As the holiday season approaches, many individuals are preparing for international travel for visits with friends and family. As you prepare for your international travel, it is important to consider the risky implications that are associated with holders of nonimmigrant visas.
- COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement for International Travel
As a reminder, on October 25th President Biden issued a proclamation ending travel bands that restricted the entry of nonimmigrants present in China, Brazil, India, Iran, South Africa, the UK, and the Schengen Area that became effective November 1st. The proclamation requires all adult nonimmigrant travelers entering the US via air travel to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with limited exceptions. The list of acceptable vaccines are:
- Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (Single Dose)
According to the CDC, people are considered “fully vaccinated” 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, or 2 weeks after a single-dose series. Further, all vaccinated individuals, including American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and foreign nationals traveling to the United States on immigrant or nonimmigrant visas, will be required to produce a negative viral test (NAAT or PCR) result within three calendar days of travel to the United States, or before boarding the first flight in a series of connection to the United States.
- Consulate Backlogs
Although the Department of State has provided an update regarding operations of visa services at the US embassies and consulates stating that the Bureau of Consular Affairs will focus on reducing wait times for consular services, please keep in mind that many embassies and consulates are still considerably backlogged and are operating at reduced capacity, and you may have a hard time scheduling a visa stamping appointment if you do not already have a valid, unexpired visa. If you do not have a visa and you require a visa stamping appointment to obtain a valid visa before entering the US, please check consulate appointments ahead of your travel dates.
- Check your I-94 before and after travel
Before traveling internationally, we highly recommend holders of nonimmigrant visas ensure that their I-94 end date matches their I-797 end date. The best place to check both end-dates match is by checking directly on the CPB I-94 website.
Your most recent I-94 is the document that controls your authorized stay in the United States, so it is incredibly important that the duration of the validity period on your I-94 extends through the end of your I-797 approval notice. If you find that the expiration date does not match the I-797 end date, consult with a qualified immigration attorney before traveling.
In some instances, the I-94 will have a shortened validity period than the I-797 approval notice based on the expiration date on the nonimmigrant visa holder’s passport. CBP will not issue an I-94 beyond an applicant’s passport expiration date regardless of the end-date listed on the I-797 approval notice or visa stamp. To avoid this from happening, one should make sure their passport is valid through the expected validity period.
If a shortened I-94 validity period is recognized ahead of time the nonimmigrant should renew their passport before the I-94 expiration date and either 1) file and H-1B extension, or 2) take another trip outside the U.S. before their I-94 expires.
It is also highly recommended that after entering the U.S., check your I-94 Arrival/Departure record on the CBP website here. Your most recent I-94 is the document that controls your stay in the U.S., not the visa stamp or even your I-797 Approval Notice (unless the approval has the I-94 attachment), which is why it is crucial to ensure it is correct. The I-94 details are updated by CBP electronically based on your most recent entry, and you can access your record by entering your passport information on the website. You should ensure that your name, the class of admission, and validity period end-date are correct – if they are not, correction through a CBP deferred inspection office may be necessary.
If any discrepancies in the expiration dates of either the I-94 or passport are recognized prior to or after travel it is advised to consult with a qualified immigration attorney to discuss the steps to remedy the situation. Initial plans may need to be postponed or even cancelled depending on the steps required, but the risks that will be avoided by doing so will keep one safe and in valid status for the correct expected validity period.
By: Kristina M. Hernandez & Jeanetly Garcia