On April 30, 2021, a new COVID-related travel ban was implemented by the Biden administration. The ban suspended entry into the United States of nonimmigrants who were physically present in India during the preceding 14 days. The administration instituted this ban to curtail the spread of a new coronavirus variant that has caused catastrophic devastation in India. Currently, the U.S. has issued travel bans for 32 other countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) designated the B.1.617 variant (the strain prevalent in India) with its sub-lineages as a “variant of concern” on May 10. This was the fourth strain to be declared by the WHO as a variant. India now comprises up to 50% of the COVID-19 cases and 30% of the deaths from the virus, globally.
Independent of the travel ban, Indian temporary visa holders are facing the inability to renew their visas due to the closure of U.S. consulates, given the spike in COVID cases in different cities in the U.S. The U.S. consulates in India have mostly remained closed and have been open only for emergency visa issuance, primarily due to the lockdown in various cities.
Temporary Visa Holders Affected by the Ban
Undoubtedly, the ban has shattered the plans of many Indian families that have ties with the United States. It is widely known that the majority of H-1B visas, a skilled labor visa, are taken by Indian techies. Indians who are H-1B visa holders live in the United States along with their dependents (spouse and children). The dependents of H-1B visa holders enter the United States in the H-4 visa category. Indians usually do not have their parents living with them in the U.S., primarily due to the visa hassle. Such Indians who have traveled back to India from the U.S. to tend to their ailing parents have been stranded in India due to the unexpected travel ban.
The impact of this ban has been greatest on many of the temporary visa holders who traveled alone, leaving their families behind in the United States. These individuals remain separated from the families over this indefinite travel ban.
Who Is Exempt From the Travel Ban?
As with many previous travel bans, certain individuals have been exempted. Some categories of individuals who are not subject to the ban are as follows:
- Any lawful permanent resident or any noncitizen national of the U.S.
- Any noncitizen who is the spouse, parent, or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or the lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21
- Any noncitizen who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, and both are under the age of 21
- Any noncitizen traveling to the U.S. for a purpose related to containment or migration of the virus
- Any noncitizen whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees
Thus, many H-1B visa holders who have U.S. citizen children are exempt from this ban.