Investors & visa workers among those exempt from US travel ban

Details of exemptions to the current US travel ban were announced on July 16, 2020 by the Department of State.

US embassies now have much-needed guidance on the types of visas they can process as National Interest Exceptions to the US travel ban.

The current travel restrictions fall under the Presidential Proclamation from June 22, which is due to expire on December 31 2020, unless extended.

Expanded list of exemptions

The following may qualify for National Interest Exemptions (NIEs) to the ban on entry:

  • Work visa holders traveling to the US for a temporary stay to provide a substantial economic benefit to the U.S. economy, including:
    • Technical experts and specialists to install, service, maintain, or receive training for vessels, machinery and other specialized equipment used by U.S. and foreign firms with a substantial investment in the United States. Travel is temporary in nature and for a defined period of time.
    • Senior-level managers and executives, and their dependents, who provide strategic direction necessary for the success of the company or venture.
    • Professional athletes, dependents, and essential staff who enter the United States to participate in major sporting events, which bolster the U.S. economy.
  • Investors traveling in connection with investment or trade in the U.S. economy that generates a substantial economic impact, including investors and treaty-traders on E visas and the senior-level employees who provide strategic direction or expertise essential to the success of the investment, and their dependents.
  • Academics and all exchange visitors and their dependents traveling to the United States on J visas in the following categories: Professors, Research Scholars, Short Term Scholars, or Specialists.
  • Spouses and children of select visa holders, including L, J, and H, who meet the current exception criteria, or in instances where the principal applicant is already in the United States.
  • Students and their dependents, traveling to the United States on an F or M visa to pursue a full course of study or on a J visa to participate in an exchange program as a bona fide student.
  • Foreign nationals entering the country for humanitarian travel, national security, and public health response.
  • Select H and J visa applicants who are traveling to the U.S. to support a critical U.S. foreign objective, such as combatting COVID-19, and/or who are traveling by request of the U.S. government.
  • Applicants who are subject to aging out of their current immigrant visa classification before Presidential Proclamation 10052 expires (currently December 31, 2020), or within two weeks following the Proclamation’s expiration

Business travelers & students

Travelers who believe they fall under one of the exception categories above should apply for their visas as normal.

Business travelers or students intending to travel from the Schengen area, UK, or Ireland, whether they need to apply for a visa or whether to confirm that an existing visa or ESTA authorization remains valid for travel, should take advice to ascertain their eligibility for the NIE.

Approval for NIE will need to be obtained from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.

A final determination regarding each applicant’s qualifications for a visa and for the NIE will be made by a consular officer at the time of the interview.

With NIE approval, they may travel on either a valid visa or ESTA authorization, as appropriate. Some conditions apply to travel, which will be explained in the interview.

Note that students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual national interest exception to travel.

US immigration advice

NNU Immigration is actively monitoring the impact of the pandemic on US immigration policy and application processing.

As the situation continues to develop, please contact our US immigration specialists for the latest advice for your specific circumstances.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

Last updated: July 29, 2020