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Travel Restrictions – National Interest Exception

COVID-19 Travel Restrictions on US Visas and Entry: The National Interest Exception (NIE)

The Biden administration announced that in November 2021, it will lift the COBID-19 travel restrictions for specific countries and instead require all foreign travelers to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination before boarding a flight to the US.

Regional COVID-19 public health bans restrict travel for foreign nationals who have been physically present in a designated country within 14 days of seeking entry to the United States. Transit through an airport in a designated country counts as presence in that country.

Certain individuals are exempt from the bans, including:

  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and their immediate family members.
  • An individual traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government or pursuant to a UN agreement
  • Individuals traveling on A, C, D, certain E-1, G, or NATO visas.
  • A member of the U.S. Armed Forces and his or her spouse or child.

Contact your attorney to determine whether you may be exempt from the COVID-19 travel bans or can apply for an exception.

National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) for Certain Travelers

Travelers with immigrant, fiancé(e) and certain F and M student visas are eligible for a blanket NIE and do not need to apply for individual NIEs.

Other individuals who are eligible to apply for an NIE include:

  • Foreign nationals seeking to provide executive direction or vital support for “critical infrastructure sectors” or directly linked supply chains
  • (as outlined at https://www.cisa.gov/critical-infrastructure-sectors), which could be travel pursuant to H, L, O, B, Visa Waiver Program (VWP)/Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), or other nonimmigrant business or work categories;
  • Journalists (I visas);
  • Certain exchange visitors, exchange students, and academics covered by exchange visitor programs (J-1).

Additional reasons for obtaining an NIE may include humanitarian travel, a public health response, or national security. Travelers with valid visas or ESTA registrations from banned countries must also apply for an NIE from the U.S. government. Typically, you must first apply with a U.S. embassy/consulate and if their response is delayed or negative, then an application may be made with Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Read the whole release here.

For more assistance with your immigration and visa needs, contact Jacki and her team.