This community wiki explains the current restrictions by the United States of America on the entry of individuals who may pose a risk of transmission of the SARS-Cov2, the virus which causes the Covid-19 disease.


This answer currently lists nationwide entry restrictions imposed by the United States federal (national) government in response to COVID-19. Some states as well as counties, municipalities, towns, and cities have imposed entry bans or automatic quarantine-upon-entry orders as well as stay-at-home orders that may prevent your intended travel. This answer cannot index all of these orders, which have slight differences, technicalities, and effective dates that must be consulted to determine if your planned travel activity is allowed under state and local law.

Travelers who do not already have a valid visa and will need one for their planned travel should note that the US Embassies and Consulates are beginning to re-open at this time for limited services. Check the website of the consulate in your country for more information. Be aware that their home countries consulates in the US may not be operating normally.

Entry bans for foreigners who have been in certain countries

Individuals who have been physically present anywhere in Mainland China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), Iran, the Schengen Area1, the UK1 (excluding territories outside Europe), Ireland1, Brazil, South Africa2, or India within the past 14 days cannot travel to the US at all unless they meet one of these exceptions:

  • US citizens and nationals
  • US lawful permanent residents (green card holders)
  • spouses of US citizens or LPRs
  • parents of unmarried US citizens/LPRs under 21
  • siblings of US citizens/LPRs, both unmarried and under 21
  • children, foster children, and adoptees of US citizens/LPRs
  • air and sea crew members
  • diplomats and foreign officials
  • those granted exceptions by officials
  • immigrant visa holders, fiance visa holders, and certain exchange visitors3
  • F-1 and M-1 students in a program commencing August 1, 2021 or later4

These bans will be lifted and changed to a vaccination requirement for all foreigners on November 8, 2021 (details to be announced).

Text of the presidential proclamations and effective dates:

(1 As of July 16, 2020, the Department of State announced that students with F-1 and M-1 visas who will travel from the UK, Ireland, or the Schengen Area are automatically allowed to travel. J-1 students and others, such as E visa treaty traders/investors, academics, and certain other business travels, who will travel from those countries, may be able to obtain a National Interest Exception and should contact their nearest consulate or embassy to do so.

2 As of January 28, 2021, the Department of State announced that H-2 workers who will travel from South Africa may be able to obtain a National Interest Exception and will be considered for the exception when applying for the visa. Those who already have visas should contact the consulate or embassy that processed their visa.

3 As of April 8, 2021, the Department of State announced that immigrants, fiance visa holders, and certain exchange visitors who are subject to the geographic entry bans have a National Interest Exception and will be able to obtain a visa when visa services otherwise resume at the local US consulate. This also applies to the subsequent India ban.

4 As of April 26, 2021, the Department of State announced that F-1 or M-1 students from all countries, in programs beginning August 1, 2021 or later qualify for a national interest exception. If they already have valid visas, they may travel to the US no more than 30 days before the beginning of their program, without needing to contact a US consulate. Those applying for an F-1 or M-1 for a program beginning August 1, 2021 or later will automatically be considered for an exception. This also applies to the subsequent India ban.)

Upon arrival, such excepted passengers may be subject to public health screenings upon arrival. The US Centers for Disease Control have asked all international arrivals to self-quarantine for 14 days. This is not legally binding, however, it is possible that federal, state/territory, or local health officers could impose mandatory quarantine orders on specific passengers.

The Department of Homeland Security has a page on air travel restrictions, a fact sheet, and a list of news and updates. The CDC has a page on procedures for travelers from the affected countries.

This action does not affect aliens (immigrants or nonimmigrants) already in the US. It does not cancel or revoke valid visas, though it temporarily prevents their use and may prevent the issuance of new visas in some cases.

The restrictions will remain in effect until further notice from the government. The Secretary of Health and Human Services is to advise the President at least every 15 days whether or not the ban should be changed or cancelled.

COVID-19 test requirement

All travelers to the US by air, including US citizens, who are 2 years of age or older, must have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their flight in order to board the airplane. This does not apply to entry to the US by land. See frequently asked questions.

Land border entry restrictions

Entering the US through land borders from Canada or Mexico is limited to "essential travel":

  • US citizens and permanent residents returning to the US
  • Travel for medical purposes
  • Travel to attend educational institutions
  • Travel to work in the US
  • Travel for emergency response and public health purposes
  • Lawful cross-border trade
  • Official government or diplomatic travel
  • US armed forces and their family returning to the US
  • Military-related travel

These rules cover anyone traveling across the land border, even if they are not Canadian/Mexican. They do not affect entry from Canada or Mexico by air, although there have been reports of CBP officers applying extra scrutiny to such travelers.

