Published: Mar 12, 2020, Updated: Jun 07, 2023
Effective from 12:01 am Eastern Daylight Time on May 12, 2023, foreign individuals traveling on nonimmigrant visas or ESTA are no longer required to demonstrate that they have received a full course of an approved COVID-19 vaccine before boarding an aircraft bound for the United States. To provide some historical context, initial COVID-19 testing rules for inbound travel to the U.S. were implemented back in 2020, as a part of the early response to the global pandemic.
On March 11th 2020, in response to the growing number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections in the United States, the Trump Administration has announced new travel restrictions. Starting at 11:59PM on Friday, March 13th 2020 Eastern Standard Time, travelers who have visited one of the following European, mainly Schengen Area, countries in the past 14 days, will be denied entry into the United States:
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.
Travel restrictions on entry into the United States were expanded on March 14th 2020 to include travelers who have visited the United Kingdom or Ireland in the 14 days prior to their departure for the United States.
The current suspension began at 11:59PM on Friday, March 13th 2020 Eastern Standard Time for visitors who have been present in the Schengen area 14 days prior to their departure to the United States. Visitors who have been present in the UK or Ireland for the past 14 days prior to their departure to the United States, will be denied entry into the United States starting at 11:59PM on Monday, March 16th 2020 Eastern Standard Time. The restrictions will not apply to you if your flight departs for the United States before these times.
Exemptions will apply to U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, or immediate family members of U.S. citizens coming back from European destinations. The restrictions will also not apply to visa holders of the following categories: A-1, A-2, C-1/D (air or sea crew only) C-2, C-3, E-1, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6. However, these travelers will be screened upon their arrival into the United States. This could include temperature checks at the border as well as other measures to determine if the traveler is a carrier of the virus. If a traveler is deemed to have Coronavirus (COVID-19), they will be isolated or placed under quarantine.
Travelers not falling under the restrictions will still be able to enter to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Other travelers who may currently be affected by the restrictions can still apply for an ESTA if their travel will take place after the travel restrictions have been lifted. An approved ESTA is issued for a period of two years, or until the date of passport expiry, whichever date comes first.
You are only subject to the restrictions if you were physically present in these countries within 14 days before you enter the United States. The restrictions also apply if you traveled from, or through these countries within the two weeks prior to your arrival in the U.S. Any person coming from countries other than those impacted by the restrictions during the two weeks before their arrival will not be affected.
People who are abroad and believe to be exempt from the restrictions can liaise with their airline for additional guidance. Travelers should seek guidance in advance if they qualify to enter the U.S. under the exemptions.
Refunds will not be issued to travelers who try to enter the U.S. in violation of the travel restrictions.
Travelers who are reapplying for a new ESTA after a cancelation due to the COVID-19 restrictions will be required to pay the application fee.
Any traveler who attempts to enter the U.S. while COVID-19 restrictions are in place will be in violation of the travel restrictions. As a result, their ESTA will be canceled, but not revoked. An ESTA cancelation does not mean you cannot reapply for an ESTA in the future.
VWP travelers who are likely to overstay on their ESTA authorization due to the disruption caused by COVID-19 pandemic, can seek a 30-day extension on their authorized period of stay. They will need to apply for satisfactory departure before their current period of admission expires. This provides a discretion authority that allows the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to extend their VWP admission for another 30 days. The extended period will allow travelers to lawfully stay in the U.S. until they are able to depart. VWP travelers can apply for satisfactory departure through one of two routes:
USCIS Field Offices: https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/find-uscis-office/field-offices
CBP Deferred Inspection Sites: https://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports/deferred-inspection-sites
The Trump Administration has said that the restrictions on travel may be reduced or increased depending on the growth of new infections. If the virus has been deemed to be contained, the restrictions may be reduced. The executive order does not specify the time the restrictions will remain in place. However, based on the current pandemic, it is likely restrictions will be in place throughout most of the Spring and into the Summer of 2020.
Travelers have previously been advised by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to limit non-essential travel. Travelers are advised to follow best hygiene practices as advised by the CDC and other health organizations.