Expansion of National Interest Exception Travel

Eligible travelers

 

On July 16, the State Department announced that certain travelers subject to Presidential Proclamations 9993 and 9996 (which suspended travel to the United States from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland), may qualify for a National Interest Exception for non-tourist travel to the United States.  Some of the categories of travelers that may qualify for a National Interest Exception to the Presidential Proclamation include:

  • Humanitarian: For example, if you are having a child born to surrogacy in the United States; you require urgent medical treatment in the United States; or you have an immediate family member in the United States who is gravely ill.
  • Economic: Temporary travel that provides a substantial economic benefit to the U.S. economy.  Examples may include: technical experts and specialists, senior-level managers and executives, professional athletes and essential staff.
  • Investors: Including investors/treaty-traders and senior-level employees who are essential to the success of the investment in the United States.
  • Students: Traveling to the United States to pursue a full course of study or participate in an exchange program as a bona fide student.
  • Academics: All exchange visitors traveling to the United States in the following categories: Professors, Research Scholars, Short Term Scholars, Specialists.
  • Any other travel that is in the national interest of the United States.

Travelers Without Valid Visas

 

If you believe that you qualify for a National Interest Exception, need to travel immediately, and require a visa, please send an e-mail to oslovisa@state.gov. Kindly include a short summary of your situation and supporting documents.

We strongly recommend that all current and prospective F-1 and M-1 students review the comprehensive Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) FAQ and clarifying questions for students for fall 2020. This includes important new information about full course of study requirements and online learning, Form I-20, employment, and the SEVIS fee.  Please note that new students beginning their program may not travel to attend schools that are only offering online instruction, even if they hold a valid student visa.  Admission to the United States is a matter for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the U.S. Port of Entry and all travelers are subject to questioning. No assurances are given in advance.

Applicants for H1B, H2B, H4, L and certain J categories covered by Presidential Proclamation 10052 should request an appointment only if you have reason to believe you may qualify for one of the exceptions listed in the Proclamation here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspending-entry-aliens-present-risk-u-s-labor-market-following-coronavirus-outbreak/.

 

Travelers With Valid Visas

 

Existing students with valid F or M visas and a valid I-20 form may travel to the United States without notifying the embassy to request an exception.  However, if a program is exclusively offering online instruction, students may return to the United States only if they were enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020.  Please see the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) FAQ and clarifying questions for students for fall 2020 for more guidance.

All other travelers who already have valid visas must receive approval for a national interest exception prior to travel.  To do so, travelers must send the following information to oslovisa@state.gov:

  1. A scanned copy of their visa
  2. A scanned copy of their passport biographic page
  3. A few sentences explaining the purpose of travel

Travelers should allow three business days for the Embassy to review their documents and qualifications.  Travelers will be notified by e-mail if they receive approval for an exception.

Limitations of National Interest Exception Travel

 

Although travelers approved for a national interest exception will be issued full-validity visas, the exception is only valid for a single entry within 30 days of approval.  An individual who departs the United States and wishes to return must be re-assessed for a new national interest exception.

All individuals are reminded that their admission remains subject to a determination by Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry and that they may be subject to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.