The U.S. Department of State has extended the validity of National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) for travelers from China, Iran, India, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, Ireland and the United Kingdom whose admission to the U.S. is restricted by COVID-related regional travel bans.
Under the new policy, NIEs are now valid for multiple entries during the 12 month period following the date of approval. The policy applies retroactively to NIEs that were previously approved or granted in connection with a visa application. Previously NIEs were valid for one entry within 30 days of approval.
What does this mean for travelers?
Travelers who have been granted an NIE may be admitted to the U.S. pursuant to the NIE for a period of up to 12 months from the date of approval provided that the travel to the U.S. is consistent with the purpose for which the NIE was originally granted. If required for the class of admission, the traveler must also have a valid visa along with the NIE. Travelers without a valid visa will be required to apply for a new visa and a new NIE.
NIE qualifying criteria includes:
- Providing vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the U.S.;
- Travel due to extraordinary humanitarian circumstances; or
- Travel to support national security or public health.
NIEs have become increasingly difficult to obtain as the U.S. consulates abroad have struggled to meet the demand for consular services due to COVID-related closures, staffing shortages, restrictive qualifying criteria, and backlogged visa and NIE applications. Extending the validity of NIEs, including that of previously issued NIEs, should help to relieve some of the demand for consular services while facilitating critical travel to the U.S.
Gibney is closely monitoring the impact of the new policy and will provide updates as they become available.