OVIS Winter Break Travel Guidance

Beginning January 26, 2021, all air passengers traveling to the U.S. will be required to comply with the following COVID-19 safety measures in order to board a flight: show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the 3 days before the flight to the U.S. departs, complete a 7-day quarantine following arrival in the U.S., and undergo another COVID-19 test 3-5 days after arrival.

Information regarding the requirement can be found on the CDC website. The Biden Administration issued an Executive Order on January 21, 2021, requiring all air travelers to comply with these CDC measures. 

Travelers to Dartmouth must also comply with all NH State and Dartmouth COVID travel protocols:  https://covid.dartmouth.edu/coming-to-campus  

Please check Dartmouth's COVID-19 website to learn about Dartmouth's travel guidelines for students, faculty, and staff.  This page is updated regularly with the latest information to help you prepare to return to campus. Students, faculty and staff should also obtain information and ensure compliance with any specific requirements for COVID-19 protocols imposed by the airline carrier and destination country prior to travel. 

The COVID-19 situation has led to a number of federal government actions that create challenges for international travel.  Depending upon the course of the virus, additional restrictions on travel could be imposed at any time.  International students, scholars, faculty, and staff should be aware of current and changing travel restrictions, in addition to the standard information and documents that are required for international travel. 

Travel Restrictions

Canada-Mexico "Essential Travel" Restrictions:  U.S. Customs and Border Protection has extended travel restrictions on entry to the U.S. from land ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada and U.S. Mexico borders for "essential travel" to March 21, 2021. The restriction originally went into effect on March 21, 2020, for a 30-day period, and has been extended eleven times. The restriction does not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and foreign nationals who are traveling to work in the U.S. or to attend an educational institution.  Non-essential travel includes tourism.  Please refer to the U.S. Customs & Border Protection Agency website for more information.

On January 25, 2021 The White House issued a Presidential Proclamation continuing the 14-day entry restrictions listed below for travelers coming from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, China and Iran, and adds South Africa to the list of countries.  The restriction for South Africa will go into effect on January 30, 2021. 

China Travel Proclamation 9984 (Jan. 31, 2020) – Suspends all visa holders, including F, J, and H-1B, from travel to the U.S. if they have resided in China for the 14-day period preceding their entry.

Iran Proclamation 9992 (Feb. 29, 2020) – Suspends all visa holders, including F, J, and H-1B, from travel to the U.S. if they have resided in Iran for the 14-day period preceding their entry. 

European Schengen Area Proclamation 9993 (March 11, 2020) - Suspends certain visa holders, including J and H-1B, from travel to the U.S. if they were physically present in a European Schengen Area country for the 14-day period preceding their entry.  F-1 students are exempt from the Proclamation.  Note that J-1 and H-1B visa holders may be eligible for a National Interest Exemption but should contact OVIS for more information.  National Interest Exemptions under this Proclamation, if granted, require that the beneficiary enter the U.S. within 30 days of the visa interview. If you were previously granted an NIE for travel to the U.S., you may be required to request a new NIE to return to the U.S. after a departure.  You should contact the consular post with jurisdiction over your foreign residence for specific guidance.

Ireland and UK Proclamation 9996 (March 14, 2020) – Suspends certain visa holders, including J and H-1B, from travel to the U.S. if they were physically present in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, or the Republic of Ireland for the 14-day period preceding their entry.  F-1 students are exempt from the Proclamation.  Note that J-1 and H-1B visa holders may be eligible for a National Interest Exemption but should contact OVIS for more information.  National Interest Exemptions under this Proclamation, if granted, require that the beneficiary enter the U.S. within 30 days of the visa interview. If you were previously granted an NIE for travel to the U.S., you may be required to request a new NIE to return to the U.S. after a departure. You should contact the consular post with jurisdiction over your foreign residence for specific guidance.

Brazil Proclamation (May 24, 2020) – Suspends all visa holders, including F, J, and H-1B, from travel to the U.S. if they have resided in Brazil for the 14-day period preceding their entry.

Presidential Proclamations Suspending Entry to the U.S for Certain Visa Holders

H-1B Ban - Presidential Proclamation 10052 suspending entry into the U.S. of certain H-1B visa holders - This temporary suspension was set to expire on December 31, 2020, but has been extended to March 31, 2021.  This suspension impacts individuals in the U.S. who hold H-1B status but who do not have a valid H-1B visa stamp, and individuals outside the country who are approved for H-1B classification but need to obtain an H-1B stamp.

