U.S. Bans Most Travel From India Effective May 4, 2021 Per Presidential Proclamation Until Further Notice

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In light of the deteriorating Covid-19 situation in India U.S. President Biden has signed an order banning most travel from India to the U.S. effective May 4, 2021.

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The travel ban won’t apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents and their spouses and goes into effect on May 4 with those who fall under the exemptions still being allowed to travel to the U.S. after the restrictions go into effect.

Similar travel bans are already in place targeting other regions in the world such as China as well as the EU/Schengen area.

While U.S. citizens, permanent residents and several other categories of travelers are still allowed to enter the U.S. all others are required to apply for a National Interest Exception (NIE) that usually requires a sponsor such as a company to justify and voucher for the visit of the individual.

As the Wall Street Journal reported last night India will join the list of travel bans effective May 4th.

The U.S. is suspending almost all travel from India beginning May 4 during a devastating Covid-19 surge that has shattered global records for new cases. The country of about 1.3 billion people has seen infections rise by more than 1 million in the past week alone, bringing its total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to more than 18 million. The death toll has surpassed 200,000 and is expected to be much higher. The surge hit as India’s government loosened restrictions and struggled to vaccinate its population, with variants potentially serving as an accelerant.

The travel ban goes into effect May 4. Those who fall under the exemptions will still be allowed to travel to the U.S. after the restrictions go into effect. The travel ban is indefinite until lifted by President Biden.

The travel ban won’t apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents and their spouses. Other individuals who might qualify for exemptions include humanitarian workers, certain journalists and academics, and students commencing studies in the fall, according to a determination by the State Department. The exceptions mirror those for other countries affected by pandemic-related travel restrictions. Most other travelers who have been in India during a 14-day period before their attempted entry into the U.S. would be prohibited.

Individuals who are exempt from the travel ban would still need to meet other U.S. requirements for international travelers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently requires that all U.S.-bound air travelers have proof of a negative Covid-19 test result no more than three days before arrival, regardless of vaccination status. Travelers are then required to take another test three to five days following their arrival in the U.S. …

Covid-19 case numbers in India have been skyrocketing in the last few weeks and so have the number of deaths with some media reports depicting bodies being cremated in open pits and parking lots. Very grim and graphic scenes!

You can access the official White House website with the presidential proclamation here.

Download (PDF, 67KB)

State Department travel advisories and instructions related to this executive action can be found here.

…Immigrants, U.S. citizens, and lawful permanent residents (LPR) are not subject to the proclamation. Consistent with exceptions under prior geographic-related proclamations addressing the Novel Coronavirus, the suspension of entry also does not apply to non-U.S. citizen spouses or unmarried children under the age of 21. When the U.S. citizen or LPR is a child, the foreign national parents and siblings of the U.S. citizen child or LPR may accompany the child (provided the U.S. citizen or LPR, and any siblings, are under the age of 21 and unmarried). Other exceptions include, but are not limited to: foreign diplomats traveling to the United States on A or G visas, and air and sea crew traveling to the United States on C, D, or C1/D visas. …

The Secretary of State has determined that the travel of the following individuals is in the national interest for purposes of approving exceptions under the geographic COVID Presidential Proclamations, including those subject to restrictions under this Proclamation:

  • Immigrants (not applicable to the restrictions under the April 30, India Proclamation, which only covers nonimmigrant travel)
  • Fiancé(e)s
  • 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 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. 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.
  • Travelers who are seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure sectors
  • Journalists
  • Pilots and aircrew traveling to the United States for training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance, including individuals who are traveling to the United States on B-1/B-2, B-1, or M-1 visas, or Visa Waiver Program authorizations. This also include certain M-2 dependents when the principal’s necessary training is four weeks or more.
  • Certain exchange visitors, including:
    • Travel by an au pair to provide care for a minor U.S. citizen, LPR, or nonimmigrant in lawful status when the au pair possesses special skills required for a child with particular needs (e.g., medical, special education, or sign language).
    • Travel by an au pair that prevents a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or other nonimmigrant in lawful status from becoming a public health charge or ward of the state or of a medical or other public funded institution.
    • Travel by an au pair to provide childcare services for a child whose parents are involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 or medical research at United States facilities to help the United States combat COVID-19.
    • Travel for an exchange program conducted pursuant to an MOU, Statement of Intent, or other valid agreement or arrangement between a foreign government and any federal, state, or local government entity in the United States that is designed to promote U.S. national interests if the agreement or arrangement with the foreign government was in effect prior to June 24, 2020.
    • Travel by Interns and Trainees on U.S. government agency-sponsored programs (those with a program number beginning with “G-3” on Form DS-2019): An exchange visitor participating in an exchange visitor program in which he or she will be hosted by a U.S. government agency and the program supports the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.
    • Travel by Specialized Teachers in Accredited Educational Institutions with a program number beginning with “G-5” on Form DS-2019: An exchange visitor participating in an exchange program in which he or she will teach full-time, including a substantial portion that is in person, in a publicly or privately operated primary or secondary accredited educational institution where the applicant demonstrates ability to make a specialized contribution to the education of students in the United States. A “specialized teacher” applicant must demonstrate native or near-native foreign language proficiency and the ability to teach his/her assigned subject(s) in that language.
    • Travel in support of critical foreign policy objectives: This only includes exchange visitors participating in a small number of exchange programs that fulfill critical and time sensitive foreign policy objectives.
  • Derivative family members accompanying a noncitizen who is excepted from or otherwise not subject to the Proclamation and who is engaging in certain types of long-term employment, studies, or research of four weeks or longer.

The Department of State also continues to grant National Interest Exceptions for qualified travelers seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security. These travelers and any others who believe their travel to be in the United States’ national interest should also review the website of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for instruction on how to contact them.

Travelers in these categories who wish to visit the United States and have a valid visa in the appropriate class, or who are seeking to apply for a visa, and believe they may qualify for a national interest exception should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling. …

The travel ban basically covers all travel for leisure purposes and those business travelers who can’t be supported by a local company as important for local infrastructure.

A friend of mine who works for a German industrial plant builder received three NIE’s from the U.S. Embassy since February to travel to the U.S. in order to install and conduct maintenance on machinery his company sold to U.S. customers. The companies U.S. office issued a letter of support and named the local customer with each application.

Since India is a technology and pharmaceutical hub I can imagine that there will be still plenty of NIE’s issued from there.

The U.S. isn’t alone with this measure. Several other countries such as Australia, Canada, EU countries and Thailand have already banned travel from India to at least slow down the spread of the new aggressive Indian Covid-19 variants.

Conclusion

From Tuesday May 4th there is a general travel ban from India to the U.S. in effect which covers most non-citizens unless they are exempted under the State Departments definitions as listed above.

For up to date information on the policies it’s recommended to refer to the State Department website where travel advisories are constantly updated. As far as cancellations of flights and hotels are concerned the best is to contact the relevant airline to learn about their cancellation policy. If a flight is cancelled airlines generally have to refund customers in full. In case the flight is still operating then it’s a voluntary policy that might include a free date change, a voucher or in some cases even the forfeiture of the whole ticket value.

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