COVID-Related Travel Information
Covid-19 Testing Requirements for U.S. Entry
As of January 26, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires all air passengers two years of age and over entering the United States (including U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents) to present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within three calendar days of departure, or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days. Airlines must confirm the negative test result or proof of recent recovery for all passengers prior to boarding. Airlines must deny boarding of passengers who do not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery.
See the COVID Testing Requirement: FAQs for additional information.
See the CDC Proof of Negative Test Result page to view the order, complete the attestation, and to see FAQs.
National Interest Exceptions
Department of State Statement
On April 26, 2021, the Secretary of State made a national interest determination regarding categories of travelers eligible for exceptions under Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9984, 9992, and 10143 limiting entry to the United States by travelers from specific countries or regions related to the spread of COVID-19. As a result of this new determination, together with national interest determinations already in place, travelers subject to these proclamations, due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen area of the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, who are seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure; journalists; students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs, may now qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE).
Students and academics subject to these proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa, may qualify for an NIE only if their academic program begins August 1, 2021 or later. Qualified travelers who are applying for or have valid visas or ESTA authorization may travel to the United States following the procedures below, even as PPs 9984, 9992, and 10143 remain in effect.
Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel.
They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies.
Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel.
For additional and updated information, please visit the U.S. Department of State site.
Current travel restrictions bar entry of most nonimmigrant visa holders physically present in India. There are exceptions for certain categories of travelers:
Students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs. Students subject to these geographic COVID proclamations due to their presence in India, China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa, may qualify for a National Interest Exception only if their academic program begins August 1, 2021 or later.
Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for a national interest exception to travel.
For visa inquiries, please write to email@example.com or call the Visa Application Center during business hours to speak to a representative (+91 120 4844644 or +91 22 62011000).
Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual National Interest Exception to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies.
Q. I am subject to the Proclamation but have a valid nonimmigrant visa and believe I qualify for a National Interest Exception. What do I need to do?:
Visa holders with definite plans to travel who can demonstrate qualification for a National Interest Exception may contact the Embassy or Consulate that issued their visa to request a national interest exception prior to travel:
- U.S. Embassy New Delhi: NewDelhiNIE@state.gov
- U.S. Consulate General Chennai: ChennaiNIE@state.gov
- U.S. Consulate General Hyderabad: HyderabadNIE@state.gov
- U.S. Consulate General Kolkata: KolkataNIE@state.gov
- U.S. Consulate General Mumbai: MumbaiNIE@state.gov
The email must include the following information for all travelers seeking an exception:
- Last name
- First name
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Country of citizenship
- Passport number
- Visa Number and Category (The visa number, also known as the visa foil number, is located on the lower right of the visa)
- Travel dates
- Travel purpose and national interest category, including a clear justification for receipt of a NIE
Each request will be carefully considered as limited resources allow.
- Emails in languages other than English may slow response time.
- The consulates will aim to respond to each request within two weeks but cannot guarantee a decision date or the outcome of the decision.
Please note that national interest exceptions, when granted, are valid for a single entry within 30 days of approval.
Effective April 26, 2021, the Secretary of State approved several National Interest Exceptions to regional travel restrictions imposed under Presidential Proclamations aimed at addressing the threat to public health by the COVID-19 pandemic. These National Interest Exceptions are in addition to previous determinations made by the Secretary of State.
Current restrictions allow for expansion of appointments for applicants in certain nonimmigrant visa categories, including all F visas, certain J, M, C1/D visas, and for emergency, mission-critical, travelers providing vital support of critical infrastructure and job creation.
Embassies are currently offering as many appointments as local conditions, resources, and safety considerations allow. They will resume routine nonimmigrant visa services in all other categories as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.
Direct travel to the United States from Mainland China remains restricted under Presidential Proclamation 9984 for other travelers not covered by a National Interest Exception or exempted by a Presidential Proclamation.Apply for Expedited Visa Processing
If you hold a valid F-1 or M-1 student visa and you wish to travel to the United States to undertake or resume your studies or Optional Practical Training (OPT), you do not require a national interest exception in order to travel to the United States.
