Frequently Asked Questions on US Travel Ban

Note: For the NRI readers, The Economic Times has started an immigration helpdesk. A team of experts which includes Rajiv S. Khanna addresses the most pressing issues. Please see the link below.
US travel ban: NRI Helpdesk: Can IR-5 immigrant visa holders travel to US despite travel ban? - The Economic Times 

Q. I am a US citizen and sponsored my parents for immigration to the US. My parents were recently issued an IR-5 immigrant visa. Can they travel to the United States from Delhi?

A. They are not subject to the Indian travel ban. The US State Department has said, “ immigrant visa holders are not subject to Presidential Proclamation 10199 related to India, and they remain excepted from the other geographic COVID proclamations per the Secretary of State.”

Q. I think we will fall under the below category. Is this correct understanding? “any noncitizen who is the parent or legal guardian of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the US citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21.” If so, will our approved I-765 EAD and I-131 AP documentation be sufficient for us to travel back to the USA?

A. We have not received any information about your child or children. However, if you have US immigrant or US citizen unmarried children under 21, you are exempt. Additionally, there have been some suggestions from the consulates that AP travelers are also exempt.

Q. I am a US Citizen and my fiancé is an Indian. He is on H-1B status and needs to get his Visa stamped for the first time after going to India. We are planning to register our marriage in the US next month and then travel to India within the next 2 months to get his Visa stamped and do another wedding in front of the family as per Indian culture. Do you think it’s ok to register our marriage before traveling to India and get his Visa stamped? Or is it better to get H-1 stamped with an NIE letter from his employer? Which is safer to reenter the United States? By getting NIE through the employer or by registering our marriage in the US before traveling to India?

A. If he is married to a US citizen, he does not need an NIE.  There is no consular discretion involved, whereas obtaining NIE as a single man would be a matter of discretion. So, getting genuinely married would be the obvious choice (not just “registering” a marriage).

Q. I am on an F-1 visa and my parents have a B-2 visa and I am 20 years of age. Can my parents accompany me while going to the USA as this is the first time I’ll be traveling to my university?

A. I see no automatic NIE for this situation.  You are excepted, but not your parents.

Q. My wife recently applied for her first H-4 visa after our wedding. She went to the interview at the New Delhi embassy, while I was still in India.  Due to the travel ban being implemented during my stay in India, I applied for an NIE 3 times and got rejected each time (I am a software engineer). Her visa was rejected on 221g because the visa officer asked to see my approved NIE in order to grant her a visa. I am currently in a third country and will be entering the USA next week after staying here for 14 days. Since I have not gotten my NIE and am entering the USA via a third country, how should we go about resolving my wife's 221(g)?

A. She will either have to wait for the Covid-19 situation to resolve or go to a third country as you did.

Q. We are Indian citizens and are currently in Belgrade, Serbia to complete 14 days in a third country so that we can proceed to the USA. The reason for this trip is to drop our 19 years old son (with a student visa) at a US university. My 15-year-old son and I are on a tourist visa. I want to know if my younger son and I will be allowed to enter the USA without any problem/ hitch? We are completely Covishield vaccinated except for my 15 years old. Do we need to get PCR COVID testing done Negative before boarding the flight from Belgrade to NYC?

A. Serbia does not appear on any travel restrictions list. The DOS notes, “Travel to the United States directly from Serbia or from a third country that is not covered by the Presidential Proclamation may be possible...” The rest of the information has to do with ever-changing Covid-19 requirements applicable to all nonimmigrants, which you must check before you travel. See,…;

Q. I traveled to India with my wife and my US-born kid on July 21. My H1B visa has expired, but I have a valid H1B extension approval notice (I-797A). I got qualified for Dropbox and paid the fee but I don't see the availability of any slots for appointments. I am eligible for NIE as well since I am working in the healthcare sector. Do I need NIE to travel back to India? My kid is US-born. Does he need to accompany me during the trip to fulfill the NIE eligibility criteria? There are currently no slots available for dropbox appointments? What should I do to schedule an expedited appointment? I contacted the Chennai consulate for NIE approval based on critical infrastructure eligibility criteria. I got a reply from the consulate asking for the documents and visa page. My current visa has expired. What should I do?

A. Getting a visa appointment and NIE are two different problems.  You do not need an NIE because you're exempt from the travel ban, and your US-born child does not need to travel with you. The problem of visa stamping still remains. Unless you qualify for an expedited visa appointment, you have to wait. I see no harm in at least trying for an expedited appointment based upon your employment in the healthcare sector.

Q. Can I travel from India to Mexico with an H1B US visa, stay there for 14 days, and then travel to the US?

A. Nonimmigrants can avoid the Indian travel ban but not visa requirements or Covid-19 restrictions applicable to all US-bound travelers. The travel ban can be avoided by going for 14 days to any third country that does not have travel restrictions to the USA. Since you already have a visa, After your 14 day trip outside the US,  you just need to comply with the general Covid-19 restrictions applicable to all travelers.

