Answers to Common Visa Questions during COVID-19

U.S. Embassy Madrid
Consular Affairs

Starting January 26, 2021, all travelers (age 2 and older) including U.S. citizens and residents, will be required to present a negative viral COVID-19 test taken within 3 days prior to departure on their U.S.-bound flight itinerary.  This new order does not waive the requirement for a National Interest Exception.  You can find more FAQs about the testing requirement here.  See details from the CDC here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html

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 the U.S. Embassy at SpainCDCwaivers@state.gov and provide the information below.  The U.S. Embassy will then submit the request to the CDC for consideration.

The following information must be provided for each passenger:

  1. Name (family name/surname, given name), passport number and country
  2. Cell phone number including country code of passenger or head of household if family unit
  3. Email address of passenger or head of household if family unit
  4. U.S. destination address
    • Is U.S. destination home address?
  5. Departure date
  6. Flight itinerary
  7. Name of submitting entity if different from passenger
  8. Name of company submitting on behalf of passenger(s) (if applicable)
  9. Name of point of contact submitting on behalf of passenger(s) (if applicable)
  10. Phone and email address for POC submitting waiver request on behalf of passenger(s) (if applicable)
  11. Purpose of travel to the U.S. (provide brief explanation of why urgent travel is needed and how travel will contribute to health and safety of passengers(s))
  12. Justification for testing waiver (e.g. no testing available, impact on health and safety)
  13. Documentation to support justification for test waiver, if available (e.g. medical records or orders for medical evacuation)

We understand your concern regarding visas and travel in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  We hope that this information will help answer your questions.

Please review all the information on this website before contacting us.  We are unable to reply to any questions submitted through our contact forms if they are answered here, so it is vital that you read this information in full.

Is the U.S. Embassy in Madrid closed / Is my visa interview appointment cancelled?

As of July 15, 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Madrid continues to have limited capacity and are processing a limited number of immigrant visa and an even more limited number of nonimmigrant visa cases for emergency medical travel, students, and exchange visitors (in categories that qualify for an NIE), and certain petition-based categories. Travelers from Spain are subject to Presidential Proclamation 10143 (see below).

We offer very limited visa appointments to a small number of applicants who qualify for an exception to the COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations with imminent travel.  While the Embassy aims to process cases as soon as practicable, there is likely to be increased wait times for completing such services due to substantial backlogs.  The health and safety of both our visa applicants and workforce remain our highest priority, and we will be enforcing strict social distancing measures and require masks covering mouth and nose while in our facility.  The nonimmigrant visa application fee is valid and may be used for a visa application in the country where it was purchased.  Visa fees are non-refundable and non-transferable.  If you wish to apply for a visa through a different Embassy or Consulate, you must pay a new visa application (MRV) fee and complete a new Form DS-160.

Please monitor our website and the email account you used when registering with the Visa Appointment Service (including any junk or spam folders) for the latest information on our operating status.

Can I travel to the United States? / What does Presidential Proclamation 10143 mean?

Presidential Proclamation 10143 suspends entry to the United States of foreign nationals who were present in the 26 countries that comprise the Schengen Area, including Spain, within 14 days prior to their arrival at the port of entry in the United States.  Please review the Presidential Proclamation for more information.

This means that even if you have a valid visa or ESTA, you cannot travel to the United States while Presidential Proclamation 10143 is in effect, unless you meet an exception. We do not know how long this proclamation will remain in effect.

The travel restriction does NOT apply to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents (green card holders), some immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other individuals specifically identified in the proclamation.

The Department of Homeland Security will direct those who have been in the Schengen Area who are exempt from these restrictions, including U.S. citizens, to travel through select airports where the U.S. government has implemented enhanced screening procedures.  Please visit the Department of Homeland Security’s website for further information.

F and M Visas

If you already possess a valid F or M visa, valid I-20, and are returning to the United States to continue your studies, you can travel effective immediately without contacting the Embassy.  All F and M student visa applicants and their dependents who do not yet have a valid visa can apply for a visa appointment via our website.

