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National Interest Exception
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has extensive travel restrictions in place. These restrictions ban the travel of individuals in the Schengen Zone, as well as other travelers, from entering the United States unless they a National Interest Exception (NIE) from a US Consulate.
On March 2, 2021, the US Department of State drastically revised the National Interest Exception policy, further restricting the approval of these applications for investors and other business travelers. Now, business travelers must prove that they will provide vital support to critical US infrastructure in order to satisfy the NIE requirements.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a National Interest Exception (NIE)?
A National Interest Exception is an application submitted to the US Consulate, requesting an exception from Presidential Proclamation 10143 , which prohibits travel from the Schengen Area to the United States.
The approved application permits travelers to enter the US once within the 30 days after approval. National Interest Exceptions can be used for ESTA and US visa holders.
How did the March 2, 2021 policy change affect the adjudication of NIE applications?
This policy change has made NIE applicatiions much harder to obtain. Consulates worldwide have confirmed that fewer NIEs will be approved and that they will be reviewing applications much more closely in order to determine whether an applicant qualifies.
In particular, the March 2 policy change has made it much more difficult for business travelers to obtain NIEs. Previously, almost all investors, executives, managers or specialists could obtain NIEs for US travel. Now, only business travelers who can prove they will "provide vital support to critical infrastructure" may qualify for a NIE.
Who is eligible for a National Interest Exception?
Travelers that fall into one of the following categories under Presidential Proclamation 9993, which has suspended routine travel from the Schengen Area to the United States:
Public Health: Travel as a public health or healthcare professional or researcher to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, or to continue ongoing research in an area with substantial public health benefit (e.g. cancer or disease research).
Students: All students, and their dependents, traveling to the United States on an F or M visa to pursue a full course of study or on a J visa to participate in an exchange program as a bona fide student.
Academics: All exchange visitors and their dependents traveling to the United States on J visas in the following categories: Professors, Research Scholars, Short Term Scholars, or Specialists.
Humanitarian travelers: This includes individuals who will be traveling to the US to care for family members
Travelers who will provide "vital support to critical infrastructure": Under this new standard that was introduced on March 2, travelers must prove that their travel will support one of the 16 critical US infrastructure sectors.
What fields are considered critical infrastructure sectors?
For NIE applications, the following infrastructure sectors have been deemed critical:
defense industrial base
food and agriculture
healthcare and public health
For more information on the qualifying critical infrastructure sectors, please refer to this link: IDENTIFYING CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE DURING COVID-19.
How can I apply for a National Interest Exception?
The application must be submitted directly to the US consulate and must include evidence regarding your urgent travel need and qualification for the National Interest Exception. Each US consulate worldwide has different procedures, so it is important to make sure you are submitting the application according to the specific consulate's specifications.
For a consultation and more information about the application process, please click here to schedule an appointment with Adomat Immigration.
How long are National Interest Exception approvals valid for?
Thirty (30) days after approval.
How long does it take the US consulate to process a National Interest Exception application?
It depends, but usually within 5-10 business days.
How much does it cost to apply for a National Interest Exception?
There are no government filing fees for a National Interest Exception.
For a consultation and fee quote, please click here to schedule an appointment with Adomat Immigration.
Is it possible to apply for a National Interest Exception several times?
Yes, the majority of US consulates worldwide allow applicants to apply for multiple NIEs. However, you must apply for a National Interest Exception before each entry to the US.
Is it possible to apply for a National Interest Exception again after an application has been denied?
Yes, but you should be prepared to submit additional documentation to the Consulate to evidence the need for your travel and why it is in the national interest.
If I don't qualify for an NIE, are there any alternatives available?
If you are subject to the travel restrictions and do not qualify for a NIE, you may travel to third-country not subject to the bans (many Adomat Immigration clients travel to Mexico, Turkey or Croatia, for example) for 14 days and then travel into the United States.