Q. I live in the US with my parents. My father is currently on an H-1B Visa with a green card application in Process. I wish to bring my Grandparents who live in India with a tourist visa to the US. They have been fully vaccinated with 2 doses of government-approved vaccine. Will they be able to travel to the US in the 1st week of September?

A. I see no exception or exemption for your grandparents' travel.

Q. I have an O-2 visa and a 12 month NIE approval. I need to travel with my children from the U.K. to the US. Can I add them to my NIE? What are the rules for dependents if your exemption is already approved? I did apply for them when I did my application and it was rejected. I think because I used their ESTA’s? But I don’t know what other basis I could have put? Surely single mothers must be able to keep their children with them if they have a need to enter the US?

A. You should check with the consulate. Now that you have an NIE, If the children are on a dependent visa, they are also excepted. Therefore, they might need to obtain O-3 visas.

Q. How are my chances to get an NIE as a visual artist/ photographer from a Schengen Country with an O-1 Visa? Second question: my O1 Visa needs to be stamped by a US embassy. It seems that third-country processing isn’t available anywhere right now?  If I return with an ESTA visa via e.g Croatia or Turkey my O-1 will not be valid in the US, correct?  Do you have any other recommendations on how to get back to my work in the US?

A. If you travel on ESTA, you cannot change status to O-1 within the USA.  You will stay and depart while on ESTA. I do not see a visual artist/photographer covered by any exception category. Currently, I do not see any option but to wait

Q. I have a valid visa for the USA and would like to travel to Rep De Panama in the middle of August. The transit time in the USA will be approx 4 hours. Can I travel to Panama and then return via the Dominican Republic after a month to India via Miami staying in Miami for 36 hours?

A. Essentially, you are asking about two matters.  Transit through the US and then stay in the US.  The DOS notes, “Transiting a country covered by the proclamation, even without exiting the airport, counts as physical presence within that country and triggers the application of the proclamation. The proclamation also applies to traveling through a US airport to get to another country.”

So, you need to confirm the travel restrictions from and to Panama, DR, and the US. This information is available on the State Department Website at:…;

Q. I am an Indian Citizen, US Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) residing in Maryland, USA. My parents and sister reside in Mumbai, India. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, travel between India and the US is restricted. I have not met my parents since July 2020 and my sister since December 2019. I was planning to visit them in India in May 2021 but I canceled my travel plans due to the rising cases in India. I am reaching out to you as I seek clarity on current travel restrictions. Are they applicable to parents and sisters of US LPR?

A. The restrictions apply to your parents and siblings unless you are under the age of 21.

Q. My daughter is a USA citizen, 11years old, and is presently in the USA on vacation.  Will I be allowed to travel from the UK to go to the USA to pick her up? I am on a B1/B2 visa and she lives with me but went for the summer holidays to see her grandparents in the USA.

A. You should have no problem from the Indian travel ban perspective.  Carry proof of your daughter’s age and your relationship with her.  As the US consulates in India note, “qualifying family members do not need a National Interest Exception or any pre-approval from the Embassy or Consulates. Travelers should carry proof of the qualifying relationship (such as a birth or marriage certificate) when initiating travel to the United States.”

Q. I am an industrial engineer working in the private sector in the USA. We are a team of engineers within our company devoted to research and development for industrial control systems. Is there any possibility for us to qualify through the EB1-A category for green cards?

A. There are four possible options for you that I can see from the basic information you have given.

Option one, the extraordinary ability, EB1-A category as you have asked. In this category, the USCIS focuses entirely on your qualifications.  Please see 

Therefore, assessing your possible inclusion in this category requires a review of your resume.

Option two, the outstanding researcher, EB-1B category. In this category, the focus is again on your resume but the threshold for qualifying is lower than that for EB1-A. The requirements for this category for an industrial (non-academic) researcher include the following factors:

Your employer must petition for you.
The offered position must be non-temporary
The employer must have at least three full-time researchers not counting you
The employer must have a record of research or similar achievements
You must possess three years of research (úsually not counting your Master’s degree or Ph.D. research) or teaching experience
Your qualifications must show that your internationally “recognized”
Option three, the national interest waiver (NIW). In this category, the focus is on the work that you do or plan to do. Is the work in the interest of the United States? There are certain other factors that are also examined.

Cybersecurity being a priority, there is a possibility that the work you do on control systems could be in the US national interest. But if you are chargeable to India (chargeability is determined usually by your country of birth) for your green card, this option may not be attractive because NIW is classified under the EB-2 category with years of waiting.

Option four, PERM-based green card which is pursued by a majority of foreign professionals in the United States. This process is also called “labor certification,” which requires a test of the US labor market through newspaper advertisements, etc.

Note: For the NRI readers, The Economic Times has started an immigration helpdesk. A team of
experts which includes Rajiv S. Khanna addresses the most pressing issues. Please see the link below.

US travel ban: NRI Helpdesk: Can IR-5 immigrant visa holders travel to US despite travel ban? - The Economic Times 


Citizenship and Naturalization

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