29 Apr 2021

United States

U.S. Department of State Expands National Interest Exceptions to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

On April 26, 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made a national interest exception (NIE) determination regarding travelers subject to the geographic COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9984, 9992, and 10143. These PPs prohibit entry into the U.S. by certain individuals who have traveled  from or were otherwise physically present in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area (European Union), the UK, and Ireland within 14 days preceding entry. With the recent NIE determination, individuals seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure; journalists; and students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs may be eligible for a NIE, permitting them to schedule a consular visa appointment and enter the U.S., notwithstanding their recent presence in one of the designated countries.  

Students and academics qualify only if their academic program begins on August 1, 2021, or later. These individuals will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel when applying for an F-1 or M-1 visa. Those who already possess valid visas may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the start of their academic program and do not need to seek an individual NIE. All other categories of NIE-eligible individuals should contact the nearest U.S. or consulate and have an NIE granted by the Department of State (DOS) prior to traveling. 

Previously, on April 8, 2021, DOS announced that immigrant and fiancé(e) travel was in the national interest and eligible for exceptions from PPs 9984, 9992, and 10143, opening up the processing of these visas at U.S. embassies and consulates with capacity to perform visa services. This announcement also included exceptions for certain exchange visitors as well as pilots and air crew. These NIEs remain available for individuals subject to the COVID-19 PPs.  

DOS continues to grant NIEs for travelers seeking to enter the U.S. for humanitarian travel, public health response, national security, and purposes otherwise in the U.S. national interest. 

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