How often do Americans travel abroad

USA: Entry and exit of German business travelers

Entry restrictions for foreign business travelers

The US government introduced several travel restrictions and advanced screening procedures in the wake of the corona pandemic, which went into effect on March 13, 2020. Since then, the entry of foreigners who were in the following countries within 14 days of attempting to enter the USA has been suspended:

  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (excluding overseas territories outside Europe)
  • Republic of Ireland
  • 26 countries in the Schengen area, including Germany
  • Islamic Republic of Iran
  • People's Republic of China excluding Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions

Even travelers with a valid nonimmigrant visa (Visa Waiver or B-1 / B-2; E-1; E-2 and B-1 in Lieu of H-1B visa), including those already living in the US and returning to the United States from overseas travel are subject to these travel restrictions. The restrictions apply to both private and business travel as well as to travel to carry out economic activities such as maintenance and repair work.

A lifting of the entry restrictions is currently not in sight.

Only US citizens, certain family members of US citizens and green card holders are generally excluded. You must enter via selected airports and quarantine yourself up to 14 days after entry.

Suspension of the issuance of visas

On April 22, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order suspending the green card program for applicants outside the United States. On June 22, 2020, he extended the order to include the suspension of various work visas (H-1B or L-1 visas). The ESTA regulation for visa-free travel for tourist and business purposes is not affected by the ruling.

President Biden revoked the suspension of the green card program on February 24, 2021. The visa stop expired on March 31, 2021.

Exceptions to entry restrictions through National Interest Exception (NIE)

On March 2nd, 2021, the Department of State (DOS) published a new provision that severely enforces the previous exceptions to the 14-day travel restrictions for the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Schengen zone by granting a National Interest Exception (NIE) restricts. Previous categorical exceptions, for example for contract investors or dealers, no longer apply. The exception regulation that previously covered certain technical experts and specialists as well as senior employees and managers (H and L visas) has also been lifted.

The only remaining exemptions are for those wishing to enter for humanitarian, public health, national security or "vital support" purposes in a critical infrastructure sector. According to the Department of Homeland Security's list, identified critical infrastructure industries are:

  • chemistry
  • Commercial real estate
  • Communication
  • Critical manufacturing sector
  • Dams
  • Defense industry
  • Emergency services
  • energy
  • Financial services
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Government institutions
  • Healthcare
  • Information technology
  • Nuclear reactors, materials and waste
  • Transport systems
  • Water and sewage systems

In addition, the trip must be directly related to the support of the infrastructure. In addition, exemptions based on direct support for the creation or maintenance of US jobs can no longer be approved. These cases must be referred to the Department for approval by the Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs.

However, previously issued NIEs remain valid.

A week earlier, on February 24, 2021, the DOS updated its guidelines on NIEs banning nonimmigrant visas, not to be confused with the 14-day travel restriction for the UK, Ireland and the Schengen area. This update limited NIEs by requiring specific evidence, especially for H-1B, H-2B, J-1, and L-1 visa applicants. For example, a technical specialist, officer, or other worker applying for an H-1B visa who needs to travel to promote the economic recovery of the United States must demonstrate at least two of the following five indicators:

  • The employer has an ongoing need for the services as evidenced by a Labor Condition Application (LCA) approved in or after July 2020. If the work can be done remotely, there is no sustained need.
  • The applicant is making a significant and unique contribution to an employer fulfilling a critical infrastructure need and must hold a managerial position, have roles that are both unique and critical to the management and success of the company as a whole, or have specific qualifications.
  • The wage rate exceeds the average wage rate by at least 15 percent.
  • The applicant's education or experience shows unusual skills.
  • Refusal of the visa creates financial hardship to the extent that the employer is unable to meet financial or contractual obligations to continue operations, or creates an obstacle to the employer's ability to return to pre-COVID-19 operating levels to return.

Based on these provisions of the DOS, it is possible that a person is entitled to the ban on nonimmigrant visas for an NIE, but due to the tightened restrictions of the NIE eligibility for the UK, Ireland and the Schengen area with a 14-day travel restriction anyway not allowed to travel to the United States.

Apply for the National Interest Exception

Travelers who have a valid visa, ESTA authorization, or who wish to apply for a visa or ESTA and believe they may be eligible for a NIE should check with the US embassy or the local US prior to traveling -Contact the consulate. If an NIE is approved, they can travel on a valid visa or ESTA approval, depending on the case.

The application for a NIE takes place via email at the US embassy or consulate at which the visa was applied for (Frankfurt: [email protected]; Munich: [email protected]). It can also be submitted at the same time as the visa application. Documents required for the application are a copy of the visa or ESTA, a letter from the company describing the position within the company and the reason for the trip, and a letter from a US company (e.g. its American subsidiary) stating the added value of the trip for the US company sets out.

The application for a NIE should be made before booking a flight and 14 days before the planned departure to the USA, as the processing time is between five to eight working days. NIEs are still valid for one entry and thirty days; every trip requires a new justification and NEVER.

Negative corona test required upon entry.

For flights to the USA from January 26, 2021, proof of a negative corona test is required before departure. The PCR test must have been carried out in the three days prior to departure. If a passenger cannot prove a negative test result or a survived Covid infection, the airline must refuse boarding.

Departure of German business travelers from the USA

There are no restrictions on leaving the USA. German travelers with a visa waiver who are unable to leave the country due to the Corona crisis and who are therefore at risk of expiry of their maximum stay of 90 days can apply for "Satisfactory Departure Status" according to a goodwill regulation from Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Reasons for such a goodwill regulation exist if, for example, return flights are canceled or an inpatient stay in a hospital is necessary. A Satisfactory Departure Status grants the holder an extended stay of up to 30 days in the USA.

Travelers who came to the United States by air must report to the local United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Contact Center at their airport of entry to apply for Satisfactory Departure Status. Additional information can be found here .

Holders of other visa categories should apply for an extension of their residence status if possible or - if an extension is not possible - change to another status so that they do not stay illegally in the USA.

Additional note: Entry into Germany

On April 6, 2020, it was decided in the German Federal Cabinet that people entering Germany from the USA must be quarantined at home for 14 days. Further information can be found here.