04 Mar 2021

United States

U.S. State Department Changes National Interest Exceptions

On March 2, 2021, the U.S. Secretary of State rescinded a previous national interest determination regarding certain travelers from the Schengen Area (European Union), United Kingdom, and Ireland—specifically, certain technical experts and specialists, senior-level managers and executives (L-1), treaty traders and investors (E-1 and E-2), professional athletes (P-1), and their dependents. These categories of individuals are no longer eligible for an exception to the COVID-19 travel ban. 

The national interest exceptions, or NIEs, relate to Presidential Proclamation 10143, which prohibits the entry into the U.S. of certain individuals who travel from or have recently passed through designated countries with high rates of—or variant strains of—the virus that causes COVID-19. Travelers impacted by PP 10143 may be eligible for an NIE from the Department of State based on humanitarian travel, national security, or other reasons set forth by the Secretary of State. 

The now-rescinded NIE determination for the Schengen Area, UK, and Ireland was announced on February 10, 2021. It has been replaced with the March 2, 2021, national interest determination, which applies to travelers who “provide vital support for critical infrastructure” as well as academics, students, and journalists.  Critical infrastructure sectors include chemical, communications and information technology, dams, defense industrial base, emergency services, energy, financial services, food and agriculture, government facilities, health care and public health, nuclear reactors, transportation and water systems. 

Individuals who meet these eligibility criteria can apply for an NIE or visa at the nearest embassy or consulate. No previously-issued visas or NIEs will be revoked as a result of this change in policy.  

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