China MCF Strategy - Presidential Proclamation 10043 suspending entry in F or J status of certain Chinese students and researchers with associations to entities in China that support the government's "military civil-fusion strategy" - This proclamation does not apply to undergraduate students.  F and J visa applicants should be notified by a consular officer at the visa interview if they are subject to the proclamation.  The U.S. Department of State also has the ability to revoke visas of current F and J visa holders.

Other Travel Considerations

SEVP Guidance for Winter 2021 – The Student and Exchange Visitor Program is expected to issue guidance for international students planning to enroll in Winter 2021.  OVIS will provide information regarding this guidance once it becomes available.  Please continue to monitor the OVIS Federal Immigration Policy Changes webpage and our Coronavirus FAQs page.

DHS Proposed Rule to Eliminate D/S for F and J nonimmigrants – While this proposed rule is not in effect at this time, if it is implemented then F and J nonimmigrants entering the U.S. will be issued an I-94 record of arrival with a fixed period of admission, rather than admission for D/S (duration of status). It is critical that international students and exchange visitors monitor the OVIS website for updated information about the rule as you prepare for travel and reentry to the U.S.

Document Checklist

Evidence of enrollment, appointment and/or employment at Dartmouth College

In addition to the required immigration documents listed below, we recommend that you carry evidence of your need to be on campus for the winter term.  This can include evidence of enrollment on campus for students (course schedules, unofficial transcripts), an appointment letter for researchers and visiting faculty, and an updated letter of employment verification for faculty and staff which can be obtained from Dartmouth's Office of Human Resources. 

Valid passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the expiration of your period of authorized stay in the U.S.

Valid visa stamp

Unless you are Canadian and visa-exempt, your visa stamp in your passport must be valid at the time of your planned reentry to the U.S. and must reflect your correct nonimmigrant visa status. If you have changed your immigration status since your last admission to the U.S., you will need to apply for a new visa stamp in order to reenter the country.

In August 2020, the U.S. Department of State announced that it would temporarily expand the ability of a consular officer to waive the in-person interview for visa renewal where the applicant was seeking a visa in the same visa classification and the prior stamp was not expired longer than 24 months. The policy is in effect until December 31, 2020.  

Most U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world closed at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. While many posts have reopened, they may have limited access and long wait times.  To monitor post closings or limited hours of operation, please go to the U.S. Department of State website.

Valid Form I-20 (F-1 students) or Form DS-2019 (J-1 Exchange Visitors)

Check your form to make sure you will reenter before the program end date, and that you have a valid travel signature from OVIS. The travel signature for F-1 and J-1 visa holders is valid for 12 months, unless you are a graduated F-1 student on OPT, in which case your I-20 travel signature is valid for 6 months. To request a travel signature, see the instructions on the OVIS website.

Plan for possible visa issuance delays

The holiday season is a busy travel time. The combination of higher volumes of applications, reduced hours around the holidays, and increased scrutiny of applications at consular posts can lead to delays in visa issuance. Be sure to check the website of the U.S. consulate or embassy for hours of operation, specific application procedures including required documentation, and processing times. For students, bring a copy of your transcript as proof of enrollment. Dartmouth employees can bring an updated employment verification letter issued by Human Resources and copies of your two most recent pay statements. Visit the Department of State website at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/wait-times.html for more information.

Security clearances

U.S. Consular Officers can require visa applications to undergo additional security clearances based on country of nationality, a name that is similar to a name on a government watch list, study, or works in a field involving sensitive technologies, or other reasons. If an application requires an additional clearance, it will be placed in "administrative processing" and the visa will not be issued until the process is complete, which can take several weeks or longer. For more information on administrative processing, visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/administrative-processing-information.html

Admission at U.S. port of entry and automated Form I-94 record

For F-1 students with a previously terminated SEVIS record, expect to undergo additional screening at the Customs & Border Protection Agency's (CBP) secondary inspection so that your valid F-1 status can be verified in the SEVIS system.

If traveling by air, CBP at most ports-of-entry will issue an admission stamp in the passport, and once in the U.S. with access to the Internet and a printer, a copy of the I-94 record of arrival can be accessed on CBP's website

If traveling by land crossing from Canada or Mexico, you must request a "new admission" if you want your entry recorded in the agency's electronic system. OVIS recommends the I-94 record be accessed and printed for every new arrival to the U.S. to ensure accuracy. If there is an error in your I-94 record, contact OVIS for assistance in having it corrected.

Visit the I-94 website at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/recent-search.