On May 27, 2021, the U.S. Secretary of State made a revised determination that certain categories of travelers should be eligible for exceptions from the regional COVID-19 travel restrictions implemented by Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9984, 9992, 10143, 10199, and any future proclamation similarly related to the spread of COVID-19. Existing 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, Ireland, and India within 14 days preceding travel.
With this new determination, individuals traveling to provide vital support or executive direction for U.S. critical infrastructure as well as those providing vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the U.S. may qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE) from the COVID-19 PPs. In addition, previous national interest determinations for journalists, students, certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs, immigrants, and fiancés remain in place.
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. Students who already possess valid F-1 or M-1 visas—or who have authorization to travel under the Visa Waiver Program—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.
DOS will also grant NIEs to qualified individuals coming to the U.S. for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security.