Answers to Common Visa Questions during COVID-19

U.S. Embassy Madrid
Consular Affairs

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 this information 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 March 12, 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Madrid has cancelled nonimmigrant, immigrant, and fiancé(e) visa appointments. Travelers from Spain are subject to Presidential Proclamation 9993 (see below).

U.S. Embassy Madrid will begin a phased resumption of some visa services on July 20, 2020 and offer limited visa appointments to those 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.

U.S. Embassy Madrid will begin processing F, M and certain J category visas with urgent travel on July 20,2020.

The nonimmigrant visa application fee is valid and may be used for a visa application in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment. Visa fees are non-refundable and non-transferable. If you wish to apply for a visa through at 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 9993 mean?

Presidential Proclamation 9993 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 9993 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

Please see Box 4 of your DS-2019 to determine which program category you are in.

Only participants and dependents in the following J visa categories qualify for an exception to PP 9993 and PP 10052 and can apply for a visa at this time:

  • Students
  • Professors
  • Research Scholars
  • Short-term Scholars
  • Specialists

If you currently possess a valid J visa in one of the above categories AND will return to the United States in the next 30 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. Proof of travel within 30 days

Due to the large volume of inquiries, we will only respond to those who have imminent travel and who qualify for an exception. J visa categories still suspended by PP 10052 and/or PP 9993 are: intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, summer work travel program, and some au pairs.

 Business travel

Travel that provides significant economic benefit to 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 30 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. Proof of travel within 30 days

Due to the large volume of inquiries, we will only respond to those who have imminent travel and who qualify for an exception to the Covid-19 Presidential Proclamations.  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 9993 and 10052 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. Proof of travel within 30 days

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 9993 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

Due to the large volume of inquiries, we will only respond to those who have imminent travel and who qualify for an exception.  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 to apply for a visa, you may schedule an interview through our appointment website.

Once you have scheduled an interview, use the ‘Request Expedite’ feature. You must briefly outline the reason that you must travel and why you believe you qualify for an exception to the proclamation. We will review your request and reply by email.

We will only approve appointment expedite requests when an applicant qualifies for a specific exception. An expedite request relates only to the date of the visa interview. Expedited visa processing is not available.

What do Presidential Proclamation 10014 and Presidential Proclamation 10052 mean?

Under Presidential Proclamation 10014 signed on April 22, 2020, and extended by Presidential Proclamation 10052 signed on June 22, 2020, the Department of State will not issue immigrant visas, with certain exceptions, until December 31, 2020.  This includes the U.S. Embassy in Madrid. The period may be extended.

This proclamation suspends entry into the United States of certain immigrants who present risk to the U.S. labor market during the economic recovery following the COVID-19 outbreak. U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and those who had valid immigrant visas issued before the effective date of the proclamation (11:59 p.m. EDT on April 23, 2020), are not subject to the proclamation. Exceptions include immigrants seeking to enter as healthcare professionals; spouses, children, and prospective adoptive children of U.S. citizens; and certain Special Immigrant Visa applicants.

Presidential Proclamation 10052, signed on June 22, 2020, adds restrictions to some temporal workers visas. Visa types L, H-1, H-2, and their dependents will not be issued until the Proclamation is lifted. Some categories of J visa type are also affected by the restrictions. Dependents are also affected by the restrictions.

No valid visas will be revoked under this proclamation. Please review the proclamation at Whitehouse.gov for more information.

As of March 12, 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Madrid has cancelled nonimmigrant, immigrant, and fiancé(e) visa appointments. Travelers from Spain are subject to Presidential Proclamation 9993 (see above).

U.S. Embassy Madrid will begin a phased resumption of some visa services on July 20, 2020 and offer limited 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 priorityand 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 given the forms necessary to apply 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 immigrant visa application is being processed by the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, applicants have 12 months from the date on which the Embassy’s Immigrant Visa Unit contacts you with instructions about the status of your case in which to apply for the visa.

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. 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.

Under Presidential Proclamation 10014 signed on April 22, 2020, the Department of State will not issue immigrant visas, with certain exceptions, until December 31, 2020.  This includes the U.S. Embassy in Madrid. The period may be extended.

This proclamation suspends entry into the United States of certain immigrants who present risk to the U.S. labor market during the economic recovery following the COVID-19 outbreak. U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and those who had valid immigrant visas issued before the effective date of the proclamation (11:59 p.m. EDT on April 23, 2020), are not subject to the proclamation. Exceptions include immigrants seeking to enter as healthcare professionals; spouses, children, and prospective adoptive children of U.S. citizens; and certain Special Immigrant Visa applicants.

No valid visas will be revoked under this proclamation. Please review the proclamation at Whitehouse.gov for more information.

 As of March 12, 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Madrid has cancelled nonimmigrant, immigrant, and fiancé(e) visa appointments. Travelers from Spain are subject to Presidential Proclamation 9993 (see above).

U.S. Embassy Madrid will begin a phased resumption of some visa services on July 20, 2020 and offer visa appointments to those applicants who qualify for an exception to the COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations. 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.

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

What if my fiancé(e) visa petition expires?

You can 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 you were asked to send information or documentation in connection with an existing application, please do not mail it at this time. Please monitor our website for updates. After normal operations have resumed, you may follow the instructions on your Visa Appointment Service account about how to send documents to the Embassy.

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, if an LPR remains outside the United States for more than 12 months (or beyond the validity of a reentry permit obtained before departing the United States), they lose 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 9993.

Q: I am a Spanish citizen with a valid ESTA living and working in Sweden. I would like to travel next week to New York for a business meeting. Will I be allowed to board my flight?

A: Please send an email to MadridNIE@state.gov.  Due to the large volume of inquiries, we will only respond to those who have imminent travel and who qualify for an exception.  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 9993 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 9993 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.  Due to the large volume of inquiries, we will only respond to those who have imminent travel and who qualify for an exception. Please note tourism as such remains suspended.

Q: I’m starting a research program at Harvard University in September. I have an academic scholarship. I need a J-1 visa to participate in this exchange program. When can I apply?

A: If box 4 of your DS-2019 indicates Student, Professor, Research Scholar, Short-term Scholar or Specialist, you may schedule an interview through our appointment website.