The U.S. State Department has provided new guidance on eligibility for national interest exemptions (NIEs) to the U.S.’s regional travel bans, including a new exemption for travelers providing “executive direction” for critical infrastructure or significant economic activity in the U.S.

Key Points:

  • Under the new guidance, travelers may qualify for a national interest exemption to enter the U.S. if they will “provide vital support or executive direction” for critical infrastructure or “significant economic activity in the United States.”
  • The NIE guidance remains unchanged for eligible immigrants, fiancés, academics, students and journalists and those traveling for humanitarian reasons, public health response or national security.

Background: The regional travel bans bar entry to many foreign nationals who have been physically present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom or the Schengen Area in the 14 days before entry. The bans will remain in place until President Joe Biden lifts or modifies them. The State Department has updated its NIE guidance multiple times, most recently on May 27 and, before that, in late April. Anyone traveling to the U.S. by air must provide documentation of a negative viral COVID-19 test taken within three days of travel or evidence of recovery from a recent COVID-19 infection.

BAL Analysis: The inclusion of “executive direction” in the NIE guidance is a departure from previous guidance that limited eligibility of senior managers and executives for exemptions. Employers and employees are reminded that a number of travel restrictions remain in place. Consulates also continue to operate at reduced capacity, and applicants should expect significant delays in obtaining visa appointments. Foreign nationals should continue to consult their BAL professional before planning international travel.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact

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