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. For more information on how to apply and what documents to bring with you, please click here.
As airports and airlines start implement the regulation, some travelers have found that airlines are operating on different rules for those traveling on NIE. According to the London consulate, travelers should not attempt to check in for their flight online if they have ESTA registration. Travelers should arrive early and carry all documents related to the NIE. The CBP officers at the airport will review the traveler’s documents. If necessary, the applicant’s ESTA will be reinstated at the airport and the traveler will be allowed to board the plane. Please note that some smaller airports will not have CBP officers available at the airport. Travelers should contact the airport beforehand and consider changing their flight route to fly out of a bigger airport.
Also, some travelers are getting around the travel ban by flying to and staying in a non-travel ban restricted country first for 14 days. CPB is recommending that in these cases, the traveler should wait until the 14 days is up before purchasing a ticket. CPB regulations state that travelers should not “attempt” to enter the country before the 2 week quarantine mark, and some places view purchasing a plane ticket, even if the flight date is after the 2 weeks, as attempt to enter the country. In these cases, CPB contacts the airline of the traveler and the airline will deny the traveler boarding. The traveler will have to rebook their flight for a later date.
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