day period prior to their entry/attempted entry
Proclamation 9993 Revoked Suspended and limited entry into the United States by individuals who were physically present in the Schengen Area during the 14-day period prior to their entry/attempted entry
Proclamation 9996 Revoked Suspended and limited entry into the United States by individuals who were physically present in the United Kingdom and Ireland during the 14-day period prior to their entry/attempted entry
Proclamation 10041 Revoked Suspended and limited entry into the United States by individuals who were physically present in Brazil during the 14-day period prior to their entry/attempted entry
Proclamation 10143 In effect Suspends and limits entry into the United States by individuals who were physically present in South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Brazil during the 14-day period prior to their entry/attempted entry

Following the issuance of Proclamation 10143, the State Department rescinded previous NIE guidance and simultaneously issued new guidance on March 2, 2021, as related to the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. According to the State Department, the original guidance had provided exceptions for “certain technical experts and specialists, senior-level managers and executives, treaty-traders and investors, professional athletes, and their dependents.” However, the updated guidance includes exceptions under Proclamation 10143 for individuals who “provide vital support for critical infrastructure.” [Emphasis added.] Additionally, NIEs remain available for individuals entering the United States “for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security.”

Travel Restrictions Based on Visa Type

On April 22, 2020, the Trump administration issued Proclamation 10014 suspending the entry of individuals to the United States on immigrant visas. This proclamation did not affect applications for adjustment of status or nonimmigrants, such as business visitors or temporary workers. On June 22, 2020, the Trump administration issued Proclamation 10052, which extended the sunset date of Proclamation 10014 to December 31, 2020. Proclamation 10052 also suspended the entry of certain individuals to the United States on select nonimmigrant visas, including H-1B, H-2B, J-1, and L-1 visa holders, as well as their dependents through the end of the year. On December 31, 2020, the Trump administration issued Proclamation 10131, extending Proclamations 10014 and 10052 until March 31, 2021. On February 24, 2021, the Biden administration revoked Proclamation 10014 and section 1 of Proclamation 10052. The Biden administration allowed the remaining sections of Proclamation 10052 to expire on March 31, 2021, and has not expressed any plans to renew or replace it at this time. As a result, Proclamations 10014 and 10052 are no longer in effect.

Backlogs Remain for Most Consular Operations

While the expiration of Proclamation 10052 is certainly welcome news, foreign nationals should not expect immediate processing of their visa applications. The backlog of cases pending at the U.S. consulates around the world remains an ongoing issue due to COVID-19. The U.S. consular posts have confirmed they will begin a phased resumption of routine visa services based on local conditions but no specific timeline is available. Additionally, applicants who are no longer subject to Proclamation 10052 may still face obstacles entering the United States due to country-specific travel restrictions. Foreign nationals who are subject to country-specific travel bans will continue to require an NIE authorizing each entry to the United States.

Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will monitor developments with respect to travel restrictions and other policy changes and will post updates on the Immigration blog and in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.