A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration lawyer. We serve clients in all U.S. states and overseas countries. (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

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Monday, June 7, 2021

Update on National Interest Exception Qualification - F-1, K-1, Immigrants, ESTA, etc.


The pandemic has dragged on into 2021 and it remains difficult to travel due to travel restrictions. The Department of  State has updated their policy on what exempts travelers from China, Iran, India, Brazil, South Africa, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland from the ongoing U.S. entry ban. The following is the updated policy as of May 27, 2021.

People from the aforementioned areas can travel if it is for one of the following purposes. Journalists, immigrants, fiancĂ©(e)s, exchange students and visitors of certain programs, and anyone traveling to provide vital economic and infrastructural support can enter. People looking to enter for humanitarian or public health response reasons can also qualify for this exemption. 

Qualified travelers can seek a NIE (National Interest Exception) visa or ESTA authorization (visa waiver) from their closest consulate/embassy. A NIE is valid for 30 days and good for only 1 trip to the U.S.

Students on a M-1 or F-1 visa do not need to request an individual NIE but can simply enter at most 30 days before their program begins. They are automatically considered for NIE qualification when found to be qualified for the F-1 or M-1 visa. If the student was in Brazil, China, India, Iran, or South Africa, then only programs beginning on or after August 1, 2021 qualify them for NIE . 

It has been difficult to travel for over a year now. Travel by NIE is a possible option for people that cannot delay their travel to the U.S. any longer. Anyone that thinks they meet the criteria is encouraged to consult their local embassy's website. 

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