Urgent information for visa applicants regarding COVID-19 pandemic and associated visa and travel suspensions

21 July 2020

The United States Department of State recognizes the immense importance of international travel and commerce to the United States. Our country’s openness is a source of national strength and it is in our direct interest to maintain our free and unfettered engagement with the world.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has required unprecedented actions to protect the United States and its citizens. Visas and entry to the United States for persons who have been in a Schengen country within fourteen days of intended entry are suspended by Presidential Proclamation (PP 9993). Presidential Proclamation 9993 remains in force. In addition, PP 10052, suspends the entry of nonimmigrants traveling on work visas in the H, L, and certain J visa categories as well as most immigrant visas. When these suspensions are lifted, we will resume routine visa services as soon as possible. Unfortunately, there is no information at this time as to when these measures will be lifted.

The Proclamations and their exceptions can be found at:

There are limited exceptions to the proclamations. In mid-July 2020, the Department announced that certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics (professors, research scholars, short term scholars, or specialists), and students may qualify for national interest exceptions (NIE). The Embassy will resume visa processing for these categories shortly.

Applicants in these categories may schedule an appointment following the guidance on the scheduling website. Au pair, Intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor or summer work travel program J visa applicants are not being processed at this time except in limited cases as travel under those categories remain restricted.

There are other limited exceptions to the restrictions on travel. These include travel on ESTA for dire humanitarian situations and travel on ESTA or a visa providing substantial economic benefit to the United States economy. The bar for qualifying as travel providing substantial economic benefit will be very high.

Intending French citizen and French resident travelers who believe they qualify for an NIE should send an email to with the subject line: “CONSIDERATION FOR NATIONAL INTEREST EXCEPTION – [Last Name]”. Emails should include scans of the biodata passport page of all intending travelers, and scans of any valid United States visas for all travelers.

For consideration of an exception for ESTA travel as providing substantial economic benefit, intending travelers need to include documentation from a United States entity (client, vendor, affiliate, etc.) describing the intended activity of the traveler and its link to a quantified economic benefit.

Applicants with questions about visa applications currently in process with the Embassy may send their inquiry via for Immigrant visa applications or for Nonimmigrant visa applications.

The purpose of your intended travel and other facts will determine what type of visa is required under U.S. immigration law. As a visa applicant, you will need to establish that you meet all requirements to receive the category of visa for which you are applying.

See our Directory of Visa Categories on to determine which visa category might be appropriate for your purpose of travel to the United States.

A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the United States generally must first obtain a U.S. visa, which is placed in the traveler’s passport, a travel document issued by the traveler’s country of citizenship.

Certain international travelers may be eligible to travel to the United States without a visa if they meet the requirements for visa-free travel. The Visa section of this website is all about U.S. visas for foreign citizens to travel to the United States.

(Note: U.S. citizens don’t need a U.S. visa for travel, but when planning travel abroad may need a visa issued by the embassy of the country they wish to visit.).

To contact a customer service representative, please visit the GSS Contact Us page for full information.

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The Department of State manages the visa process strictly but fairly in order to best protect the United States.  We are committed to the essential openness for which the United States has always been known.  Travel to the United States is welcomed and encouraged.

We promise to you, the visa applicant, that:

  • We will treat you with dignity and respect, even if we are unable to grant you a visa.
  • We will treat you as an individual and your case as unique.
  • We will remember that, to you, a visa interview may be a new or intimidating experience and that you may be nervous.
  • We will use the limited time available for the interview to get as full a picture as possible of your travel plans and intentions.
  • We will use our available resources to fairly assist all applicants to get appointments to allow travel in time for business, study, and other important obligations.
  • We will post detailed and accurate information on visa requirements and application procedures on every Embassy and Consulate website.
  • We will provide information on non-immigrant appointment waiting times at every Embassy and Consulate posted on
  • We will explain the reason for any visa denial to you.

Furthermore, if you are a:

  • Student, we will make every effort to ensure that you get an appointment and, if qualified, a visa in time to start classes.
  • Medical and humanitarian emergency traveler, we will expedite processing for those dealing with life threatening emergencies.
  • Business traveler, we will establish appropriate mechanisms to facilitate business travel and expedite cases of particular concern to American business.

At the same time, we expect you, the visa applicant, to:

  • Plan your travel and visa application as far in advance as possible.
  • Complete your application fully and accurately.
  • Be forthcoming about your purpose and plans.
  • Prepare for your interview by being able to clearly and concisely describe your intentions.