Information on Travel Restrictions (FAQ)

The United States Embassy in Prague has resumed certain immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services including: spouses and under 21 children of U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents; travelers with urgent travel needs; F, M, and certain J visas, and some work visas like H and Ls.  P visa athletes may be interviewed if they already have a National Interest Exception (NIE) approved by DHS/CBP.

On May 27, National Interest Exceptions under the geographic COVID PPs was amended.  More details are listed below.

If you have an emergency and need to travel immediately, please request an expedited appointment here.

Before reading the FAQ below, please become familiar with all of the most recent Presidential Proclamations issued by the White House.

Q: What does Presidential Proclamation 10143 signed on January 25, 2021 mean?

A: Presidential Proclamation (P.P.) 10143 suspends the entry of non-permanent resident foreign nationals who were present in, among other countries, the 26 countries that comprise the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and within 14 days prior to their arrival at the port of entry in the United States. (This proclamation was previously called P.P. 9993, and is also sometimes referred to as the Schengen Area travel ban). If you were physically present, including transit, in any of these countries in the 14 days prior to your arrival to the United States, you need a national interest exception (NIE). See below for how to apply for an NIE.

Q: Can I travel to the United States on my existing visa or ESTA?

A: Nearly all ESTA and visa holders now require a national interest exception (NIE) to travel to the United States, in addition to their valid visa or ESTA. F, C1/D, M visa holders, Immigrant Visa and K visa holders, the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, and the minor siblings of U.S. citizens or permanent residents do not need NIEs entered on their behalf. Holders of all other visa types and ESTA may qualify for an NIE if their purpose of travel meets the criteria established by the Department of State. More details on these criteria can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ NIE page and in further questions below.

Q: What is a national interest exception (NIE)? What types of travel can qualify?

A: P.P. 10143 allows the entry of noncitizens into the United States if their entry would be in U.S. national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees. The Secretary of State has determined that certain travelers may be excepted from the travel restrictions of P.P. 10143; these exceptions are referred to as national interest exceptions (NIEs). They are valid for multiple entry trips to the United States within 12 months of issuance of the NIE.

Travelers subject to the restrictions may currently qualify for NIEs if they are otherwise qualified to travel for the following purposes:

  • Travel to support a major entertainment production conducted in the United States that would not go on without the traveler.
  • Travel by highly specialized professionals or experts to install, service, maintain, or receive necessary training for vessels, machinery and other critical equipment required by U.S. and foreign firms with a substantial investment in the United States.
  • Travel by executives and senior-level employees providing strategy and direction to U.S. and foreign firms with a substantial investment in the United States.
  • Travel by executives and senior-level employees providing vital support of critical infrastructure sectors or supply chain directly linked to CI sectors.
  • Academics (some J-1 visas like research scholars)
  • Students (F-1, M-1, or some J-1 visa like those on school exchanges)
  • Journalists (I visa)
  • Humanitarian travel to provide care for a U.S. citizen or LPR, to include alleviating the burden of care from a medical or other institution, or to prevent a U.S. citizen from becoming a public charge or ward of the state or the ward of a medical or other institution.
  • Some J1 Au Pairs: Those who will care for children with documented special needs; those who will work for a host family where either parent works in healthcare job directly related to COVID mitigation.
  • Some J1 visa applicants who travel to participate in ECA identified exchange visitor programs for interns, summer work and travel, camp counselors, trainees, or teachers only if described below:
    • An exchange program conducted pursuant to a bilateral agreement or other arrangement with a foreign government.
    • Interns and Trainees on U.S. government agency-sponsored programs (those with a program number beginning with “G-3” on Form DS-2019).
    • Specialized Teachers in Accredited Educational Institutions with a program number beginning with “G-5” on Form DS-2019.
  • Emergency medical treatment only available in the U.S.
  • Public health response (COVID-19 mitigation)
  • S. national security
  • Pilots/crew including pilots traveling to the U.S. for training

Q: How do I apply for an NIE?

A: If you have a valid visa or ESTA authorization that was issued prior to the effective date of P.P. 10143 and you believe you qualify for a national interest exception, please email pragueesta@state.gov at least three weeks prior to your planned travel. Include the subject line: “CONSIDERATION FOR NATIONAL INTEREST EXCEPTION – [Last Name]” in your email. Allow ten business days for a response.

Emails should include scans of the biodata passport page of all intending travelers and scans of any valid U.S. visas. If applicable, a letter of the employer in the U.S. should also be attached outlining the ways in which the applicant’s travel provides vital support to critical infrastructure. If you did not initially provide answer all the questions in the auto-response, respond to that email with the additional information provided.

Q: I have important business or required work in the United States. How can I qualify for an NIE? What does it meant to provide vital support for critical infrastructure?

