US Travel Restrictions for Foreign Citizens

us travel restrictions

There are a number of US travel restrictions in place at present. These can limit or even prohibit the entry entirely of some foreign citizens.

This article looks at who cannot enter the USA and what travel restrictions are currently in place for foreign visitors. Read on to find out:

  • If you can enter the USA.
  • What travel bans are currently in place due to COVID-19 coronavirus.

Which Nationalities are Restricted From Entering the USA

The foreign policy of the United States stipulates that entry to the country is denied or restricted broadly to citizens of countries deemed a risk to national health or security.

As a result, restrictions are currently in place affecting the following nations:

  • Chad
  • Iran
  • Libya
  • North Korea
  • Syria
  • Venezuela
  • Yemen

Travelers visiting from these countries will face limitations on the visas they may apply for and may face further immigration checks on entry to the country. At present, North Korean citizens may not enter the USA under any circumstances.

Although these regulations may be changed in the future, they are not part of the US response to the COVID-19 pandemic and are therefore not considered temporary.

Who May Not Enter the United States

US Homeland Security sets strict rules on entrance to the country based on previous criminal activity. Those who have a proven record of the following misdemeanors are liable to have visas and visa waivers rejected or to be barred from entry to the USA:

  • Drug addiction or abuse
  • Drug trafficking
  • Espionage
  • Terrorism

Additionally, US immigration policy restricts the entrance of citizens that are deemed likely to become dependent on public welfare and assistance. Furthermore, those carrying infectious diseases such as tuberculosis could also be deemed inadmissible.

Finally, those who have not respected the terms and conditions of their previous visas for the US may be prevented from applying for a new one.

US Restrictions in Place for Coronavirus

The President of the United States, Donald Trump, has announced new restrictions for foreign travelers visiting the US, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

The COVID-19 coronavirus originated in China’s Hubei Province, and the first case was recorded on December 31st, 2019 in the city of Wuhan. Since then, virus-related pneumonia has caused a number of casualties in China, and cases of infection have been recorded across Europe, Africa, and Asia as well as Canada and the U.S.

On March 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

To better cordon off the spread of the outbreak, a number of countries have begun to implement preventative measures against the virus to prevent COVID-19 from crossing borders.

The United States has followed suit by introducing US travel restrictions from several countries including China and the European Schengen Area and updating the US travel advisory for coronavirus.

Read on to learn about the new restrictions and how they will affect the ability of travelers who have spent time abroad recently to obtain a US visa or ESTA authorization.

What Is the US Travel Advisory for China and Europe for Coronavirus?

After the initial coronavirus outbreak in Hubei province, the Chinese government suspended all air, road, and rail travel in the area around Wuhan, and they have since placed other travel restrictions on regions throughout China. Also thanks to these measures, the number of coronavirus cases has significantly lowered in the Republic.

Many countries around the world have since implemented their own restrictions for foreign citizens arriving from China in order to contain a possible spread of the virus. These restrictions have then been extended to passengers arriving from other heavily-hit countries, including several European nations.

As a result, the US government has taken action to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus. This has included limits on who can and cannot enter the country from affected areas.

Chinese Citizens Entering the USA during the Covid-19 Pandemic

On February 2nd, a new US travel warning for China was issued, and President Trump declared the suspension of entry to foreign citizens who have been in China in the 14 days prior to their intended arrival in the United States.

Additionally, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued its own coronavirus advice for China, urging those who have spent time in the country or been exposed to someone with symptoms to cooperate with travel restrictions to ensure an effective public health response.

They have also advised anyone with suspected development of COVID-19 symptoms to contact their health provider and tell them about any previous travel to China or exposure to a coronavirus patient.

European Citizens Entering the United States during Covid-19 Pandemic

On March 11th 2020, President Trump announced a 30-day travel ban affecting passengers arriving from the EU Schengen area would come into effect on March 13th. This suspends the entry of visitors from the 26 country bloc as well as citizens of the UK and Ireland whilst the ban remains in effect.

