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With the travel restrictions in place, I haven't seen my mom in almost two years! - I really miss her.

I’m not sure if my parents are going to be able to be here for the birth of their first grandchild.

I finally got to see my sister. It had been over a year since she’d seen me and my son. Best birthday present ever.

While the rules for international travel into the United States during Covid-19 might seem to change by the minute, one thing that remains consistent is that people miss the ones they love. With that in mind, we’ve compiled an easy to reference list of what we currently know about traveling to the U.S. right now. 

Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule to tell someone whether they can make the trip. But here’s what we do know.

Travel from Non-Restricted Countries

If you are traveling from a country that is NOT on the restricted list, then entry is relatively easy, provided you follow the rules:

  • You must provide evidence of a negative covid test taken within 3 days prior to boarding your flight. A few things to note:
    • Make sure you check that the test you are using is approved by the CDC as well as the local authorities in that country (see here for types of test accepted)
    • Ensure the test results can be easily read by airline personnel, this may require translation of results, check with your airline on their requirements. 
  • After entering the U.S. it is recommended that you re-test within 3-5 days. 
  • These requirements are in effect for all travelers, even if traveling after being vaccinated.

Travel from Restricted Countries

There are a few proclamations that restrict international travel from certain countries. These are continuously being monitored and updated accordingly. These proclamations do not restrict the travel of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents returning to the U.S. The current proclamations restrict travel from China, Iran, European Schengen area, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India.  

So what does this mean? Generally, if any of the previous 14-days have been spent in one of these countries, travel and entry into the U.S. is prohibited (with exceptions). Given these restrictions, if your loved one resides in one of these countries, there are a few options:

  • They may be able to gain entry to a country that is not on the restricted list. They may then stay there for the 14-day period. After this period, they may attempt to enter with the appropriate protocols (above) or,
  • There may be a case where they qualify for an exception. There are National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) for various groups. Here is the full list of exceptions, but below are a few of the most common/useful.

National Interest Exceptions (NIEs)

    • Automatic Consideration – No pre-approval required:

      • Immigrants of all categories
      • Fiancee of a U.S. citizen and their dependents (K visas)
      • Students (F and M visas) – as outlined, may not arrive more than 30 days prior to start of term
    • Other NIEs, approval required and can be applied for at an embassy or consulate: 

      • Certain exchange visitors
      • Exchange students and academics (J visas)
      • Journalists (I visas)
      • Travelers providing support for critical infrastructure sectors or related supply chains
      • Travelers providing support for significant economic activity
      • Lifesaving medical treatment (for applicant and accompaniment)
      • Public Health support and research
      • Humanitarian travel – including to provide care for a U.S. citizen
      • Family members joining someone with an NIE not requiring pre-approval

While this list is non-exhaustive and will likely continue to change, this is the current state of international travel as far as PondLeap is aware. When planning, please take note of the sources here and ensure that your trip is in line with the latest announcements and mandates as provided by the U.S. Department of State, the White House and the CDC. You can also stay up to date with PondLeap as we continue to monitor the state of affairs and help to support foreign-born individuals. 

Tips for Successful Travel Planning

  • Follow the guidance and check frequently.
  • Check your airline’s change fee and rebooking policy before booking your flight. As things continue to change rapidly, make sure that you are covered if you need to make changes to your travel itinerary.
  • Restrictions can change by country. Be sure to check the country specific information for the country you are traveling to and from to ensure that you are compliant.
  • Check with the health department of the city you’re traveling to, as there may be additional Covid-19 guidance. 
  • Use the resources below and check the CDC website and travel.state.gov for Covid-19 updates.
  • Check with your airline about other requirements and Covid-19 health affidavits you might need to complete before you depart. 

Finally, while we know this is a trying time for everyone, we’re all just doing the best we can. Let’s be kind, follow the guidance, and listen to and respect those that are working every day to make sure that we can still visit those that we care about. The only way forward is through. 

Summary of Resources

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