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Coronavirus | U.S. to restrict travel from India starting May 4

Joe Biden. File.   | Photo Credit: AP

In view of the very high numbers of COVID-19 cases and multiple strains of the virus in India, the United States will restrict travel of non-citizens from the country, starting on Tuesday, Eastern U.S. time.

 

President Joe Biden issued a proclamation on Friday afternoon prohibiting the entry of non-citizens (the administration has done away with the term ‘alien’) who have been physically present in India for 14 days prior to their entry or attempted entry into the U.S. There is a long list of exemptions and the order will be reviewed every 30 days. H-1B and L holders and their dependants are not automatically exempt from the restrictions.

 

The entry restrictions do not apply to lawful permanent residents (LPRs or green card holders); non-citizens married to Americans or green card holders; non-citizen parents or legal guardians of minors (under 21) who are U.S. citizens or green card holders; siblings of unmarried citizens or LPRs, provided they are both under 21 and unmarried and other categories of travellers.

 

Those travelling on immigrant visas are also exempt from the restrictions, a State Department spokesperson confirmed to The Hindu.

Also read: U.S. issues Level 4 health alert, asks its citizens to leave India

The exemption list is longer than similar lists under the Trump administration’s pandemic-related restrictions.

 

Others whose entry is not restricted include foreigners travelling at the invitation of the administration for the containment of the virus, those whose entry is in its national interest, diplomats of various categories, crew members and other categories.

 

Journalists, certain exchange visitors and students are also potentially covered by the national interest exception, the State Department said in a media note issued on Friday.

Also read: Coronavirus | Narendra Modi speaks to Joe Biden over phone amid surge in cases

“Secretary Blinken decided today to apply the same set of National Interest Exceptions to India that he had previously applied to all other regional travel restrictions currently in effect as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the note said [Exceptions can be found here and here].

 

“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 may qualify for a National Interest Exception. This includes qualified applicants who have been present in India, Brazil, China, Iran, or South Africa,” the statement said.

 

Significantly, the order also states that the rights of individuals to claim asylum shall not be diminished by the order.

Also read: U.S. COVID-19 assistance en route to New Delhi

“After reviewing the public health situation within the Republic of India, the CDC has concluded that proactive measures are required to protect the nation’s public health from travellers entering the United States from that jurisdiction,” Mr. Biden said in his proclamation.

 

News of the order came earlier on Friday with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki releasing a statement announcing it.

 

“It is the policy of my Administration to implement science-based public health measures, across all areas of the Federal Government, to act swiftly and aggressively to prevent further spread of the disease,” Mr. Biden said in the order.

 

The order says India accounts for over a third of the new cases of the virus and that they are increasing at a “rapid rate”. The order says India has seen circulating a variant called B.1.617, among others, such as the U.K. variant ( B.1.1.7) and South African variant (B.1.351). These variants may be less susceptible to vaccines and more easily transmitted, as per the CDC.

 

Mr. Biden’s order invokes section 212(f) of the U.S.’s Immigration and Nationality Act, which was among the laws invoked in January this year by Mr. Biden to extend a Trump-era restriction on travel from the U.K., Ireland, EU, Brazil and South Africa due to COVID-19 concerns.

 

Airlines have been informed of the administration’s decision, as per a CNN report.

U.S. consulates in India closed

 

“All routine visa appointments at the U.S. Embassy New Delhi and the consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata are cancelled until May 15 and at the consulate in Mumbai until May 28” due to COVID-19 and unrelated to Friday’s proclamation, a State Department spokesperson said in a statement sent to The Hindu. “India posts will make every attempt to continue to honour approved emergency visa appointments,” the spokesperson said.


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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 3:59:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/coronavirus-us-to-restrict-travel-from-india-over-covid-19-starting-may-4/article34453869.ece

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