Coronavirus and Restrictions on Entry to the United States for Visa and ESTA Holders - Update
August 25, 2020
Updated August 20, 2020
Presidential Proclamation 9993 bans entry to the United States of persons present in the Schengen Area (including Poland). Presidential Proclamation 10052 imposes certain restrictions on visas in order to protect the U.S. labor market.
For those holding valid U.S. visas, some may travel without restrictions, while others may travel only by first seeking approval from the U.S. Embassy. If you hold a valid visa or ESTA and wish to travel to the United States, please carefully read the information below to determine what restrictions may apply to you.
For those who wish to apply for a U.S. visa, the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw and Consulate General in Krakow are approving only a small number of certain nonimmigrant visas at this time, as described below.
THE GUIDANCE ON THIS PAGE REGARDING WHO MAY TRAVEL TO THE U.S. OR APPLY FOR A U.S. VISA MAY CHANGE. PLEASE CHECK BACK REGULARLY FOR UPDATES.
2. I have a U.S. valid visa. Can I travel to the United States?
You may travel to the United States without following any additional procedures if you hold a valid visa in any of the following categories:
- Official visas: A, G, NATO
- Air/sea crew visas: C1/D, B1 (only if annotated “OCS” for seaman working on the Outer Continental Shelf of the United States)
- Student visas: F (if holding a valid Form I-20) or M (if holding a valid Form I-20).
If you hold a valid visa of another category not listed above, you must follow additional procedures in order to be allowed to travel to the United States, as described below..
3. I have a valid visa in a category not listed above. Can I travel to the United States?
If you hold a valid visa in a category not listed above, you may travel only if the U.S. Embassy approves a “national interest exception (NIE)” for your trip. If approved, the NIE will allow you only one entry to the United States within 30 days of the date of approval by the Embassy. In general, these national interest exceptions are provided to certain businesspeople providing a substantial economic benefit to the United States, academics, and persons traveling for humanitarian reasons:
- B1 (or B1/B2) or O visa holders (and their dependents) who are senior-level managers and executives traveling for business reasons.
- B1 (or B1/B2) visa holders seeking to install or service complex machinery or equipment and who have specialized knowledge to do so.
- P visa holders who are professional athletes (and their dependents) and essential staff.
- E visa holders (treaty traders and investors).
- J visa holders (with valid Form DS-2019) who are professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists. An NIE may also be considered for au pairs providing care for a child with special needs or for a child whose parents are involved with COVID-19 medical care or research.
- B2 (or B1/B2) visa holders traveling for humanitarian reasons: generally, persons seeking emergency medical treatment (including for family members) or seeking to visit a family member in the United States who is undergoing emergency medical care.
- H-1B visa holders (and their dependents) who are public health or health care professionals, medical researchers, or are engaged with projects essential to a U.S. government agency.
- L visa holders (and their dependents) who are public health or healthcare professionals, or are medical researchers.
If you meet one of the foregoing categories, you may seek a national interest exception (NIE) by following the procedures in items 5 and 6 below. Except for those categories in item 2 above, any visa holder who tries to travel to the United States for business purposes without obtaining an NIE will not be permitted to board a U.S.-bound flight.
4. I have a valid ESTA. May I travel to the United States?
ESTA holders who are traveling for business reasons that would have a substantial economic benefit to the United States (see item 3 above) may also seek a national interest exception (NIE) by following the procedures in item 5 below. If you attempt to travel on an ESTA without obtaining an NIE in advance, you will not be permitted to board a U.S.-bound flight and your ESTA will be cancelled.
5. I have a valid U.S. visa or ESTA and believe that I may qualify for a national interest exception (NIE). How do I apply?
If you hold a valid visa and believe that you qualify for a national interest exception (business travelers providing a substantial economic benefit, academics, and persons traveling for certain humanitarian reasons), you should write to WarsawNIE@state.gov and provide the following information for each traveler:
- Full name (as it appears in your passport)
- Date of birth
- Description of the purpose of your proposed trip to the United States (including type of visa)
- Any documentation supporting your request (e.g., information regarding your proposed business visit, the nature of your humanitarian reasons, etc.)
If the Embassy approves your national interest exception (NIE) request, you will be allowed to take only one trip to the United States, and you must travel within 30 days of the date of the approval. If you wish to travel again in the future, you will need to seek another NIE approval..
6. I wish to apply for a visa. Are there appointments available?
The U.S. Embassy has opened a limited number of nonimmigrant visa appointments in many categories. The consular officer will determine whether you are eligible to travel under the current Presidential Proclamations at the time of the interview. Thus, for example, qualified students (categories F and M) or air/sea crew (category C1/D or certain B1 visas) may be processed as normal. Other categories may also be processed, but will only be issued if the consular officer determines that a “national interest exception” (NIE) applies as described above (i.e., business travelers providing a substantial economic benefit, academics, and persons traveling for humanitarian reasons). If you do not believe that you will qualify for a visa due to the restrictions in the Presidential Proclamations, you may wish to postpone your appointment to a later date.
Appointments for B1/B2 visas are available in few months. If you have an urgent need to travel and believe you may be eligible for an NIE (see Item 3 above for more information), you may request an expedited appointment. To request an expedited appointment, please make an appointment in the system for any open time. You will then have the option to request an expedited appointment. A consular officer will review your request and someone will contact you with more information if it is approved.
7. Can I get a refund of my application fee or ESTA fee?
Unfortunately, visa application fees and ESTA application fees are not refundable. You can reschedule your visa appointment at no additional charge during the one-year period beginning on the date the fee was originally paid. Approved ESTAs remain valid for up to two years.
8. I’m not from Poland and my case is still pending with the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw. Please transfer my profile back to my country. I wish to apply there.
You may be able to use your existing account profile in your home country. However, the fee you paid in Poland cannot be transferred to pay for a case processed outside of Poland. If you wish to apply for a U.S. visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside Poland, you will need to make a new fee payment and fill out another application form according to the application procedures at that location.