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Key Points

  • The DOS is permitting more individuals to qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE)
  • Qualified individuals may enter the US while COVID-19 travel restrictions are in place
  • Individuals allowed to enter the US with an NIE are still subject to existing COVID-19 policies
  • Aside from those with NIEs, individuals traveling from regions with a COVID-19 travel ban may not enter the country
  • Updates on US COVID-19 travel restrictions will be provided as available

Overview

The US Department of State (DOS) has expanded its list of individuals who are eligible for a National Interest Exception (NIE) to enter the US while regional COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in effect.

What are the Changes?

The State Department is now permitting more individuals to receive an NIE, which allows them to get an exception to enter the US despite their presence in countries impacted by regional COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Individuals who are otherwise subject to the existing travel bans may now qualify for an NIE to enter the US if they are seeking to provide vital support or executive direction for critical infrastructure or significant economic activity in the US Additionally, journalists, immigrants, fiancées, students, and certain exchange visitor program participants are now eligible for an NIE.

Along with the new categories above, eligibility for an NIE still applies to the following individuals:

  • Immigrant and fiancé (K) visa applicants
  • Certain exchange visitors (including interns, trainees, teachers, and au pairs) who meet specific, limited criteria
  • Pilots and aircrew who are traveling to the US for training or aircraft maintenance, pickup, and delivery

What Should Employers and Applicants Know?

While the above exceptions will allow more persons to travel to the US from impacted countries, the added business and professional exceptions are limited and not applicable to most industries.

The exceptions include:

  • Au pairs who support children with special needs or children whose parents work in COVID-19 medical care
  • Persons traveling to the US as government agency-sponsored exchange visitors, specialized teachers, and those in support of critical foreign policy objectives
  • Pilots and aircrew for training or aircraft pickup, delivery or maintenance

As such, persons physically present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, the UK or the Schengen Area must continue to understand the impact of the ban and any visa and entry options to meet their business and personal needs. Further, all travelers to the US who are arriving by air must provide evidence of negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel. Alternatively, travelers can present documentation proving recovery from a recent COVID-19 infection.

Looking Ahead

Updates will be provided as available on changes to US COVID-19 entry restrictions.

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