As the COVID situation in India seems to be improving, people are eagerly waiting for the resumption of international air travel; it was banned by many countries as the COVID cases in India skyrocketed during the month of April. Some nations are starting to reopen their boundaries to Indian nationals and many Indian expatriates who are now living in India are looking forward to returning to their country where their occupation is. Travel to the USA from India during COVID-19 is on the top of discussion everywhere among people.
Meanwhile, the Indian foreign ministry spokesman Mr. ArindamBagchi has also urged all countries to reopen the air travel routes with India. The ministry counselor for consular affairs in US Embassy, New Delhi Mr. Don Heflin gave clarity to certain queries related to lifting the travel ban for Indians to the United States. He conveyed that the travel restriction which was imposed by the United States on Indians will remain the same for now and Indians can keep a track of European countries which were also placed under travel restrictions even before India to get an idea of when travel restriction will be relaxed.
So for now, the US has restricted travel from India for those who have lived in India for the last 14 days prior to travel. Those who are exempted from this restriction are Students, American Citizens, and those who can actually prove that their travel to the US is out of national interest. Heflin also conveyed that the US Embassy is actually trying to increase the Visa appointments and will furthermore increase in the month of July.
He also stated that amidst the 2nd wave of COVID-19 in India which intervened in the visa appointment process, 45000 visa appointments were opened. And the US Embassy is also keenly trying to get back to the normal pre-COVID level in visa appointments.
For students who are worried about missing their classes for the month of August, they will be allowed to join in late. He suggested students can try reaching their schools and colleges by August 25 and if they are unable to reach for any reason they can contact their department concerned. Heflin also clarified that students with M-1 or F-1 visas which also includes those with optical practical training approval resuming to their courses on or after 1st August 2021 will not require National Interest Exception (NIE) while traveling to the US from India provided it is within 30 days of students’ program resumption date.
However, Heflin also warned that in the current visa situation & COVID-19 situation, the US Embassy can’t guarantee the return of students to the US after their short-term visit to India.
Furthermore to this, Heflin said that F-2 visa holders, who are related to F-1 visa holders should get National Interest Exception (NIE) approval prior traveling to the US as the blanket waiver is not applicable to F-1 visa holders. And for Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) who hold green cards, there are no changes made in the requirement to maintain their permanent resident status. Also, LPRs are expected to return to the US before 1 year of departure in order to maintain their status.
The Embassy and consulates are first focusing on returning workers and then students. H-1B workers in India who actually hold valid visas are said to be eligible for a National Interest Exception (NIE) from Presidential Proclamation 10199. And by now, thousands of NIEs have been processed for qualified returning workers. Also, limited interview waiver processing was resumed for certain categories of visas which includes H-4s.
For those traveling to the US from India, Heflin stated that the United States currently does not require them to be vaccinated. But the only requirement is to take an RT-PCR test report. However, schools & colleges have their own guidelines about getting vaccinated.
So when someone comes for a visa interview, they won’t be enquired if they are vaccinated. Neither will the airlines or immigrant officials will raise a question about this. He also added that COVID vaccines are widely available in the United States.
Indian foreign ministry spokesman Mr. ArindamBagchi said that the other countries would release a travel ban with India once the COVID situation settles down in India. He also added that the traveling concern will be prioritized by the government.
Finally, the most frequently asked question – Can I travel to the USA from India on a tourist visa?
Due to COVID-19, India is now under the list of restricted countries in the US. So you cannot travel to the US unless you receive approval for National Interest Exception (NIE) from the US consulate. Eligibility to travel from India to the US is applicable for: legal permanent residents, US citizens, and foreign nationals holding valid US visas.
If you are physically present in a restricted country for 14 days prior to traveling to the US cannot enter the US. So hopefully this article has covered the US travel ban India latest news.