FAQ: Artist mobility to the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic

Last updated March 2, 2021, 5:47 PM EST


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Biden revokes Trump’s immigrant visa ban

On February 24, President Joe Biden revoked Donald Trump’s immigrant visa ban, which was imposed in April 2020 under the dubious pretext of protecting American workers during the country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The ban suspended the issuance of immigrant visas (green cards) to individuals outside the U.S., so Biden’s order does not affect temporary visas like O and P visas for artists.

Trump’s restrictions on H, L, and J nonimmigrant visas remain in place (see below for more information), but are set to expire on March 31, 2021, unless Biden extends them. We will keep this page updated.

Biden extends travel restrictions, adds South Africa to list of banned countries

On January 25, President Biden signed a proclamation that indefinitely extends the current restrictions on travel from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Brazil. He also added South Africa to the list of restricted countries, effective January 30. The restrictions on travel from China and Iran remain in place. See below for more information.

New COVID-19 testing and self-quarantine requirements for travelers

On January 12, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that beginning on January 26, all air passengers traveling to the U.S. from a foreign country must get tested no more than three days before their departure. Passengers will be required to provide proof of a negative test result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 before boarding their flight. See this page on the CDC’s website for more information. Additionally, we expect that travelers to the U.S. will soon be required to comply with CDC guidelines for self-quarantine upon arrival.



Which countries are affected by U.S. travel restrictions?

Individuals who were physically present in the following countries in the 14 days immediately prior to their arrival in the U.S. are barred from entering the U.S.: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom

These travel restrictions do not apply to…

  • U.S. citizens
  • Lawful permanent residents (green card holders)
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents
  • Parents/legal guardians of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident children (under 21 & unmarried)
  • Siblings of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident children (if both under 21 & unmarried)
  • Children/foster children of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (or perspective adoptee IR-4 or IH-4 classification)
  • Anyone traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government for COVID-19 mitigation purposes
  • Anyone entering in C-1, D or C-1/D status as crew members
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces (and their spouses & children)
  • Those seeking to enter the U.S. in any of the following classifications: A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, or NATO-1, 2, 3, 4 & 6
  • Those determined to be exempt by the CDC, those who help further U.S. law enforcement objectives, and anyone whose entry would be in the “national interest”

Are U.S. embassies and consulates still closed?

Routine visa services remain suspended at many U.S. embassies and consulates, but some posts have resumed visa interviews. You should be able to find up-to-date information on the website of your local U.S. embassy or consulate.

I heard Trump suspended visas. Does this affect me? 

In 2020, Donald Trump issued two presidential proclamations restricting the issuance of certain types of visas, but not O or P visas for artists.

The first proclamation, from April 22, 2020, suspended the issuance of immigrant visas (green cards) to individuals outside the U.S. through March 31, 2021. On February 24, 2021, President Biden revoked this proclamation, so it is no longer in effect.

The second proclamation, issued on June 22, 2020, halts the entry of H, L, and J nonimmigrants who are outside of the U.S. as of June 24, 2020, and don’t already have an H, L or J visa (or other valid travel document), through March 31, 2021. It does not restrict applications to change to or extend any of these three visa classifications for people already in the U.S. Additionally, Canadians are exempt. There are other limited exemptions; if you think you might qualify or have any questions, please reach out to us.

My O or P visa petition has been filed or is already approved. Can I change the dates now that my travel has been rescheduled?

If your petition is still pending, you might be able to get the dates changed. If your petition has already been approved, the dates are fixed, unfortunately. To seek a new petition validity period, a new petition will need to be filed, unless USCIS changes its policies in light of the pandemic. Your attorney will work with you to find the most viable and affordable strategies to accommodate your changing plans. 

My visa has been approved or issued. Can I change the dates now that my travel has been rescheduled?

Unfortunately, probably not. Once a visa has been issued, the dates are fixed. To seek a new visa validity period, you’ll have to apply for a new visa, unless the U.S. Department of State changes its policies in light of the pandemic. Your attorney will work with you to find the most viable and affordable strategies to accommodate your changing plans. (If your visa was issued for a period of time that is shorter than the full duration of your approved petition, you should be able to seek another visa within the petition duration without filing a new petition. This may be the case with clients from countries against whom the U.S. enforces short visa durations.)

My petition has not been filed. Should I file it? If I file it and my tour is cancelled, what happens?

Once a petition is filed the government, union and legal fees are non-refundable. If you are concerned that your engagements may be cancelled, discuss with your attorney about whether you should delay the filing of your petition or seek a longer visa duration.

I’m working on scheduling U.S. shows for later this year. Can I start the visa process now?

Yes. There are a lot of unknowns at this point, but USCIS is still processing O and P visa petitions. If you are reasonably sure that you will be performing in the U.S. in the foreseeable future, we recommend starting on the visa process as soon as possible.

I am currently in the U.S. and can’t depart when initially planned. What should I do?

You can check how long you are allowed to remain in the U.S. on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website here. If you can’t—or don’t want to—depart the U.S. before your “admit until” date, you should seek legal advice regarding seeking an extension of stay or change of status.

Can I apply for unemployment benefits in the U.S.?

See our FAQ about unemployment benefits for O and P visa holders.