J Visas

All J visa applicants need a National Interest Exception before traveling to the United States.  We are extremely limited in our ability to offer J visa appointments at this time.

If you currently possess a valid J visa AND will return to the United States in the next 60 days, you must apply for a National Interest Exception (NIE) in order to travel.  Please email MadridNIE@state.gov with the subject line “National Interest Consideration” and the below information:

  1. Passport bio page
  2. Copy of valid visa
  3. Copy of petition or DS-2019
  4. Planned travel dates

Due to the large volume of inquiries, processing NIE requests is taking more than 45 days from the day we receive all the requested information, so please apply with enough time.  We cannot expedite requested given the volume of NIE requests we are receiving every day.

Business travel

Travel that provides vital support to a key infrastructure field in the United States will be considered via the visa appointment system.

If you already possess a valid ESTA or visa AND will return to the United States in the next 60 days, please email MadridNIE@state.gov with the subject line “National Interest Consideration” and the below information:

  1. Passport bio page
  2. Copy of valid ESTA and/or visa
  3. Copy of petition, sales contract, employment letter
  4. Planned travel dates

Due to the large volume of inquiries, processing NIE requests is taking more than 40 days, so please apply with enough time.  We cannot expedite requested given the volume of NIE requests we are receiving every day.  Please note travel for the primary purpose of tourism remains suspended.

Emergency travel of humanitarian nature

If you believe you may qualify for another National Interest Exception listed in Presidential Proclamation 10143, please email MadridNIE@state.gov with the subject line “National Interest Consideration” and the below information:

  1. Passport bio page
  2. Copy of valid ESTA and/or visa
  3. Copy of petition, sales contract, doctor’s note, employment letter
  4. Planned travel dates

Can I receive a refund for a U.S. visa that was issued and not used?

As explained at the time of fee payment, visa fees are non-refundable.  The application fee is levied to cover the cost of adjudicating and processing the application.

I believe Presidential Proclamation 10143 does not apply to me / I believe I qualify for an exception. What should I do?

If you have a valid visa or ESTA and believe, after reading the proclamation and the updated information in the FAQs, that you qualify for an exception, please send an email to MadridNIE@state.gov and follow the instructions in the auto-response that you will receive immediately after you send the email.

Due to the large volume of inquiries, we will only respond to those who have imminent travel and who qualify for an exception.  Due to the large volume of inquiries, processing NIE requests is taking more than 45 days from the day we receive all the requested information, so please apply with enough time.  We cannot expedite requested given the volume of NIE requests we are receiving every day. Please note travel for the primary purpose of tourism remains suspended. 

If you believe, after reading the proclamation, that you qualify for an exception and need to apply for a visa, you may schedule an interview through our appointment website.

Please note that for August 2021, we can only expedite life-and-death emergency cases.  All other expedite requests will be denied.

As of July 15, 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Madrid continues to have limited capacity, and can only offer a limited number visa appointments to those applicants who qualify for an exception to the COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations.  The health and safety of both our visa applicants and workforce remain our highest priority, and we will be enforcing strict social distancing measures and require masks covering mouth and nose while in our facility.

Please monitor our website for the latest information on our operating status.

I have an immigrant visa.  Is that the same as a Green Card? / Am I an LPR?

No.  It is not possible to apply for a Permanent Resident Card (commonly known as a “Green Card”) from outside the United States.  If an individual travels to a U.S. port of entry with a valid immigrant visa and is admitted to the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), the individual is processed for a Permanent Resident Card at that time.

When an immigrant visa holder is admitted as an LPR at a U.S. port of entry, the passport is stamped with the words “Processed for I-551 temporary evidence of lawful residence” which helps facilitate overseas travel while they are waiting for the Permanent Resident Card to be processed.

Will my immigrant or fiancé(e) visa case expire? / Can I continue with the application process?

If your case is being processed by the National Visa Center (NVC), and you have questions after checking the information at travel.state.gov and your CEAC account (if applicable), please contact the NVC directly using the contact information on that webpage, which includes an online contact form.

