With the holiday travel season approaching, many employees hope to visit family abroad, vacation overseas and perhaps renew their visa at the same time. COVID-19 continues to affect travel to the United States and other countries. BAL urges travelers to take precautions and consult their BAL professional when planning international travel.

Key Points:

  • COVID-19 vaccination requirement. The United States continues to require most nonimmigrant foreign nationals entering or returning to the country by air to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with limited exceptions.
    • The vaccine must be recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization.
    • A similar requirement remains in place for those entering the country by land.
    • Air travelers no longer need to provide documentation of a negative test for COVID-19 or show recovery from a recent COVID-19 infection in order to board a flight to the United States.
  • U.S. embassy and consulate delays. Visa processing delays continue abroad. The State Department said in a recent update that it plans to reach pre-pandemic visa processing levels by the end of 2022. But consular officers continue to grapple with backlogs, and service levels vary from post to post. Travelers should consult the appropriate embassy or consulate website for the most up-to-date information regarding appointment availability and requirements for expedited requests.
  • Administrative processing. BAL has seen an uptick this year in visa applications flagged for additional administrative processing. This may happen for a number of reasons, including if the government wants to conduct more thorough security vetting. Administrative processing often further delays visa applications. Employers with employees who have an administrative processing case and have a particularly urgent need to be in the country should contact BAL.
  • Passport rules. Travelers are encouraged to check how much time they must have on their passport to travel to their destination country (a minimum of six months is recommended for most countries). Passport services remain delayed in some countries. Routine U.S. passport services are now taking six to nine weeks from the date an application is received; expedited services are taking three to five weeks. Those in need of a passport should apply for one as soon as possible.
  • COVID-19 restrictions in other countries. While many countries have lifted COVID-19 entry rules, some continue to enforce vaccination, testing and/or isolation requirements. Employees should be aware of their destination country’s requirements and procedures and factor additional time into their travel plans if necessary.

BAL Analysis: While many countries have lifted COVID-19 travel restrictions, the United States continues to enforce a vaccine requirement for inbound nonimmigrant foreign nationals. Visa and passport service delays continue. Employers and employees should consult their BAL professional before planning any international travel.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice Group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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