The Department of State (DOS) announced on July 6, 2021 that effective immediately the validity of national interest exceptions (NIEs) to the COVID-19 physical presence travel bans is extended to 12 months and for multiple U.S. entries. Prior to this change, NIEs were valid for only 30 days after DOS approval and for a single U.S. entry. This policy change includes those NIEs issued by DOS relating to travel bans impacting individuals who have been physically present for the preceding 14 days and entering the United States from China, Iran, the European Schengen area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India.
This DOS policy update also includes NIEs issued by DOS in the last 12 months for travel or in conjunction with a visa application. Existing NIEs will be valid for 12 months from the date of approval if the purpose under which the NIE was granted remains the same.
As of now, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has not yet announced whether the validity of NIEs issued by CBP will be extended. NIEs issued by CBP are currently valid for only 30 days and a single U.S. entry.
Where an individual has been granted an NIE by DOS more than one year ago or where the purpose of the travel has changed, a new NIE application would be required in accordance with the current criteria set out by DOS, which includes those who are traveling to provide “vital support or executive direction to critical infrastructure; those traveling to provide vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the United States; journalists; travel due to extraordinary humanitarian circumstances; or travel in support of national security or public health.” Additionally, the DOS announcement confirms that students with F or M visas and travelers with Immigrant or Fiancé visas (K visas) automatically are granted NIEs and do not need to independently obtain an NIE in advance of any travel from DOS. Students who have been physically present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, or South Africa are eligible for NIEs only if their program begins on or after August 1, 2021.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 testing requirement remains in effect for international travel. Those who are traveling internationally are required to get tested no more than three days before travel by air to the United States and show a negative result or present documentation of recovery from COVID-19.
Those foreign nationals who are traveling internationally should remain mindful that due to the ongoing developments and emergencies resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions, government policies, and U.S. Embassy and Consulate operations can change with little to no notice.
We are monitoring developments regarding NIE validity as well as travel restrictions and we will continue to provide updates here as they become available.
Barst’s immigration lawyers provide comprehensive immigration law services. We encourage individuals with questions regarding NIEs or other immigrant concerns to contact a Barst attorney at https://bmkllp.com/contact-us/.