When the COVID pandemic hit, many countries enforced travel bans, and the U.S. was one of them. This meant people who were supposed to travel to the U.S. for work or higher studies couldn't do so. In September 2021, the U.S. Government announced that it would open its doors to fully vaccinated foreigners starting November. So, what is NIE, and where does it stand in the light of the travel ban to the U.S. being lifted? Read on to find out.
What is NIE?
NIE stands for National Interest Exception. As travel bans are still in place, exceptions are made for people who can't postpone their travel. These people need to prove that their presence is vital and their entry into the U.S. is in national interest.
How is the current travel ban affecting travel to the U.S.?
Travelers from the UK, Ireland, the Schengen region, China, India, Iran, South Africa, and Brazil cannot enter the United States if they have been in one of those countries in the previous 14 days unless they meet one of several exceptions.
Some individuals, such as U.S. citizens and permanent residents, are exempt from the current travel bans. Others are required to apply for National Interest Exception (NIE) before being issued a visa to the United States or are traveling with a previously issued visa.
Who has the authority to approve someone for NIE?
The U.S. consulate or U.S. embassy determines who is eligible for NIE.
When do you have to apply for NIE?
It's mandatory to apply for NIE exemption before you travel.
Who doesn't need to apply for NIE?
U.S. citizens and Green card holders and don't need to apply for NIE.
Who qualifies for NIE?
a. Holders of a valid U.S. visa
b. Holders of a valid ESTA travel authorization
c. Applicants for a new U.S. visa
When can you apply for NIE?
You can apply for NIE if you fall into any of these categories:
a) You're seeking lifesaving treatment in the U.S. In this case, even close family members are eligible.
b) You are traveling to take care of a U.S. citizen who is a close family member. This falls under the 'humanitarian travel' category.
c) You are traveling for medical research. This falls under the 'public health' category.
d) You're a pilot or member of an aircrew traveling for training, aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance.
e) You work in any of the critical infrastructure sectors listed below or support significant economic activity in the U.S.
- Commercial facilities
- Critical manufacturing
- Defense industrial base
- Emergency services
- Financial services
- Food and agriculture
- Government facilities
- Healthcare and public health
- Information technology
- Nuclear reactors, materials, and waste
- Transportation systems
- Water and wastewater systems
How long is NIE valid?
Once you're granted. it's valid for 12 months.
How will the lifting of the travel ban in November 2021 change things?
Starting November, anyone traveling to the U.S. needs to show a vaccination certificate and a negative COVID test to enter the country. But there are a few exceptions - children, people participating in vaccine clinical trials, and those who have urgent travel needs for humanitarian reasons but lack access to vaccination still need to apply for NIE.
Being fully vaccinated, producing your certificate, and a COVID negative test increase the odds in your favor of gaining entry into the U.S. If you can produce these documents, there is no need to apply for a NIE.