The COVID-19 outbreak has led some U.S. Consulates and Embassies to suspend or cancel visa interviews and stop issuing visas. These changes came after the United States added more travel restrictions to curb the global spread of the novel coronavirus.
A March 18, 2020 statement, titled Suspension of Routine Visa Services, from the U.S. Embassy & Consulate in the Republic of Korea, states: “In response to worldwide challenges related to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Department of State is suspending routine visa services in all countries with a level 2, 3, or 4 U.S. Department of State travel advisory. ” The reasons for travel warnings may range from COVID-19 outbreaks to wars to high crime rates.
Visa applicants must verify the availability of visa interviews at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy that has jurisdiction to review and process their visa request.
For example, a March 13th alert on the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Canada website states that as of March 17, 2020, it is cancelling all routine nonimmigrant visa appointments. It adds, “The Consulate General in Montreal continues to process immigrant visas but depending on staffing capacity and host government restrictions, may need to reduce routine immigrant visa appointments. We are monitoring the situation closely and will notify applicants as quickly as possible should it be necessary to reschedule.” It states routine nonimmigrant visa services will resume as soon as possible, but provides no specific date at this time.
A March 13th alert on the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in India website, notes “U.S. Mission India posts, in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, are cancelling immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments from March 16, 2020, onward. Your visa appointment stands as cancelled. Once Mission India resumes regular consular operations, appointments will be made available and you will be able to reschedule.”
Earlier on February 3, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and U.S. Consulates in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang cancelled routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments. They have yet to provide a specific date on when routine services will resume.
Each U.S. Embassy or Consulate will make its own decision on whether to suspend visa services, absent a clear directive from a higher authority.
Presidential Proclamations Related to COVID-19
On Friday, March 13, President Trump declared a National Emergency concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak. See full text here.
The Presidential Proclamations restricting travel related to the COVID-19 outbreak include:
January 31 Proclamation suspending entry to the United States of most foreign nationals who traveled to China within the past 14 days. The proclamation took effect on Sunday, February 2. Read the full text of here.
February 29 Proclamation suspending entry to the United States of most foreign nationals who were physically present in Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. The proclamation took effect on Monday, March 2. Read the full text here.
March 11 Proclamation suspending entry to the United States of most foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen Area during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival in the United States. These European countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. The proclamation took effect on 11:59 p.m., eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020. Read the full text here.
March 13 Proclamation suspending entry to the United States of most foreign nationals who have been in the United Kingdom and Ireland during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival in the United States. The proclamation took effect on 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 16, 2020. Read the full text here.
Exceptions to the U.S. Travel Restrictions are Limited
U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are not subject to the proclamations. Other exceptions include:
- certain family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents: spouses, children (under the age of 21), parents (provided that his/her U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident child is unmarried and under the age of 21), and siblings (provided that both the sibling and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident are unmarried and under the age of 21).
foreign diplomats traveling to the United States on A or G visas.
air and sea crew traveling to the United States on C, D or C1/D visas.
There is also an exception for visa applicants whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees. Such an exception will rarely be approved.
The U.S. Department of States (DOS) has advised that exceptions to the travel restrictions may be presented directly to U.S. Embassies and Consulates where visa applications will be filed.
At some consular posts, visa applicants with urgent travel needs that qualify for an exception under the Presidential Proclamations may request an emergency appointment request. For a general description, read about expedited appointments at the U.S. Embassies in China and India.
Each consular post has its individual application procedures and processes, which are currently very fluid and subject to change.
This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.