This answer currently lists nationwide entry restrictions imposed by the United States federal (national) government. Some states as well as counties, municipalities, towns, and cities have imposed entry bans or automatic quarantine-upon-entry orders as well as stay-at-home orders that may prevent your intended travel. This answer cannot index all of these orders, which have slight differences, technicalities, and effective dates that must be consulted to determine if your planned travel activity is allowed under state and local law.
Travelers who do not already have a valid visa and will need one for their planned travel should note that the US Embassies and Consulates are beginning to re-open at this time for limited services. Check the website of the consulate in your country for more information. Be aware that their home countries consulates in the US may not be operating normally.
Under the current rules, individuals who have been physically present anywhere in mainland China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the Common Travel Area (UK/Ireland), or Brazil within the past 14 days cannot travel to the US at all unless they meet one of these exceptions:
- US citizens and nationals
- lawful permanent residents (green card holders)
- spouses of citizens or LPRs
- parents of unmarried citizens/LPRs under 21
- siblings of citizens/LPRs, both unmarried and under 21
- children, foster children, and adoptees of citizens/LPRs
- air and sea crew members
- diplomats and foreign officials
- those granted exceptions by officials
As of July 16, 2020, the Department of State announced that students with F-1 and M-1 visas who will travel from the UK, Ireland, or the Schengen Area are automatically allowed to travel. J-1 students and others, such as E visa treaty traders/investors, academics, and certain other business travels, may be able to obtain a National Interest Exception and should contact their nearest consulate or embassy to do so.
Upon arrival, such excepted passengers may be subject to public health screenings upon arrival. The US Centers for Disease Control have asked all international arrivals to self-quarantine for 14 days. This is not legally binding, however, it is possible that federal, state/territory, or local health officers could impose mandatory quarantine orders on specific passengers.
This action does not affect aliens (immigrants or nonimmigrants) already in the US. It does not cancel or revoke valid visas, though it temporarily prevents their use and may prevent the issuance of new visas in some cases.
Additionally, entering the US through land borders from Canada or Mexico is limited to “essential travel”:
- US citizens and permanent residents returning to the US
- Travel for medical purposes
- Travel to attend educational institutions
- Travel to work in the US
- Travel for emergency response and public health purposes
- Lawful cross-border trade
- Official government or diplomatic travel
- US armed forces and their family returning to the US
- Military-related travel
These rules cover anyone traveling across the land border, even if they are not Canadian/Mexican. They do not affect entry from Canada or Mexico by air, although there have been reports of CBP officers applying extra scrutiny to such travelers.
Questions and Answers
I heard about some changes to student visa rules. Where are those? You likely heard about a rule change to the Student Exchange Visitor Program that would have forced international students on F-1/M-1/J-1 visas to leave the country if did not have at least one in-person class, even if their entire school had moved online. The US Government abandoned this rule when it was challenged it court. This rule is no longer in effect and no changes to your I-20 or student visa should be required for you to enter the country. If you are a new student and do not have an F-1 visa, be sure to closely follow the website of the embassy in your country–each consular post is announcing their own plans for resumption of visa services.
Does this include only mainland China, or other territories as well? The 14-day rule does not apply the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau. It does apply to the disputed province of Tibet. It does not apply to Taiwan, the Republic of China, which is claimed by the People’s Republic of China but is not functionally a part of that country.
Does this include British territories as well? The proclamation covering the UK excludes “overseas territories outside of Europe”. This seems to mean that Gibraltar and the Crown Dependencies are included, but other British territories are excluded.
Do the US-Canada and US-Mexico border restrictions apply to air travel? Not at this time.
When did these restrictions take effect?
- For China: February 2, 2020 at 5:00pm EST
- For Iran: March 2, 2020 at 5:00pm EST
- For the Schengen Area: March 13, 2020 at 11:59pm EDT.
- For the Common Travel Area: March 16, 2020 at 11:59pm EDT.
- Canada/Mexico land border restrictions: March 20, 2020 at 11:59pm EDT.
- For Brazil: May 26, 2020 at 11:59pm EDT.
Where are these regulations found? The Department of Homeland Security has a page on air travel restrictions, a fact sheet, and a list of news and updates. The CDC has a page on procedures for travelers from the affected countries.
The Presidential Proclamations banning entry of certain sub-classes of these individuals:
DHS has announcements for the US-Canada and US-Mexico land border restrictions, and the rules can be found in the Federal Register:
- For US-Canada land border: this document, as extended by this document, this document, this document, this document, and this document
- For US-Mexico land border: this document, as extended by this document, this document, this document, this document, and this document
From the effective date of the entry ban for a given country until September 14, 2020, all flights carrying at least one non-crew passenger that had been physically present in mainland China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the Common Travel Area (UK/Ireland), or Brazil within the past 14 days but who were exempt from the entry ban, were required to land at one of the following airports: JFK, ORD, SFO, SEA, HNL, LAX, ATL, IAD, EWR, DFW, DTW, BOS, MIA, FLL, IAH:
How long will these restrictions last? The restrictions will remain in effect until further notice from the government. With respect to the entry ban specifically, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is to advise the President at least every 15 days whether or not the ban should be changed or cancelled. The land border restrictions last until September 21, 2020, 11:59pm EDT.
What if I do not comply with these rules? If you lie to officials to avoid the regulations, you could face serious immigration consequences including expedited removal from the country and a permanent inadmissibility in the future.