A: On May 27, 2021, the Secretary of State issued revised criteria for national interest exceptions which changed the eligibility requirements for business and work travelers.  Designated critical infrastructure sectors are:  chemical, commercial facilities, communications, critical manufacturing, dams, defense industrial base, emergency services, energy, financial services, food and agriculture, government facilities, healthcare and public health, information technology, nuclear reactors, transportation, and water/wastewater systems.

The new guidance allows for exceptions for travelers going to provide executive direction/vital support/supply chain directly linked to critical infrastructure or to provide executive direction/vital support for significant economic activity in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security has defined critical infrastructure sectors as chemical, commercial facilities, communications, critical manufacturing, dams, defense industrial bases, emergency services, energy, financial services, food and agriculture, government facilities, healthcare and public health, information technology, nuclear reactors, transportation, and water/wastewater systems. The Department of State evaluates if an applicant’s travel is in vital support of one of these sectors and thus qualifies for an NIE.

Examples of cases that meet the criteria included: airline employees traveling to conduct essential airline safety training, aircraft mechanics traveling to participate in aircraft acquisition, food industry specialists, specialized repair technicians for critical manufacturing.

Examples of cases that do NOT meet the criteria:  Senior executives traveling to observe operations/hold regular meetings to check on their business; routine operational travel; second home maintenance or sale; public relations (PR) tours; routine facility maintenance; investors seeking to see/purchase new property or equipment.

Q: I was previously issued an NIE, but my new request was denied. What has changed?

A: The Secretary of State’s revised guidance of May 27, 2021, updated several categories of exceptions. This may mean that your purpose of travel was eligible under previous guidance but is not eligible under the new guidance. Under the new criteria, only business travel that is in executive direction/vital support/supply chain directly linked to critical infrastructure or travel to provide executive direction/vital support for significant economic activity in the United States will be granted an exception.

Q: I have a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family member. Do I need an NIE?

The following persons have a blanket exception to P.P. 10143 and do not need an NIE (please note you still must have a valid visa or ESTA):

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) [must be legally married spouses, not just long-term partners or fiancés]
  • Minor children (under the age of 21) of U.S. citizens and LPRs
  • Minor siblings (under the age of 21) of U.S. citizens and LPRs
  • Parents of minor (under the age of 21) U.S. citizens and LPRs

Other family member relationships do not qualify for blanket exceptions at this time. Travelers in the categories above should contact the air carrier for questions about boarding requirements (including required documentation to prove your relationship to the U.S. citizen or LPR e.g. marriage or birth certificate).

Q: I had a planned vacation in the United States. Can I travel on ESTA or get a B1/B2 tourist visa?

A: No, unless you are the family member of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident as outlined in the question above. Tourist travel is not permitted at this time.

Q: Can I travel to the United States through a country that is not covered by P.P. 10143?

A: Direct travel to the United States from a country that is not covered by the various COVID-19 regional proclamations may be possible, however, CBP controls U.S. ports of entry and will determine to admit you into the United States. Individuals that are subject to P.P. 10143 may travel to a country not subject to restrictions and remain there for at least 14 days and then travel directly to the United States, but we advise you to verify whether the country to which you intend to travel has implemented travel or other restrictions before you make travel arrangements. One possible source of such information is Travel.State.Gov which contains links to the websites of other countries’ immigration authorities.

The U.S. Embassy in Prague may not suggest countries to which you may travel, or comment on the travel regulations that apply to a country other than the United States and the Czech Republic.

Q: I am engaged to a U.S. citizen (K). Can I continue my visa application?

A: Yes.  Prague resumed routine IV/K visa processing on April 9, 2021.  After you confirm with NVC that your case has been transferred to Embassy Prague, you may contact pragueivp@state.gov if you do not yet have an interview scheduled by NVC.

Q: I am a student (F or M) or exchange visitor student (J) or medical researcher/short-term scholar (J). Can I apply for a visa or use my previously approved visa?

A: Yes. As a J exchange student or academic researcher/short-term scholar you may be eligible for an exception to P.P. 10143. Please make a visa appointment online if you are a first-time applicant for one of these categories. If you already have a visa but are currently located in the Schengen area, please make a visa appointment online for your J visa.

Students who already hold valid F and M visas do not need to apply for a new visa and may now travel directly from the Schengen area to the United States. Prospective students who need an F or M visa should make an appointment for a visa interview. All F and M travelers must have a current I-20 form that complies with all Student and Exchange Visitor Program requirements; if admitted into the United States, such students may have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Please be advised, if an NIE is granted for travel on a new or existing visa or for travel under ESTA, it is good for multiple entry trips to the United States within 12 months of issuance of the NIE.

Q: I am being sponsored as an au pair with travel within the next month. Can I travel?

A:  If you are an au pair (J) for a child with documented special needs or providing care for a child whose parents are working to mitigate COVID-19, you may be eligible for an exception. Please make a visa appointment online for your J visa.

Q: Are you processing Summer Work Travel (SWT) applications yet?

