USA Prolongs Validity of NIE for Schengen Nationals
On 6 July, the US State Department decided to extend its National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) validity for passengers subject to restrictions under COVID-19 travel bans.
The United States has implemented numerous COVID-related travel bans over the past 18 months to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Countries impacted include travellers present in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and India.
Although travel industry leaders have urged the White House to lift coronavirus restrictions that bar much of the world from travelling to the United States, a White House official reportedly stated that reopening will need more discussion
A Welcome Change
This welcome change from the US Department of State will ease international travel for nationals of countries subject to travel bans. Previously, the national interest waivers would be granted for a limited 30 day period for a single entry only. Under the new policy, NIEs will be valid for 12 months from the date of approval as well as for multiple entries if they are used for the purpose under which they were given.
In addition, this extension applies retroactively to all NIEs approved in the last 12 months. This means that those who have already been issued an NIE may use that existing NIE for entry into the US for 12 months following the approval date as long as the purpose of the new travel is the same as the purpose for which the NIE was granted.
Individuals with a previously approved NIE should carry documentation showing that the NIE was granted and the purpose of the travel.
It is also important to keep in mind that while travel restrictions might be easing, US consular posts which issue nonimmigrant work visas and those that process permanent immigrant visa processing are still not operating at pre-pandemic levels, and NIEs have become increasingly difficult to obtain. US embassies and consulates are struggling to meet the demand for consular services due to COVID-related closures, staffing shortages, restrictive qualifying criteria, and backlogged visa and NIE applications, and resulting in frequent appointment cancellation and delays.
Extending the validity of NIEs, including that of previously issued NIEs, should help to relieve some of the demand for consular services while facilitating critical travel to the U.S.
To know how to start your application to bypass the US travel ban, check out our National Interest Exception blog post.
Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, European countries are gradually permitting travellers from the United States to enter their territories, even for non-essential travel. The US has been added to the EU’s safe list so American travellers may enter EU member states without any restrictions like COVID test and quarantine.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that “progress was being made” on the negotiations between the US and the UK, but reports suggest it might still be some time before people can travel freely between countries.
Have you applied for an exception to travel to the United States? Talk to us in the comments section below.
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If you need help with your NIE Application, a US visa, a UK Visa, or visa to Europe, including help with appointment booking obligations, IaM can help. For more information and advice on US immigration, UK immigration law and US visa applications or if you need any help or assistance please, reach out to your Visa Coordinator at IaM.
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