On March 2, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State issued guidance that contained new limitations on obtaining National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) from the travel restrictions on foreign nationals traveling from the Schengen Area countries, the UK, and Ireland. Specifically, only the following travelers may apply for an NIE:

  • Designated critical infrastructure industries are, per the Department of Homeland Security/Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (DHS/CISA) list:

– Chemical Sector

– Commercial Facilities Sector

– Communications Sector

– Critical Manufacturing Sector

– Dams Sector

– Defense Industrial Base Sector

– Emergency Services Sector

– Energy Sector

– Financial Services Sector

– Food and Agriculture Sector

– Government Facilities Sector

– Healthcare and Public Health Sector

– Information Technology Sector

– Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector

– Transportation Systems Sector

– Water and Wastewater Systems Sector

  • All students and their dependents
  • J-1 exchange visitors and their dependents traveling as: Professors, Research Scholars, Short Term Scholars, or Specialists

The one category that business travelers have been relying on in obtaining NIEs to travel to and from the Schengen Area has been the category for senior executives and managers who have been conducting travel for the purpose of observing operations, attending meetings, and routine travel. The new guidance states that this category of applicants will no longer be considered eligible for an NIE. In addition, travelers approved for an NIE for economic and investor-related travel will be issued full validity visas, but must travel within the 30 days of visa issuance, and with one entry.

Timeline and Application Process:

The timeline has now expanded to 60 business days for a consulate to process an NIE, and an NIE request can only be processed when the foreign national is no longer in the United States.

For travelers with a valid visa stamp, the NIE request must be made to the U.S. consulate or embassy that issued the visa stamp. The following documentation will be required:

  1. Photo/scan of the passport biographic page
  2. Photo/scan of the valid U.S. visa
  3. DS-2019 for J-1 visa holders (if applicable)
  4. Supporting letter

The following information should be included with the NIE request:

Name as it appears on passport:

  1. Current location (city, state/region, country)
  2. Date exited the United States
  3. Reason exited the United States
  4. Date of proposed re-entry to the United States
  5. Reason for re-entry to the United States
  6. Phone number

Visitors without a valid visa stamp, who fall within the categories of critical infrastructure industries listed above, should apply for their visas as normal.

Travelers traveling with an ESTA are required to email the U.S. consulate of the region in residence before traveling to the United States. Tourism is still suspended at this time, and the following documentation and information are to be included:

  1. Photo/scan of the passport biographic page
  2. Photo/scan of the valid ESTA authorization
  3. Supporting letter justifying the need to travel to the United States

The following information should be included with the NIE request:

  1. Name as it appears on the passport
  2. Current location (city, state/region, country)
  3. Date of proposed entry to the United States
  4. Reason for entry to the United States
  5. Phone #