US travel ban: These travellers can still fly to America

By Amogh Sahasrabhojanee

Starting Tuesday, 4 May, the US will bar most people from India from arriving into the country. Though not absolute, it’s effectively a ban on most visitors from India. Who does it affect? How long will it last? And is there any way for you to still make it to the country? Here’s an explainer:

Why the ban?

With the new surge of cases over the past week and variants in India, on Friday, 30 April, the US announced restrictions on those travelling from India. “The magnitude and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Republic of India is surging; the Republic of India accounts for over one-third of new global cases, and the number of new cases in the Republic of India is accelerating at a rapid rate,” says the Presidential proclamation.

This is after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that “proactive measures are required to protect the Nation’s public health from travelers entering the United States from that jurisdiction.”

When does it kick in?

The restrictions will come into force starting 12:01 am ET (9:30 am IST) on 4 May and will go on indefnitely. You will not be banned from entering if you are already on board a flight that took off before the cut-offs and new restrictions were imposed.

Who is not allowed to enter?

Any non-citizen who has been in India for a period of 14 days preceding arrival to the US.

Will all flights be suspended?

Flights between the two countries are allowed to continue, but schedules may be severely affected. As of now, Air India and United are the two airlines operating non-stop between the United States and India. Air India has cut down the number of flights, while United is flying the bigger B-777 in place of the B-787 to handle the extra load of passengers into the US and the medical cargo it is shipping into India. But the flights are technically on.

Who all is exempt from the ban?

The following categories of travellers are exempt from the ban:

  • A citizen or a permanent resident of the US. Spouses and family members of US citizens are also exempt.

  • Parents or legal guardians of a US citizen or permanent resident who is unmarried and under the age of 21

  • Sibling of a US citizen or permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under 21

  • A child, foster child, or ward of a US citizen or permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee

  • Students seeking to commence studies in the fall, certain academics, journalists, and individuals who provide critical infrastructure support in countries affected by a geographic COVID-19 restriction are also exempt. Such students and academics would qualify under the ‘National Interest Exception’ only if their academic programme begins on 1 August 2021 or later. In addition, students who hold the F-1 and M-1 visas and will be continuing or beginning their academic term on or after 1 August 2021 won’t need to contact an embassy or consulate and can enter up to 30 days prior to the commencement of their program.

  • Exceptions will also be given for humanitarian travel, and travel relating to national security or a public health response.

Can you fly from the US to India?

While you can travel from the US to India as an Indian citizen or if you’re moving to India as a resident, travelling as a tourist for a short visit isn’t permitted. You will also need to upload a negative RT-PCR test taken 72 hours prior to departing and a self declaration form here.

But there is an advisory

The CDC has advised travellers against going to India. They have stated that even fully vaccinated travellers can contract COVID-19 and spread it. As per the CDC’s recommendations for fully vaccinated travellers, you do not need to need to self quarantine after arriving back to the US. However, on entering the US, you will need a negative COVID-19 test taken not less than 3 days before travelling. As for those who aren’t fully vaccinated, the CDC includes getting tested before travelling and quarantining for a period of 7 days even with a negative test.