Entry & Exit IssuesTRAVEL RESTRICTIONS TO THE UNITED STATES: What is a National Interest Exception and how can it be obtained?

September 21, 2021by canerolammers

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as of January 31, 2020, Former President Trump issued several presidential proclamations to implement restrictions that apply to travelers who were physically present in certain countries within the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States: China, Iran, Schengen Area, Ireland, United Kingdom and Brazil), based on economic and public health considerations related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March 2020, the Department of State (“DOS”) suspended routine visa services around the world. On July 14, 2020, DOS announced that US embassies and consulates entered a phased resumption of visa services and shall continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services.

On January 25, 2021, President Biden issued Presidential Proclamation 10143 (PP 10143), which maintains COVID-related travel bans for the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Brazil and introduced an entry suspension to the USA for people traveling from South Africa. Additionally, President Biden introduced an entry suspension for travelers from India on April 30, 2021 in Presidential Proclamation 10199 (PP 10199). Proclamations shall remain in effect until terminated by the President.

On March 2, 2021, the Secretary of State reviewed the National Interest Exception (NIE) guide, confirming that the following individuals continue to be exempt from the travel ban: (1) US citizens; 2)lawful permanent residents; ( 3) spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, (4) parents or legal guardians of a US or lawful permanent resident, provided that the US citizen or lawful permanent resident  is unmarried and under the age of 21; (5) siblings of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident as long as they are both single and under the age of 21;  (6) air and maritime crew members; (7) noncitizens national of the US (does not apply to Proclamations 9984 (China) and 9992 (Iran), ( 8) diplomats; (9) any alien who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces; (10) any alien who is the spouse or child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces; 11)  noncitizens traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the COVID-19 virus, and (12) certain travelers whose entry would be of national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security or their designees.

On May 27, 2021, the Secretary of State expanded the current and future NIE criteria related to geography to include travelers: (1) who shall provide vital support or executive direction for critical infrastructure; (2) who shall provide vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the United States; (3) journalists; (4) students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs, (5) immigrants; and (6) fiancées of US Citizens with a fiancé visa (K-1).

On June 29, 2021, the Department of State extended the validity of the National Interest Exceptions (NIE) for travelers subject to restrictions under Presidential Proclamations (PP) 9984, 9992, 10143, 10199 and similar subsequent PP’s related to the spread of COVID-19. Unless otherwise stated, existing NIE’s shall be valid 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.



1.- Department of State: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/extension-validity-for-nies-for-china-iran-brazil-south-africa-schengen-uk-ireland-india.html

2.- AILA Doc. No. 20091704 (posted 08/18/21)