If you have been advised that your case file has been forwarded to the Embassy in Madrid, you may refer to our website for an overview of the application process and begin compiling the necessary supporting documents.  Please wait until we contact you to schedule any medical appointments.  You may book a medical appointment and proceed with the application process when normal operations have resumed.  Please monitor our website for updates on our operations. Currently, we are only able to schedule a limited number of immigrant visa cases.

While the Embassy aims to process cases as soon as practicable, there are likely to be increased wait times for completing such services due to substantial backlogs.  The health and safety of both our visa applicants and workforce remain our highest priority, and we will be enforcing strict social distancing measures and require masks covering mouth and nose while in our facility.

Please monitor our website for the latest information on our operating status.

What if my fiancé(e) visa petition expires?

We may be able to revalidate your petition if it expires before your visa interview.  To revalidate your petition, you must bring a letter from the petitioner to your visa interview.  This letter must state that both you and the petitioner remain legally free to marry and that you will do so within 90 days of your arrival in the United States.

I have a question about my existing visa application

If you have any questions about a visa application that was submitted before the travel restrictions came into place and the answer is not provided in these FAQs or on our website, please monitor our website for updates.  After normal operations resume, you can contact us at that time to request case-specific information.

If your application is subject to additional administrative processing, or under review pending a decision on a waiver of ineligibility or for any other reason, that will remain the status of your case until you are advised otherwise.

I’m a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), and I’m currently outside the United States. What should I do?

As explained above, the travel restrictions under the Presidential Proclamations do not apply to lawful permanent residents.

If you are not in possession of your Permanent Resident Card (green card) and wish to travel to the United States, please contact us using the immigrant visa contact form.

Please note, LPRs who remain outside the United States for more than 12 months (or beyond the validity of a reentry permit obtained before departing the United States) may have lost their LPR status.  Information about travel and maintaining LPR status is provided through the USCIS website.

I’m in the United States, and I’m worried about overstaying my authorized period of admission.  What should I do?

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

Any other questions

If you have any further questions about visas, please see our website, including the Frequently Asked Question (FAQs), for detailed information.  Please note that we will be unable to respond if your question is addressed on our website.

If your question is about ESTA or the Visa Waiver Program, please note that those programs are administered by CBP, not by this office.  If you have ESTA questions after checking our website (including the FAQs) and the official ESTA website  (including the Help section), you can find additional information and contact details for CBP through their Info Center website.

If you have general questions about coronavirus (COVID-19), check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website.

If you have questions about flights, please contact your airline.

Can I travel to the United States? 

Q: I am a Spanish citizen with a valid ESTA living in Madrid.  I would like to travel to Miami next week for a vacation.  Will I be allowed to board my flight?

A: No.  Your travel is prohibited under PP 10143.  Please note travel for the primary purpose of tourism remains suspended.

Q: I am a citizen of a country that requires a visa to enter the United States, but I live in Spain.  I would like to travel from Spain to the United States in September for tourism. When can I make my visa interview appointment?

A:  PP 10143 restricts travel to the United States for persons who were physically present in the European Schengen area, including Spain, during the 14 days prior to their attempted entry to the United States.  As a result, you will not be able to apply for a visa and travel to the United States from Spain until routine visa processing resumes and PP 10143 is lifted.  Travel for the primary purpose of tourism remains suspended.

Q:  I was working in the United States on an H1-B visa and my visa is still valid.  I came to Spain for vacation.  Can I return to the United States to continue my employment with my valid visa?

A: Please send an email to MadridNIE@state.gov so that we can evaluate whether you meet the criteria for a National Interest Exception.  Due to the large volume of inquiries, we will only respond to those who have imminent travel and who qualify for an exception. Due to the large volume of inquiries, processing NIE requests is taking more than 45 days from the day we receive all the requested information, so please apply with enough time.  We cannot expedite requested given the volume of NIE requests we are receiving every day.