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NIE Waiver Eligibility Guidance Revised

NIE Waiver Eligibility Guidance Revised

New guidance from the US State Department has been issued broadening eligibility for National Interest Exemption (NIE) waivers to the US regional travel bans.

From April 26, 2021, the NIE categories for all existing regional bans include:

  • Foreign nationals seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure, which could be travel pursuant to H, L, O, B, Visa Waiver, or other nonimmigrant business or work categories.
  • Journalists.
  • F and M students.
  • Certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs.

Business travel

Under the revised guidance, business travel permitted for “vital support for critical infrastructure” is now applicable to all regions affected by the US travel ban, not just travel from Ireland, the United Kingdom and the Schengen Area.

The change effectively makes the NIE requirements the same across all countries affected by the regional travel ban.


Students who have been present in Brazil, China, Iran or South Africa, as well as those traveling from Ireland, the United Kingdom or the Schengen Area, in the 14 days prior to entering the US may qualify for an NIE where their academic program begins on or after Aug. 1, 2021.

Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program on or after Aug. 1, 2021 may enter the US no more than 30 days before the start of their academic studies and will not need an NIE to travel.

Individuals seeking to apply for new student visas under the F-1 or M-1 classifications, who are otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa, will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel.

Regional travel bans

The US regional travel bans remain in effect for most non-US nationals who have been physically present in any of the stated countries within 14 days prior to entry into the US.

The countries affected by the regional travel ban are: Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom or the Schengen Area.

Travelers who qualify under an NIE waiver are permitted to travel where they have been granted a waiver. The guidance on NIE waivers and eligibility have been subject to a number of revisions.

NIE waivers continue to be permitted for those seeking to enter the US for purposes relating to humanitarian travel, public health response or national security, as well as certain exchange program visitors such as J-1 au pairs, interns, trainees, and specialized teachers, among others.

All travelers to the US must meet all current and applicable travel and entry rules, which at present includes the requirements to provide documentary evidence of a negative viral COVID-19 test taken within three days of travel or evidence of recovery from a recent COVID-19 infection.

US immigration advice

As a dedicated team of US attorneys based in London, NNU Immigration are advising multinational employers, entrepreneurs, investors, workers and other non-US nationals on US travel plans in light of the ongoing travel and entry restrictions due to the pandemic.

While restrictions remain in place and consulates are operating at reduced capacity, foreign nationals are advised to seek guidance from the experts at NNU Immigration before planning travel to the US.

To determine if you are eligible to travel under an NIE waiver, 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.

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

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