National Interest Exceptions for Regional COVID-related Travel Bans Updated
On May 27, 2021, the Department of State announced that available exceptions to Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9984, 9992, 10143, 10199 have been expanded.
Travelers subject to these proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, India, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland may now qualify for a National Interest Exception if:
- seeking to provide vital support or executive direction for critical infrastructure; or
- seeking to provide vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the United States.
Previously, exceptions to the travel bans were only available for those providing vital support for critical infrastructure. This criteria has been expanded to also include those seeking to provide executive direction for critical infrastructure. Critical Infrastructure includes: Chemical Sector, Commercial Facilities Sector, Communications Sector, Critical Manufacturing Sector, Dams Sector, Defense Industrial Base Sector, Emergency Services Sector, Energy Sector, Financial Services Sector, Food and Agriculture Sector, Government Facilities Sector, Healthcare and Public Health Sector, Information Technology Sector, Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector, Transportation Systems Sector, Water and Wastewater Systems Sector.
Further, a new exception was added for those that will provide either vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity. The announcement did not provide any guidance regarding what may qualify as significant economic activity. The website of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Germany have spelled out the following criteria for these new exceptions:
a) Executive direction in connection with vital support of Critical Infrastructure Sectors as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, or supply chain directly linked to Critical Infrastructure Sectors.
b) Travel to provide vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the United States. This applies to:
- Travel to support a major entertainment production conducted in the United States that would not go on without the traveler.
- Travel by highly specialized professionals or experts to install, service, maintain, or receive necessary training for vessels, machinery and other critical equipment required by U.S. and foreign firms with a substantial investment in the United States.
- Travel by executives and senior-level employees providing strategy and direction to U.S. and foreign firms with a substantial investment in the United States.
c) The Secretary’s determination also covers travel by dependents when the principal’s travel falls within the categories above and that travel would be reasonably expected to include dependents and is planned to last four weeks or more.
Travelers in categories described above who already have a valid visa or who have a valid ESTA authorization for travel under the Visa Waiver Program and seek to travel for purposes consistent with ESTA authorization, must contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling to verify qualification for a NIE.
Travelers who require a visa must apply through the normal visa application process and then follow instructions from the consulate or embassy for how to establish eligibility for a NIE and obtain an emergency visa interview appointment. If a NIE is granted, the visa holder must travel to the United States within 30 days. The NIE is only valid for one entry to the U.S.