The U.S. State Department announced Thursday that travel of immigrants, fiancé(e) visa holders, certain exchange visitors, and pilots and aircrew will be eligible for National Interest Exemptions (NIEs) to the United States’ COVID-19 regional travel bans.

Key Points:

  • Immigrant and fiancé(e) visas. Applicants for immigrant visas and fiancé(e) visas (K visas) are now exempt from the regional travel bans and will be able to obtain visas if otherwise eligible.
  • Exchange visitors. Exemptions will also be provided to certain exchange visitors, including au pairs, interns, trainees and teachers who meet certain criteria. The full list of eligible exchange visitors is available here.
  • Pilots and aircrew. Travel by pilots and aircrew traveling to the U.S. for training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance will also be deemed in the national interest for purposes of granting exemptions under the bans.

Background: Regional travel bans bar most foreign nationals from entering the U.S. if they have been physically present in Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom or the Schengen Area in the 14 days before attempting to enter the U.S. U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, spouses and children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, and a limited number of others are exempt. 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.

The State Department is in the process of a phased resumption of visa services. Consular operations vary by post, and applicants should monitor embassy and consulate websites for updates on availability of visa services.

BAL Analysis: The new exemptions will make travel to the United States easier for some, but a number of restrictions remain in place. Consulates continue to operate at reduced capacity, and applicants should expect significant delays in obtaining visa appointments as operations gradually resume. 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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