The U.S. State Department has extended the validity period of national interest exceptions (NIEs) for travelers who are subject to U.S. COVID-19 entry bans.

Key Points:

  • Unless otherwise indicated, existing NIEs will be valid for 12 months from the date of approval and for multiple entries, as long as they are used for the same purpose under which they were granted. Previously, NIEs were valid for 30 days and a single entry.
  • The extension applies to travelers who are eligible for an NIE to U.S. restrictions on entry of foreign nationals who have been physically present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom or the Schengen Area in the past 14 days. It also applies to individuals who currently have approved NIEs or were granted NIEs in conjunction with a visa application.
  • Depending on the specific scenario, NIEs may be available to academics, students and journalists; those traveling for humanitarian reasons, public health response or national security; and those providing vital support or “executive direction” for critical infrastructure or significant economic activity in the U.S.
  • The State Department has deemed travel on immigrant, fiancé, and F and M student visas to be in the national interest, and these groups of visa holders do not require advance NIE approval from a consulate. Additional information about eligibility for exceptions is available on the agency’s website here.

BAL Analysis: The change will ease travel procedures for those who qualify for an NIE to the U.S.’s COVID-19 entry restrictions. It is important to note that to be valid for 12 months for multiple entries, the NIE must be used for the same purpose under which it was granted. Employers and employees are reminded that a number of travel restrictions remain in place, and the government issues frequent updates to its guidance. Many consulates continue to operate at a limited 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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