WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department is suspending routine visa services in countries facing heightened travel alerts, including Japan and South Korea, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The administration of President Donald Trump ramping up efforts to slow its spread through tougher border controls and an envisioned $1.3 trillion stimulus package to ease the economic pain from the containment measures.
Beginning Thursday, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and all consulates in Japan will suspend routine nonimmigrant visa appointments. Most services for U.S. citizens will continue.
Visa applications that do not require an in-person interview will still be processed, the embassy said. The visa waiver program that allows short-term stays for tourism and other purposes will not be affected.
Countries that are subject to travel advisories higher than level 1 will be affected, the U.S. Embassy in South Korea said.
The travel advisory for Japan is at level 2, which calls for U.S. citizens to “exercise increased caution,” while that for South Korea is at level 3, or “reconsider travel.”
In South Korea, the U.S. Embassy said it will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of Thursday. “We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time,” it said.
Trump also said Wednesday that the United States and Canada have agreed to temporarily close their border to nonessential travel, although he added that trade will not be affected.
The administration has already imposed travel restrictions against foreigners from mainland China, where COVID-19 was first confirmed, as well as from Iran and many European countries.