The following message was sent by email on 07/27/2021 to all current faculty, staff, researchers, and scholars.
Greetings, JHU International Faculty, Staff, Researchers, and Scholars!
We hope your summer is going well and that you and your loved ones are remaining safe and healthy. As the university is preparing for a resumption of many in-person and on-site activities, please find below some tips, guidance, and reminders you may find helpful and informative.
We are acutely aware that it has been a difficult 18 months for global mobility in general. We greatly sympathize with the plight of the hundreds of individuals whose academic plans have been complicated, delayed, or derailed entirely by both the pandemic and the often aggravating and inexplicable government policies and barriers stemming from it.
We would like to assure you that the University, via its teams in the Offices of Federal Strategy and Government & Community Affairs, has been very active since the onset of the pandemic in both requesting relief for our community and in apprising our congressional delegation of the myriad hurdles and hardships faced by Johns Hopkins affiliates. Those offices also engage daily with the many professional associations to which JHU belongs, and those organizations have spoken frequently on these matters with government and administration officials on behalf of the member institutions, including Hopkins. It is perhaps worth noting that individuals may also reach out to the respective constituent services staff for their U.S. House Congressional Representative as well as that of both U.S. Senators from Maryland to share their personal experiences. While the Office of Federal Strategy regularly engages the U.S. Congressional delegation from Maryland on behalf of Johns Hopkins, others are not precluded from doing so on their personal behalf. However, if Johns Hopkins is the sponsor of your visa, we ask that you notify OIS and Federal Strategy if you would like to make an inquiry about your visa.
International Travel for Those Inside the U.S.
The global travel landscape remains uncertain at this time. It is possible that new travel restrictions may pop up with little or no warning. While we continue to strongly advise avoiding travel where possible, we understand the difficulties posed by the lengthy period of restricted travel due to COVID-19. The decision to travel will be at your own discretion. Please discuss your plans with an advisor in OIS well prior to travel to weigh the risks and explore contingencies. Please see the following section for the documentation required to reenter the U.S. Note that you may remain in the U.S. with an expired U.S. visa stamp. The visa stamp must only be valid at the time of each entry to the U.S with some limited exceptions.
General Reminders for Returning to the U.S. from Abroad
There are several items you will need to reenter the U.S. For individuals from COVID travel-restricted countries, please review the “Travel to the U.S.” section below. Each person must present the following:
- A passport with at least six months’ remaining validity (if you have less time remaining to expiration, you might only be admitted for the time remaining on your passport or even be denied entry);
- A valid visa (individuals from Canada and Bermuda generally are not required to obtain visas, with a few exceptions; for entry from certain countries, expired visas may be used under the Automatic Revalidation rule);
- A valid DS-2019 (J-1) or I-797 approval notice (H-1B, E-3) with accurate and up-to-date information (name on document must match your passport name);
- For those in J-1 status, a travel signature on your DS-2019 from an advisor in OIS that is no older than one year. Instructions for requesting a travel signature can be found on our website. Allow for 10 business days for processing of travel signature request. Allow extra time for international express mail shipping;
- For those in H-1B status, you may request a travel letter from OIS; and,
- A negative COVID test (see below).
Upon re-entry to the U.S., pull up and review your electronic I-94 arrival document from the Customs and Border Protection website. Check that all of the information is correct. For J-1s make sure that the “admit until” date is “D/S,” which stands for “duration of status.” For H-1B, O-1, and E-3s, ensure the “admit until” date matches your I-797 approval notice. Also check the stamp and notation in your passport (usually next to the visa) to ensure those are consistent with the electronic I-94 information. If you notice any errors, email OIS as soon as possible.
Travel to the U.S.—COVID Restrictions and Requirements
• COVID travel restrictions and National Interest Exceptions (NIE)
Individuals travelling from China, India, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, UK, Ireland, and Schengen Area remain subject to U.S. COVID travel restrictions. There are a number of exceptions to the restrictions, but the most often-used among scholars and employees is the National Interest Exception (NIE). For additional information on NIEs, please visit the extensive NAFSA resource here. Please note that validity of NIEs for those who receive or have already received NIEs has been extended from 30 days to 12 months from the date of issue.
NIEs must be requested directly from your local consulate (after August 1, 2021, individuals in F-1 student status including those working on OPT are granted automatic NIEs and do not need to request an NIE from the consulate); the consulate will not work with JHU or OIS. There is no penalty for asking and getting a denial of an NIE. The consulate will inform you of the information it needs to consider your NIE request.
Most J-1 scholars in the professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, and specialist categories should be granted an NIE according to DOS guidance because participation in an Exchange Visitor Program is considered to be in the U.S. national interest. Unfortunately, NIE eligibility is less accommodating for H-1B, O-1, and E-3 employees, with the consulate instructed by DOS to place priority on students and J-1 exchange visitors.
We have been asked about the strategy of going through a third country, but we cannot endorse or recommend this due to the risks and liabilities associated with the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and travel restrictions.
• Negative COVID test requirement for ALL air travelers
All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel, or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States. More information for international travelers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control can be found here and here.
• University COVID guidance
Visa Appointments and Issuance
If you already have a valid visa for re-entry, you may still use it. You do not have to obtain a new one before returning to the U.S.
However, some individuals whose visas have expired and therefore need to renew their visas have reached out to OIS to report difficulties in getting a visa appointment at the U.S. consulate in their country. Unfortunately, it is clear consulates around the world are not fully operating at pre-pandemic levels and are only slowly resuming some routine services. Recent articles from SHRM and Inside Higher Ed capture the essence of what has been happening worldwide.
Here are a few key points to remember when applying for a visa:
- A visa application is personal to the individual, and the consulate will not speak to JHU about your individual case;
- Consulates are given wide latitude by the U.S. Department of State in how they conduct services, even at different consulates in the same country;
- Many consulates are still temporarily closed or offering emergency services only, while others are slowly resuming routine services; consular services will vary based on local conditions;
- Consulates worldwide are backlogged and are working to prioritize student volume above most other visa types; and,
- Individuals who have had a valid visa in the same classification in the past four years MAY receive a waiver of the visa interview. See Department of State notice here.
Tips for scheduling a visa interview appointment:
- Only you can schedule the appointment via the consulate’s scheduling system, and it may be necessary to visit the consulate’s website daily or several times a day until you see appointments become available; new appointments may become available at any time.
- You may view general appointment information for each consulate by visiting https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/wait-times.html--check this frequently for updates.
- Prepare contingency plans should the visa backlog continue beyond your desired return date; consult with your host or employing department and OIS regarding delayed return, remote work possibilities, leave of absence options, etc.
- You may be able to request an “expedited visa appointment” under certain circumstances that may vary by consulate. Check the consulate’s website for instructions.
- Good luck and keep us posted on the status of your visa efforts and if you encounter anything out of the ordinary (as we routinely pass along special issues to our colleagues in the Offices of Federal Strategy and Government & Community Affairs, so they may inform our congressional delegation and professional associations).
For more complete information, visit our COVID Immigration and Travel FAQs here. After reviewing, if you still have uncertainties about your plans for fall, do not hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Office of International Services