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Client Alert: Department of State Expands Criteria for National Interest Exceptions for Travelers from COVID-Restricted Countries


On May 27, 2021, the US Department of State (DOS) expanded the National Interest Exception (NIE) criteria for individuals subject to proclamations restricting travel to the United States due to physical presence in China, Iran, India, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

The following categories of travelers may now apply and qualify for NIE:

  • Individuals providing vital support or executive direction for critical infrastructure;
  • Individuals providing vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the United States;
  • Journalists;
  • Students and certain exchange visitors;
  • Immigrants; and
  • Fiancés.

The Department of State also continues to grant NIEs for qualified travelers seeking to enter the United States from the restricted countries for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security.

Travelers in the above categories who have a valid visa stamp in the appropriate class or valid ESTA authorization for travel under the Visa Waiver Program seeking to travel to the United States should request the NIE from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling. Those needing a visa stamp should request the NIE when applying for the visa stamp. If approved, the NIE is valid for a single entry to the United States within 30 days of approval.

Students with valid F-1 or M-1 visa stamps traveling to begin or continue an academic program, or those who will be applying for visas, do not need an individual NIE to travel as they are automatically considered for NIE. Students who have been present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, or South Africa are eligible for NIE only if their program of study, including Optional Practical Training (OPT), will begin on or after August 1, 2021. Students may enter the United States up to 30 days before the start of their program of study.

Travelers requiring a visa stamp and/or NIE should review the website of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for further instructions specific to the post.

Please contact your Klasko Law attorney with any questions on this new development.  

The material contained in this alert does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.  An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation.  The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

© 2021 Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP.  All rights reserved. Information may not be reproduced, displayed, modified, or distributed without the express prior written permission of Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP.  For permission, contact

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