Responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Department of State declared the cessation of standard visa services and essentially a travel ban at US embassies around the world in March 2020. At the time, diplomatic services were restricted to U.S. residents and foreign nationals who had to fly quickly for an essential reason.

On July 22, 2020, the Department of State declared that ordinary visa services could be resumed “as local conditions and resources allow.” Nonetheless, after more than a year, just a handful of consulates have resumed ordinary visa processes.

Furthermore, there is currently a slew of distinct international travel restrictions in existence, each with its own set of exclusions and exemptions that are applied accordingly in various situations. You can use the U.S. embassy’s website or the Visa Wait Times tool to check which routine visa operations are being processed. The Embassy’s website is generally more accurate and reliable.

Current International Travel Bans:

Anyone who has been present physically in the concerned countries in the last 2 weeks is prohibited from traveling straight to the U.S. under the below COVID-related travel bans.

• Iran from February 29, 2020
• India from effective May 4, 2021
• China from January 31, 2020
• Schengen Area, Brazil, Ireland, UK, and South Africa from January 26, 2021

American citizens, lawful permanent residents, their children and spouses, diplomats, parents or guardians of minor or legally residing U.S. minors, and their unmarried, minor siblings are exempt from the travel ban. Additionally, noncitizen members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their children and spouses, U.S. noncitizen nationals, sea and air crew members, and some U.S. Government invitees brought in for the mitigation or containment of the COVID-19 virus are exempt as well.

National Interest Exceptions:

For some persons, a “National Interest Exception,” or NIE, can be granted on a case-by-case basis. The below information comes from the US Department of State’s website and is current as of the authoring of this article, although it may change as the guidelines change.

Immigrant visa holders in India, the fiancés of any U.S. citizens and their dependents, and some international students holding F and M visas are automatically considered as NIE. Students who are affected by these COVID proclamations because they live in Iran, India, Brazil, China, or South Africa may be eligible for a National Interest Exception if their academic program or OPT commences on or after August 1, 2021. Students with valid F1 and M1 visas do not need to seek an NIE.

Some J-1 Exchange Visitors are eligible to request NIE consideration. These are au pairs who are responsible for taking care of minor U.S. citizens with special needs, preventing them from becoming a public health charge or wards of the state or offering childcare services to first-line defenders who are involved in combating the COVID-19 virus.

Click here to read more in-depth about the COVID-19 travel ban in the U.S. and relevant international travel restrictions.

If you have any questions or need any additional information about US or Canadian Immigration and Nationality Laws, contact the immigration and nationality lawyers at the NPZ Law Group. If you have more questions about how these laws in the US may impact you or your family, contact the lawyers specialized in US Immigration and Nationality laws at our law firm. You can also send us an email at or you can call us at 201-670-0006 (x104). In addition to that, we invite you to find more information on our website at