This applies even if you were issued with a national interest exception in the past. This also applies to F-2 and M-2 visa holders traveling with or to join an F-1 or M-1 student.
If you need to apply for a F or M student visa urgently, see below:
Once you have booked a visa interview appointment through the Visa Appointment Service website, follow the on-screen instructions in your account to request an expedited appointment.
You will be asked to briefly outline the reason that you must travel in an emergency. A Visa Unit manager will review your request and reply by email.
This will be sent to the email address that your Visa Appointment Service account was registered with so please check that email address frequently, including any junk or spam folders.
Iranian citizens living outside of Iran should apply for nonimmigrant visas in their country of residence. In general, applicants residing in Iran may travel to and apply at any U.S. embassy or consulate that processes nonimmigrant visas.
Please keep in mind, however, that the U.S. Embassy Ankara, U.S. Embassy Yerevan, and U.S. Consulate General Dubai are staffed with Farsi-speaking consular officers who are most familiar with Iranian applicants and country conditions.
Applicants should always check the website of the embassy or consulate at which they plan to apply for restrictions on third-country applicants or other post-specific policies.
During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer. Visa interviews conducted in Farsi can be arranged at several locations, including:
- U.S. Embassy Ankara, Turkey
- U.S. Consulate General Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- U.S. Embassy Yerevan, Armenia
Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact the U.S. Consulates General in South Africa to seek an individual NIE to travel, and may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies.
For first-time student visa applicants, please visit ais.usvisa-info.com/en-za/niv/ and follow instructions to request an expedited appointment.
If you are renewing your visa, you may be able to submit your application without needing to appear for an interview if you were issued a full-validity visa by a Consulate General in South Africa that expired no more than 24 months ago and have the same SEVIS number.
Eligibility is determined based on the answers provided to questions during the appointment scheduling process on ais.usvisa-info.com/en-za/niv.
Note: To minimize any delays in processing your application, please submit I-20 forms showing program start dates after August 1, 2020. Please contact your Designated School Official (DSO) to get an updated I-20 form, if necessary.
In keeping with the Department of State’s commitment to facilitate legitimate travel to the United States, Secretary of State Antony Blinken on April 26 applied several National Interest Exceptions (NIE) to travel restrictions related to Brazil currently in effect as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Travelers to the United States are expected to comply fully with health and sanitary regulations in the United States, and are urged to contact local health authorities for full details about local requirements. International travelers to the United States are required to get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs, and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline.
Students traveling from Brazil and seeking to commence studies in the fall, certain academics, journalists, and individuals who are seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure may now qualify for a National Interest Exception.
Students who already possess a valid student (F or M) visa and who will begin their studies on or after August 1, 2021, may travel to the United States without further action from the Embassy or Consulates in Brazil. Travel that begins more than 30 days prior to the start date of a student’s classes will not be permitted. Individuals seeking to apply for a student visa should consult the website of the Embassy or nearest Consulate for further information on applications. Visa interviews for excepted categories are expected to resume in mid-May 2021, conditions permitting.
Academics, journalists, and others who might qualify for an NIE, including those with a valid visa or ESTA authorization, will need to apply for an NIE (and a visa if required). Those individuals should consult the website of the Embassy or nearest Consulate for further details if they believe they may qualify for an NIE. If a National Interest Exception is approved, they may travel on either a valid visa or ESTA authorization, as appropriate. The pandemic continues to limit the number of visas and National Interest Exceptions the Embassy and Consulates in Brazil are able to process. Visa appointments may not be immediately available, and we encourage individuals to plan well in advance. As always, visa applicants should check the website of the Embassy or nearest Consulate for the most up-to-date information about visa appointment availability.
The Department of State also continues to grant NIEs for qualified travelers seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security. As the global situation evolves, the Department continues to seek ways to process more visa applications, in line with science-based guidance from health authorities, and with the health and safety of staff and applicants as our priority.