In July 2020, the Department of State announced that certain business and student travelers coming from Schengen countries or the U.K. (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.
You can either apply for the National Interest Exception at a U.S. Consulate or at a CBP port of entry (but some ports specifically require that you have already contacted a U.S. Consulate and have not heard back at the time of contacting the specific port of entry). Please see our blog post on this topic when you click here.
Some Consulates such as the U.S. Consulate in Ireland or the U.S. Consulate in Belgium specifically state that you must be present in the country where you are applying for the NIE at the time of the application. This would mean that you cannot apply for the NIE while you are in the U.S. We would generally not advise applying for a NIE if you are in the U.S. at the time of the application as in the NIE application you have to demonstrate why is your travel to the U.S. time-sensitive and in the U.S. national interest and it would be hard to make the argument if you are in the U.S. at the time of applying.
Additionally, if you are in the U.S. on an E-2 visa as an E-2 investor, we would generally not recommend leaving the U.S. and going to Europe for a vacation. If you will be applying for the NIE once you are in Europe, the Consulate where you will be applying for the NIE may ask why you left the U.S. in a first place and could not view the fact that you left for a vacation favorably. On the other hand, if you had to leave the U.S. for urgent reasons such as death/illness in your family, your urgent medical treatment in your home country, we think that it could be easier to explain why you left the U.S. if asked and get the NIE.
Please note that in either case, the Consular Officers have complete discretion whether or not they will grant the NIE and if you are in the U.S. we generally do not recommend leaving.
If you do not want to apply for the NIE or if your NIE gets denied, you could still enter the U.S. if you spend at least 14 days in a country that is not on the list of restricted countries (e.g. Serbia, Croatia, or Turkey).
You should keep in mind the following considerations:
- You should check whether the country you want to fly into has any restrictions on incoming travelers and if so, you should make sure to comply with those requirements
- You should make sure that on the day when you arrive in the U.S., you have not been present in any country that is currently on the list of restricted countries in the past 14 days
- You should make sure that if you have a layover, the layover is not in a country that is on the list of restricted countries as you would be denied entry to the U.S. Please note that even if you do not leave the airport in the country that is on the list of restricted countries, you will still be denied entry to the U.S.
Please click here to find out more about the National Interest exception.
Please click here to read more about travelling to Europe if you are in the U.S. on an E-2 visa.
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