A: We are processing the following J1 applicants with travel within the next month:

  • J1 visa applicants who travel to participate in ECA identified exchange visitor programs for interns, summer work and travel, camp counselors, trainees, or teachers only if described below:
    • An exchange program conducted pursuant to a bilateral agreement or other arrangement with a foreign government.
    • Interns and Trainees on U.S. government agency-sponsored programs (those with a program number beginning with “G-3” on Form DS-2019).
    • Specialized Teachers in Accredited Educational Institutions with a program number beginning with “G-5” on Form DS-2019.

Q: I am a member of a flight or ship crew and need to renew my visa (C1/D). Can I submit paperwork for a renewal?

A: Yes. We are processing visa appointments for crew members. You may make a visa appointment online.  Crew members do not need an NIE; if you hold a valid C1/D visa you may travel on it, no need to email us or make a new appointment.

Q: My company is transferring me to work for our office in the United States (L). Can I apply for a visa or use my previously approved visa?

A: We are not currently processing routine L visa applications at U.S. Embassy Prague as interviewing here would mean you are present in the Schengen area, and therefore subject to P.P. 10143, so your travel must meet the NIE criteria otherwise your visa will not be issued. (See question above on what types of travel may qualify for an NIE. Primarily you need to document that you will provide vital support to critical infrastructure). NIEs are available for L2 spouses or children who will accompany or follow to join a principal applicant who is who has received an exception to P.P. 10143. .

Q: I am a highly skilled worker (H1B). Can I apply for a visa or use my previously approved visa?

A: We are not currently processing routine L visa applications at U.S. Embassy Prague as interviewing here would mean you are present in the Schengen area, and therefore subject to P.P. 10143, so your travel must meet the NIE criteria otherwise your visa will not be approved. (See question above on what types of travel may qualify for an NIE. Primarily you need to document that you will provide vital support to critical infrastructure). NIEs are available for H4 spouses or children who will accompany or follow to join a principal applicant who has received a NIE from P.P. 10143.

Q: I am an investor or treaty trader (E1 or E2) or a technician or specialist employee of an E company and need to travel to the United States for work. Can I apply for a visa or use my previously approved visa?

A: We are not currently processing routine E visa applications except in limited cases for those whose travel meets NIE criteria from P.P.10143.  Investors, treaty traders, and their employees are subject to the new NIE guidance issued on May 27, 2021, and no longer have a blanket exception. Your purpose of travel must now be in executive direction/vital support/supply chain directly linked to critical infrastructure or to provide executive direction/vital support for significant economic activity in the United States, or another accepted category. (See question above on what types of travel may qualify for an NIE).

Q: I am an immigrant visa (IV) applicant.  Can I continue with the immigrant visa application process?

A:  Yes. Please contact NVC directly using the online contact form on the USCIS website for your case status. The Embassy cannot answer any questions about NVC cases that are not yet transferred to us, including any questions about expedite options or about appointments. If you have a confirmed appointment from NVC at the U.S. Embassy, but still have a question about your case, then email pragueivp@state.gov. Please be advised that the validity of immigrant visas cannot be extended. If you are unable to travel within the validity period of your visa due to circumstances beyond your control, you can request visa reissuance by writing pragueivp@state.gov.

Q: I am not subject to PP10143, I am exempt from the Proclamation, or I have an approved National Interest Exception (NIE). Do I need a COVID-19 test to travel to the United States?

A: Effective January 26, all airline passengers to the United States ages two years and older must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel. Alternatively, travelers to the U.S. may provide documentation from a licensed health care provider of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel. Waivers to the testing requirement may be granted by the CDC on an extremely limited basis when extraordinary emergency travel (like an emergency medical evacuation) must occur to preserve someone’s health and safety, and testing cannot be completed before travel.  There are no waivers available for individuals who test positive for COVID-19.  Individuals – or air carriers seeking to allow boarding by potentially qualifying individuals – who believe they meet the criteria for a waiver should contact us at praguecons@state.gov. Check the CDC website for additional information and Frequently Asked Questions.

Q: Will I be required to self-quarantine after I enter the United States?

A: The Department of State recommends the CDC website for the most up-to-date information regarding quarantine requirements.

Q: I am in the United States and I am worried about overstaying my authorized period of admission. What should I do?

A: If you are in the United States, please visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website for information on how to apply to extend your stay. While you are in the United States, any questions about your status are a matter for USCIS and not the Embassy in Prague. Information and contact details can be found on the USCIS website.

Q: I am travelling from the Schengen zone to a third country and my itinerary includes a transfer at a U.S. airport. Will I be allowed to make this journey?

A: Very likely not. Travelers whose itinerary includes a stop or transfer in the United States must be able to enter the U.S. to continue their journey P.P. 10143 does not include a specific exemption for transit passengers. Tourism to third countries does not qualify for a national interest exemption (NIE). Ask your airline about rerouting options.