The 30-day travel restriction has then been extended and will remain in place until the pandemic is considered under control.

The ban, however, does not cover European countries outside of the Schengen Agreement. Citizens of Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, and Cyprus who have not been to the Schengen area within 14 days prior to arrival may still visit the United States without any restrictions. Belarussian passports expired between April 30, 2020, and July 31, 2020, will be considered valid with an extension of 3 months.

Whilst this does not affect all Europeans, the ban will be enforced against anyone who has been in the Schengen area up to 14 days prior to arriving in the US.

Additionally, US citizens, passport and green card holders are still entitled to enter the US from a European point of origin whilst the ban remains in effect. This exemption also applies to the following foreign nationals:

  • Those married to permanent residents or US citizens
  • Parents and guardians of US citizens or permanent residents under the age of 21
  • Brothers and sisters of legal permanent residents and citizens providing both are unmarried and are under 21 years of age
  • Children or foster children of US citizens or permanent residents
  • Ship and plane crew members
  • Those traveling with Medical Agencies to help contain the coronavirus
  • Foreign government officials and their family members
  • US armed forces workers
  • Students on an F-1 or M-1 visa and their F-2 and M-2 dependents
  • Holders of the following visas: A-1, A-2, C-1, C-1/D, C-2, C-3, CR-1, CR-2, D, E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, IR-1, IR-4, IH-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 visa
  • Those whose entry is deemed in the “national interest”
  • Travelers considered as an exception by the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or U.S. Department of State

Who Does the US Travel Ban Affect?

The US travel bans, which are in place to protect against Coronavirus will affect millions of foreign citizens worldwide. It is important to keep up to date with the current happenings surrounding the outbreak, however, at present, travelers from numerous regions will face restrictions on travel to the USA.

Restrictions in Place for Chinese Travelers

The US-China travel ban temporarily affects the ability of Chinese citizens to apply for a US EVUS, as well as other non-US citizens in China who need to apply for an ESTA visa waiver or a visa to enter the United States.

Foreign citizens who reside in China, have recently traveled to China, or intend to travel to China prior to a trip to the United States have been recommended to postpone all visa application appointments until after 14 days from the date of departure from China.

Although foreign travelers to the United States from China are subject to the restrictions, there are a few exceptions in addition to US citizens and Permanent Residents. These are the same as the ones outlined above for passengers traveling from Europe.

European and Schengen countries affected by the US coronavirus travel ban

The travel ban announced in the Presidential Proclamation affects the following 26 Schengen countries:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czechia (the Czech Republic)
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

This also applies to non-Schengen members including:

  • The United Kingdom
  • Ireland

Entry to the USA and travel authorizations such as ESTAs will be suspended to those affected during the length of the ban. Foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen area 14 days prior to arriving in the US will also be barred from entering the country.

Non-European countries affected by the US coronavirus travel ban

The coronavirus travel restrictions apply also to countries outside of Europe. On top of China, these include:

  • Brazil
  • Iran

Those who have visited the aforementioned non-European countries in the 14 days prior to their departure will not be allowed into the United States.

The same exceptions highlighted for the travel ban from China and Europe apply to passengers from the above countries.

US State-Specific Anti-COVID Restrictions

On top of the regulations and restrictions included in this page, passengers must follow the measures and health advice set by the state or territory that constitutes their final destination.

For example, all individuals over 18 years of age and minors entering Massachusetts are required to complete the “Massachusetts Travel Form” upon or prior to arrival.

US Airport Restrictions for Travelers

Those who are exempt from the Chinese and European travel ban will still be able to travel to the United States, but there will still be some airport restrictions for those who have recently spent time in China, Iran, Brazil, and the European Union:

  • There will be compulsory health screenings, where passengers will be checked for symptoms, will be required to answer questions about their medical history and will need to provide contact information to the health authorities
  • All US citizens who have spent time in these restricted countries within 14 days of their return will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory home- quarantine upon arrival


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