On July 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of State announced that it was extending the validity of National Interest Exceptions (NIE) for 12 months from the date of approval, and for multiple entries, as long as they are used for the purpose under which they were granted. NIE affects travelers subject to Presidential Proclamations pertaining to the spread of COVID – 19. These include Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, 10143, 10199, and similar subsequent Presidential Proclamations related to the spread of COVID-19, initiated in March 2020. Countries impacted include travelers present in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and India.
To date, national interest waivers would be granted for a limited 30 day period for one entry only.
Those not previously approved for an NIE would be required to contact the nearest embassy or consulate before traveling if they have not previously been approved for an NIE and have a valid visa in the appropriate class, or proper Electronic System for Travel Authorization for travel under the Visa Waiver program and seek to enter the United States for purposes consistent with travel.
This welcome change from the U.S. Department of State will ease international travel for nationals of the country subject to travel bans, including some for over 15 months. It is significant that the purpose of travel must be the same; that is, the purpose initially granted must be the same purpose for current travel.
It is also important to keep in mind that while travel restrictions might be easing, U.S. consular posts which issue nonimmigrant work visas and those that process permanent immigrant visa processing are still not operating at pre-COVID-19 levels, and frequent appointment cancellation and delay is to be anticipated.
A review of a consulate’s website will further provide elaboration to those who might need to initiate national interest exception requests.
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