There are still multiple regional COVID-19 travel bans in place that restrict entry to the U.S. to people who were physically present in certain countries in 14 days preceding their arrival in the U.S. You can apply for a National Interest Exception and if a Consulate approves your request, you will be allowed to enter to the U.S.
What is the current NIE standard?
National Interest Exceptions (“NIEs”) can be currently granted to people who are coming to the U.S. to:
- provide vital support or executive direction for critical infrastructure
- provide vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the United States
- students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs
Do I have to have a visa to apply for the NIE or is ESTA sufficient?
You don’t need a visa to apply for the NIE and you can apply with your ESTA if you want to come to the U.S. as a business visitor.
My NIE was approved under my old ESTA but I now have a new ESTA. Is the NIE still valid?
This should be fine and the fact that you get a new ESTA should not impact the NIE validity.
For how long is the NIE valid?
On June 29, 2021, the Department of State made an announcement and indicated that NIEs are now valid for 12 months. This also applies to NIEs that were issued before this new guidance came into effect.
Which countries are currently on the list of restricted countries?
- Schengen are countries
- UK and Ireland
I am not a Schengen area national but I live in the Schengen area. Does the ban apply to me?
Yes. All the regional travel bans are based on physical presence in the restricted countries and not on your nationality. This means, that if you are for example a Mexican national living in Italy, the ban would still apply to you if you were physically present in Italy in the past 14 days prior to your arrival to the U.S.
Are all NIES automatically valid for 12 months?
NIEs are valid for 12 months if they are used for the same purpose for which they were originally granted. For example, if you were granted a NIE in January 2021 for the purpose of coming to the U.S. and managing and directing your E-2 business that is generating substantial revenue in the U.S. and creating U.S. jobs and you now want to enter for the same purpose again, this would be fine.
How long does it take the Consulate to review NIE requests?
The timeline for adjudicating NIEs varies greatly at each Consulate. For example, recently it has been taking the US Consulate in Prague around 1-4 business days to adjudicate the NIEs. On the other hand, it is taking the US Consulate in Paris approximately 4 weeks, and the US Consulate in Rome may take up to 3 months. The timelines also change often based on the Consulate’s current caseload.
Is there any other way to get around applying for a NIE?
I have a valid U.S. visa, do I still need a NIE?
Yes, the current regional travel restrictions apply to non-immigrant visa holders who were physically present in the country that is currently on the list of restricted countries (e.g. Schengen area countries, UK and Ireland, or India). For example, if you are currently in the U.S. on an H-1B , O-1 , or L-1 visa, you would still need a NIE.
Each proclamation lists some exceptions to the ban. For example the Presidential Proclamation restricting entry to the U.S. of people who were physically present in the Schengen are region lists among others, the following exceptions:
- Spouses of US citizens or green card holders
- Parents or legal guardians of US citizens/green card holders if the US citizen or green card holder is unmarried and under 21
- Siblings of US citizens/green card holder if both siblings are unmarried and under 21
In these scenarios, you don’t need the NIE but you should ideally travel with the US citizen/green card holder or carry the marriage/birth certificate that establish the family relationship.
I am vaccinated. Do the travel restrictions still apply to me?
Yes. The presidential proclamations do not list an exception for vaccinated travelers, so even if you are vaccinated, you would still either have to get a NIE or fall under one of the exceptions as specified in the regional proclamations.
When will the regional bans be lifted?
Unfortunately, as of right now, there are no official updates on when the presidential proclamations enacting these bans should be lifted.
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