Effective date: March 20, 2020 at 11:59pm EDT - January 21, 2022 at 11:59pm EST (may be extended as needed)

The Department of Homeland Security announced that in November 2021 (to align with the vaccination requirement for foreigners entering by air), vaccinated travelers will be able to enter the US by land for non-essential reasons. In January 2022, all foreigners entering the US by land, for essential or non-essential reasons, must be vaccinated.

Text of the regulations:

DHS has announcements for the US-Canada and US-Mexico land border restrictions.

Immigrant visa and work visa bans (no longer in effect)

Foreigners could not enter the US as immigrants, or as non-immigrants on H-1b, H-2b, J-1, or L-1 status or their dependents, unless they met one of these exceptions:

  • people who were inside the US on the effective date of the ban
  • people who had a visa of the same type on which they are seeking entry, that was valid on the effective date of the ban
  • people who had a travel document other than a visa that permits them to travel to the US (e.g. an Advance Parole), that was valid on the effective date of the ban or issued thereafter
  • US lawful permanent residents (green card holders)
  • people entering the US as medical professionals or to conduct research on COVID-19
  • immigrants entering on the EB-5 investment immigration category
  • spouses of US citizens
  • unmarried under-21 children and adoptees of US citizens
  • people whose entry furthers law enforcement objectives
  • members of the US armed forces and their spouses and children
  • immigrants in the SI and SQ special immigrant categories
  • people whose entry would be in the national interest

Text of the presidential proclamations and effective dates:

The Department of State has detailed the national interest exceptions for these two bans.

Entry airport restrictions (no longer in effect)

From the effective date of the entry ban for a given country until September 14, 2020, all flights carrying at least one non-crew passenger that had been physically present in Mainland China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the UK, aireland, or Brazil within the past 14 days but who were exempt from the entry ban, were required to land at one of the following airports: JFK, ORD, SFO, SEA, HNL, LAX, ATL, IAD, EWR, DFW, DTW, BOS, MIA, FLL, or IAH.

Questions and Answers

I heard about some changes to student visa rules. Where are those? You likely heard about a rule change to the Student Exchange Visitor Program that would have forced international students on F-1/M-1/J-1 visas to leave the country if did not have at least one in-person class, even if their entire school had moved online. The US Government abandoned this rule when it was challenged it court. This rule is no longer in effect and no changes to your I-20 or student visa should be required for you to enter the country. If you are a new student and do not have an F-1 visa, be sure to closely follow the website of the embassy in your country--each consular post is announcing their own plans for resumption of visa services.

What if I do not comply with these rules? If you lie to officials to avoid the regulations, you could face serious immigration consequences including expedited removal from the country and a permanent inadmissibility in the future.

  • 3
    "What if I do not comply with these rules" -> what about US citizens? What's the prescribed penalty for them?
    – JonathanReez
    Feb 3 '20 at 3:10
  • 4
    @JonathanReez US Citizens who tried to escape quarantine could be detained with reasonable force by public health workers. I think its doubtful that someone would be prosecuted unless they used violence, but that is a possibility.
    – aidanh010
    Feb 3 '20 at 17:42
  • 2
    I went through the document linked above in @aidanh010’s answer. It only refers to Hong Kong and Macau as excluded from the arrival restrictions - NOT Taiwan. Is that because Taiwan is considered separate from the People’s Republic of China or because Taiwan is part of the restrictions?
    – Roger1875
    Feb 4 '20 at 4:11
  • 4
    @Roger1875: Since the US maintains a strict ambiguity about whether they recognize Taiwan as part of or separate from the PRC, it may be that we will not get a 100% clear statement from a government source about this. That said, as of 2020-02-04 airlines are still operating flights from Taipei to Ontario International and Houston, neither of which is on the above list, so this would be a good indication that Taiwan is not included. Feb 4 '20 at 15:12
  • 3
    @JonathanReez a US citizen who lies about having been in China could be prosecuted under 18 USC 1001. there are probably other laws that require US citizens to respect quarantine restrictions, but I am not aware of them.
    – phoog
    Feb 7 '20 at 19:33

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