The U.S. State Department this week moved to tighten the standards for National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) to the U.S.’s entry ban on most travel from Europe.

Key Points:

  • On Tuesday, March 2, the State Department rescinded its previous national interest determination related to Presidential Proclamation 10143, which bans most travel from Ireland, the United Kingdom and any of the Schengen Area countries.
  • Under the previous policy, NIEs were available to certain technical experts and specialists, senior-level managers and executives, treaty traders and investors, professional athletes, and their dependents.
  • The agency announcement states that now, NIEs will only be available for business travel if it is related to providing vital support for critical infrastructure. Consular posts have indicated that they will follow the Department of Homeland Security’s designations of critical infrastructure sectors, and some posts have advised that senior executives and managers traveling to observe operations, hold regular meetings with clients, or for routine operational travel may not be eligible for an exemption.
  • NIE policies remain unchanged for academics, students and journalists and those traveling for humanitarian reasons, public health response or national security.
  • NIEs issued under the previous policy will remain valid.

BAL Analysis: The Department of State announced the new policy on its website and individual consulates have provided guidance, but the official directive from the agency to consular posts is not publicly available. Foreign nationals should consult their BAL professional before planning international travel. COVID-19 physical presence bans remain in effect for Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the Schengen Area countries. Additionally, the work visa ban remains in place and is scheduled to expire on March 31.

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

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