In July 2020, the Department of State announced that certain business and student travelers coming from Schengen countries or the U.K. and Ireland (such as B-1 business visitors), treaty traders, or treaty investors may apply for a National Interest Exception (“NIE”). The NIE allows such travelers to travel to the United States even with the travel bans remaining in effect.
What categories of travelers qualify for the exception?
The following categories of travelers can apply for the exception:
What is the purpose of the National Interest Exception?
The purpose of the NIE is to help the U.S. with the economic recovery due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
How can I apply for the National Interest Exception?
There are 2 ways how you can apply for the National Interest Exception:
- Applying at a U.S. Consulate abroad
You are currently in Belgium and you own an E-2 company in the U.S. You need to travel to the U.S. in the next 30 days to manage the E-2 company, employees, and meet with your business partners.
You can apply for a National Interest exception by emailing the U.S. Consulate in Belgium. You must have a valid E-2 visa to qualify for a National Interest Exception and you should also explain why your travel to the U.S. is time-sensitive (why you have to come to the U.S. in the next 30 days) and why it is in the U.S. national interest.
Please note that every Consulate has its own detailed instructions as to what documents and information you should send and in what format. Additionally, each Consulate has a different timeline as to how long it takes to get a response on whether your NIE application was approved.
If your NIE application is approved, you will have 30 days to enter the U.S.
- Applying at a CBP port
The second option on how to apply for a National Interest Exception is to contact a CBP port (airport) you are planning to fly through. Generally, the bigger airports such as JFK, Newark, Boston, or LAX have established procedures on who to contact, what documents to send, and how many days in advance of your travel you should contact the CBP port. At the time of contacting the CBP port, you should already have a flight ticket booked as the CBP port will most likely communicate with the airline to make sure you will be allowed to board the plane.
Please note that many CBP ports also specifically indicate that you should only contact them regarding the NIE after you have already contacted a U.S. Consulate abroad but you have not heard back.
Additionally, certain ports like Dublin pre-clearance port only process emergency requests (such as a death of a family member or urgency medical treatment and all other requests are sent to a U.S. Consulate).
In either case, your NIE request will have to be approved before coming to the U.S. – it is not possible to fly to the U.S. and apply for a NIE once you land in the U.S. (please note that you would most likely not be even able to board the plane if you don’t have evidence that your NIE was approved).
Please click here to find out more about National Interest Exception.
Please click here to read our blog post: Travelling to the U.S. from Europe during Corona Virus.
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