As the COVID-19 crisis in India has worsened in recent weeks, the Biden administration decided to issue a new round of travel restrictions targeting travel from India. On April 30, President Biden signed a new proclamation barring entry to the United States by most foreign nationals, including visa holders, who are present in the Republic of India within 14 days of seeking admission to the United States. The proclamation notes the accelerating pace of COVID-19 cases in India and the circulation of variant COVID-19 strains that may be more transmissible.

The new restrictions will not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs). Other limited exceptions include travel by air and sea crew, government and diplomatic representatives, spouses of citizens or LPRs, and parents of U.S. citizens or LPRs who are unmarried and under age 21. The new restrictions go into effect at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. There is no foreseeable termination date for the restrictions.

Currently, travel is also generally restricted for individuals who have been present within the United Kingdom, European Schengen Area, South Africa, China, Iran, and Brazil within the past 14 days prior to entry to the United States. As with the other geographic COVID-19-related travel bans, subject individuals will need to travel to an alternative third-party country to wait out a full 14-day period before entering the United States or will need to obtain a National Interest Exemption (NIE) from the relevant U.S. consulate to seek permission to travel.

We anticipate that the new restrictions will significantly hamper employee travel from India to the United States and will require obtaining a NIE for most visa-holders. The current standard for most employment-based travel requires that workers demonstrate that they will be performing “vital services in critical infrastructure work” to serve the U.S. national interest. NIEs will also be awarded to students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs, along with qualified individuals seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security. Generally, if applicants for travel require a new visa stamp, they must also demonstrate eligibility for a NIE for the sought-after travel to the United States.