U.S. Department of State Restricts Eligibility for National Interest Exemptions

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On March 2, 2021, the U.S. Department of State issued revised guidance further limiting eligibility for National Interest Exemptions (NIEs) for travelers from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom and Ireland whose admission to the U.S. is restricted by Presidential Proclamation (PP) 10143. PP 10143 restricts the entry of travelers to the U.S. who were present within the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Brazil and South Africa during the 14-day period preceding attempted entry to the U.S. With limited exceptions, nonimmigrants traveling to the U.S. from these regions must obtain an NIE from the Department of State in order to enter the U.S.

In publishing its revised guidance, the Department of State rescinded its prior national interest guidance and has narrowed eligibility for NIEs for travelers from the Schengen Area, the UK and Ireland. Individuals traveling from these regions may request an NIE to enter the U.S. if providing vital support for critical infrastructure or if entering for purposes related to humanitarian considerations, the public health response or national security. As previously reported, under the Department of State’s prior NIE guidance, certain technical experts, senior-level managers and executives, treaty-traders and investors, and professional athletes traveling to the U.S. from the restricted regions were generally eligible for NIEs to gain admission to the U.S. This will no longer be the case in all instances. Visas and NIEs issued pursuant to the previous guidance will not be revoked and remain valid. However, if a new visa or NIE is required, it may not be issued while PP 10143 remains in effect unless the request falls within the new eligibility criteria outlined above.

Notably, students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas traveling to the U.S. from the Schengen Area, the UK and Ireland do not require NIEs for admission (and students requiring an F-1 or M-1 visa to travel may apply for such visa pursuant to availability of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate).

Due to rapidly evolving travel requirements and restrictions, individuals intending to apply for visas abroad or planning to travel to the U.S. should consult with immigration counsel prior to making any arrangements.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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