National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers
On April 27, 2021, DOS announced National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland, expanding certain NIE eligibilities to all countries subject to US geographic COVID-19 entry bans.
DOS's Visa News page has been updated to include this announcement, too.
NAFSA's COVID-19 Restrictions on U.S. Visas and Entry page has been updated, as well, and can be a helpful resource. It provides the following breakdown of the updated NIE criteria, with excerpts from the announcement:
- F-1 and M-1 Students.
- "Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel."
- Travelers "who are seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure; journalists; students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs"
- "Travelers in categories described above who have a valid visa in the appropriate class or who have a valid ESTA authorization for travel under the Visa Waiver Program and seek to travel for purposes consistent with ESTA authorization, should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling, if they believe they may qualify for a National Interest Exception. If a National Interest Exception is approved, they may travel on either a valid visa or ESTA authorization, as appropriate."
- "Students and academics subject to these proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa, may qualify for an NIE only if their academic program begins August 1, 2021 or later."
- "[Q]ualified travelers seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security."
It may also be helpful to follow today's DOS expands national interest exceptions ISTA conversation as DSOs make sense of some of the announcement's language.