Until now, it had been unclear if the new Biden administration would keep these bans in in effect and if NIEs would still be possible.
Following steps taken last year to limit travel from Europe to the United States, the Department of State confirmed on February 10, 2021, that certain travelers from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom and Ireland can continue to qualify for national interest exceptions (NIEs) under the existing presidential proclamations 9993 (Schengen Area) and 9996 (United Kingdom and Ireland). These proclamations (effective March 13, 2020, and March 16, 2020, respectively), issued in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, stated that (with some exemptions) nonimmigrants and immigrants who were physically present in one of the respective areas during the 14-day period preceding their (attempted) entry into the United States would not be permitted to enter. Until now, it had been unclear if the new Biden administration would keep these bans in in effect and if NIEs would still be possible based on related State Department guidance last issued on October 1, 2020.
The Department of State has now confirmed that:
- Students traveling from one of these areas with valid F-1 or M-1 visas need not contact a U.S. consular post to seek an NIE, and students applying for such a visa will automatically be considered for an NIE.
- Business travelers (not travelers for tourism or pleasure), investors and treaty traders, academics and J-1 students who either already have a valid visa in the appropriate class or an ESTA (visa waiver) authorization issued prior to the applicable March 2020 effective date, or who wish to apply for the appropriate visa, can apply for an NIE at a U.S. consular post. If the NIE is approved, the traveler may use the appropriate visa or ESTA authorization to enter the United States.
This State Department guidance does not apply to travelers from other countries previously also subject to an entry ban, including China, Iran, Brazil and South Africa. Travel from such countries remains subject to the respective ban and any exemptions. Duane Morris will continue to provide updates on developments related to travel bans.
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