Dear UC Berkeley International Students, Scholars, and Employees,
Berkeley International Office would like to update you on current changes to U.S. visa processing worldwide and new U.S. entry restrictions for Canada and Mexico.
In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of State is temporarily suspending routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020. They will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time. Visit your local U.S. embassy or consulate website to confirm operating status and find information about appointment rescheduling and/or emergency services.
U.S. Visa Services Suspensions
This does not impact those who remain in the United States but may impact those who travel internationally. If you exit the U.S. and you intend to return using your F, J, or employment-based status, you must have a valid U.S. entry visa in order to re-enter the United States. (Note that Canadian citizens do not need a U.S. entry visa). If you depart the U.S. and your current F, J, or employment-based visa stamp is expired, or expires before your return, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. until you apply for a new visa for re-entry. Due to consular closures, it’s unlikely that you will be able to obtain a new visa in a timely manner. Even if consulates resume normal processing, they are likely to face severe processing backlogs, and we have no ability to predict how long this could delay your return to the U.S.
How does this impact my UC Berkeley F or J visa status, or my employment-based visa status?
If you are considering international travel OR are currently outside of the U.S. and your F, J, or employment-based visa is expired or expires before your return, please contact BIO before finalizing travel plans to make sure you understand the risks.
What if I am considering travel or I am already outside of the U.S.?
A Federal Register notice announces the decision to temporarily limit the travel of individuals from Canada into the United States at land ports of entry along the United States-Canada border to “essential travel.” “Essential travel” includes “Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions; Individuals traveling to work in the United States.” The restrictions go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on March 20, 2020 and will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. EDT on April 20, 2020.
New U.S. Travel Restrictions for Canada & Mexico
A Department of Homeland Security Joint Statement on US-Mexico Joint Initiative to Combat the COVID-19 Pandemic restricts all "non-essential" travel across the U.S.-Mexico border, starting Saturday March 21, 2020 for an initial period of 30 days. The statement does not make clear whether entry for educational or employment purposes is considered “essential travel”: “The U.S. and Mexican governments further recognize critical services such as food, fuel, healthcare and life-saving medicines must reach people on both sides of the border every day.”
If you do make the decision to travel internationally, please carefully review the BIO Travel & Re-Entry page for general information regarding travel and required re-entry documents. As noted above, if your U.S. entry visa is expired, be aware that Applying for a Visa for entry may not be possible at this time, or in the near future.
BIO is committed to supporting our international community during these challenging times, and we will provide additional updates on our COVID-19 Updates & FAQ page as new information unfolds.
Berkeley International Office