Department of State (DOS)
- Updated Requirements for Air Travelers to the United States due to COVID-19 and the Omicron Variant: On Nov. 26, 2021, the administration announced it will restrict travel from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe starting on Nov. 29, 2021, due to concerns over the new Omicron variant. These travel restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and certain other categories of travelers. The restriction affects those who were present in one of the listed countries during the 14-day period prior to their entry or attempted entry into the United States.
- Visa Services Operating Status Update: On Nov. 19, 2021, the Department of State provided an update that the guidance to posts for the prioritization of consular services during the pandemic issued in November 2020 has been rescinded. “The Bureau of Consular Affairs will focus on reducing wait times for all consular services at our embassies and consulates overseas while also protecting health and safety of our staff and applicants...Embassies and consulates have broad discretion to determine how to prioritize visa appointments among the range of visa classes as safely as possible, subject to local conditions and restrictions.”
- Travel to the United States Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test and, for Certain Individuals, Vaccination: DOS, together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated its previous announcements on Dec. 3, 2021. Beginning Dec. 6, 2021, all air travelers to the United States aged two years and older, including United States citizens and LPRs, regardless of vaccination status, must provide proof of a negative COVID test taken within one day prior to boarding. In addition, pursuant to a previous DOS and CDC announcement, nonimmigrant travelers to the United States will not be allowed to board flights unless they show proof of full vaccination. Individuals traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa will have completed vaccination to complete the vaccination requirements on the I-693. Vaccination requirements do not apply to LPRs or USCs traveling to the United States. Certain limited exemptions to the testing and vaccination requirements, including for children, apply.
- Presidential Proclamation: See CLINIC’s “Presidential Proclamations and Other White House Policies” page. On Oct. 25, 2021, DOS posted an updated site listing the COVID-19-related presidential proclamations that have been rescinded and issued, here.
- Visa Services Abroad: U.S. Embassies and Consulates have been in the process of phased resumption of routine services after they were previously suspended due to COVID-19. Check the website of an embassy or consulate for its current operating status. As resources allow, embassies and consulates that have not resumed services will continue to provide urgent and emergency visa services. Additionally, at posts that process both nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, the DOS is prioritizing the processing of immigrant visas in an effort to reduce the backlog of such applications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The DOS is using a tiered approach, detailed at their website here.
- National Visa Center (NVC): NVC has notified CLINIC that its staffing remains somewhat impacted by COVID-19. Inquiries received via NVC’s online inquiry tool should be answered within 1 to 2 business days. NVC encourages applicants and practitioners to use self-service tools such as CEAC or consult the NVC’s timeframes page. NVC’s call center remains open during its normal business hours of 7 a.m. to midnight ET Monday through Friday.
- U.S. Citizen Services Abroad: Services to U.S. citizens continue to be available. More information is available on the Embassies’ websites.
- U.S. Passport Services: While U.S. Passport services are active after a period of suspension and phased reopening, in-person services remain extremely limited, with some centers only accepting appointments for life or death emergencies, and others for urgent travel more generally. Applicants need to call for appointments. See the Department of State update from Oct. 2021. The DOS encourages applicants to apply by mail when possible to reduce in-person contact and more recently announced delays associated with passport applications: 8-11 weeks for routine requests, 5-7 weeks for expedited requests. DOS states that delays in mail service play a big role in these protracted processing timeframes.