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Updates to the National Interest Exception

June 22, 2021
Chandni Shah

In an effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and in accordance with the four Presidential Proclamations, Presidential Proclamation 9984 (China); Presidential Proclamation 9992 (Iran);  Presidential Proclamation 10143 (Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, and South Africa); and Presidential Proclamation 10199 (India), nonimmigrant travel to the United States has been suspended or severely restricted since March 2020.  Starting in August 2020 the Department of State provided guidance on applying for a waiver to the travel restrictions. The criteria was vague and applied inconsistently from Consulate to Consulate. Since August 2020, there have been numerous updates to the criteria and process of applying for the National Interest Exception (NIE).

In March 2021, The Biden administration eliminated eligibility for certain high level executives to qualify for an NIE. However, on June 1, 2021, the Department of State updated and expanded the eligibility criteria to again allow “travelers providing vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the United States” to be eligible for travel to the United States.

In addition to those serving a critical infrastructure sector and providing vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity, the following individuals also remain eligible for an NIE:

  • academics, students, and journalists under exchange visitor programs
  • Individuals traveling for humanitarian purposes
  • Individuals traveling in interest of national security
  • public health responders
  • students on F-1/M-1/J-1 visas (*special conditions apply to students based on which country you are from)
  • certain harvest workers
  • service providers for U.S. authorities (i.e. military members)
  • pilots/aircrew
  • immigrant or fiancé visa applicants
  • derivative family members accompanying or following a noncitizen who has been granted an NIE

There are several exceptions to the NIE requirement, including lawful permanent resident, U.S. citizens, and certain relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. NIEs are generally granted for a single trip to the United States and travelers must enter the U.S. within 30 days of their NIE approval. If you believe you qualify for a National Interest Exception or have any questions, please contact an experienced attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C.

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