Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, extensive U.S. travel restrictions have been in place for months. Not much has changed in terms of entry and visa bans to date. However, the U.S. authorities have recently introduced National Interest Exceptions (NIE), which allow travel to the USA for persons whose entry is of national interest. We explain where and how to request for exemption from the travel bans. Our visa experts will be happy to assist you with your NIE application!
In order to allow entry into the United States in times of Corona, certain exceptions have been created by the U.S. authorities. For persons who are actually affected by the visa and travel restrictions, entry into the United States is thus possible in exceptional cases – but only with prior official permission from the U.S. consulate.
These National Interest Exceptions (NIE) are exclusively based on national interests. Applicants must prove and justify that their entry into the United States is a matter of national interest in order to be exempted from the U.S. entry bans.
A NIE can be applied for:
The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will determine which foreign U.S. travelers are subject to these specific exemptions.
It cannot be clearly stated which persons may apply for a National Interest Exception (NIE), as on the one hand the exceptions are determined by the U.S. authorities and on the other the exceptions differ depending on the U.S. entry ban (Corona Travel Ban and / or NIV Entry Ban). Some U.S. travelers may even be affected by several entry bans at the same time and therefore they have to qualify for one or more different exceptions in order to obtain a U.S. visa and / or be allowed to travel to the United States.
In general the following individuals can obtain a National Interest Exception:
If you need assistance with your NIE application, please contact our visa specialists at any time.
Then, the respective U.S. entry bans must be distinguished.
The following persons, among others, may qualify for a NI exception from the Corona Travel Ban due to national interest:
|Corona Travel Ban National Interest Exception|
|all countries:||only Schengen area / United Kingdom / Ireland:|
|Health professionals working on COVID-19 containment||students (F-1 or M-1)*|
|harvest workers||traders (E-1) / investors (E-2)|
|service providers for U.S. authorities (e.g. military)||scientists (J-1)|
|individuals who bring significant benefit to the U.S. economy (specialists, executives, technical experts etc.)|
*no official NIE application necessary; entry directly possible.
Depending on the visa category (H, L, J), persons with the following critieria, among others, may qualify for a NI exception from the Nonimmigrant Visa Entry Ban due to national interest:
The list of criteria for NIE exceptions for the NIV Entry Ban is much more complex and extensive tcompared to the Corona Travel Ban. Depending on the visa category, different entry requirements must be met. This requires a very precise examination in advance.
For companies and their employees, therefore, it should be noted that certain business trips or work assignments resulting in significant economic benefits for the U.S. economy may be a reason for a National Interest Exception.
The application for National Interest Exception (NIE) must be submitted to the U.S. consulate, regardless of whether a valid visa or ESTA approval is available or whether a new U.S. visa is being applied for.
The application for a National Interest Exception (NIE) may differ depending on the country or U.S. consulate. To prove the urgency and importance of your trip to the United States, you generally need to prepare the following NIE application documents, among others:
We have already been able to submit many successful NIE applications for our customers in Europe. The application process for a National Interest Exception (NIE) at a U.S. consulate in Germany can be summarized as follows:
|NIE request with existing visa / ESTA
(only Corona Travel Ban NIEs)
|NIE request when applying for a visa
(Corona Travel Ban and / or NIV Entry Ban NIEs)
|1. Contact the U.S. consulate|
|request by e-mail to the responsible U.S. consulate||regular visa appointment or emergency appointment (depending on visa category and consulate)|
|2. Submission of the NIE application documents|
|via e-mail||during the visa appointment with regular visa application documentation|
|3. Examination by U.S. consulate|
|processing time approx. 2-7 days||examination on the day of the visa appointment if the conditions for visa and NIE(s) are met|
|4. Granted NIE(s)|
|NIE approval by e-mail||visa issuance|
|5. Refused NIE(s)|
|entry currently not possible||visa refusal (exclusion from VWP / ESTA, if applicable); entry currently not possible|
Please note: According to official announcements of the U.S. authorities, a NIE application is only possible if the applicant is physically located outside the Unites States. This means that the person must be in Germany, for example.
Are you unsure whether you qualify for a National Interest Exception? Or do you have trouble demonstrating the urgency and national interest of entering the United States? In the past weeks we have been very successful in gaining extensive experience with NIE applications in different U.S. embassies and U.S. consulates – for example, for holders or applicants of business visas (B) and work visas (E, L).
We would be happy to pass this know-how on to you by providing an assessment of whether you basically qualify for a NIE and / or by providing assistance with the application process. Contact us now to discuss your case!
Depending on the ban for which you apply for a National Interest Exception (NIE), there are different requirements for the potential entry into the United States.
An approved NI Exception for the Corona Travel Ban allows a single entry into the U.S. within 30 days from the date of approval. If a new trip to the United States is planned, a new NIE application must or can be submitted. Since the Corona Travel Ban is directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its containment, thus is intended to protect the American population, there are clear timelines.
An approved NI Exception for the NIV Entry Ban basically allows entry into the U.S. without time restrictions – in contrast to the NIE for the Corona Travel Ban.
The reason for that is, that the NIV Entry Ban was established to protect the U.S. labor market. This means that if persons qualify for a waiver, e.g. if they receive an L visa, there is no reason to allow them to enter the U.S. only within a certain period of time after visa issuance.
Entry into the U.S. is currently only possible to a very limited extent due to the Corona crisis. Only a few persons, such as U.S. citizens or Green Card holders, are exempt from the U.S. entry bans. Since the U.S. government has issued several entry bans for different persons or regions and with different terms in each case, it can only be answered individually when entry to the United States will be possible again. The following distinction must be made here:
Our visa experts help companies and their employees individually with their NIE application.
Submit your visa request now!