Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a far-reaching entry ban has been in place for months and in order to still permit certain travelers/visitors to the US, the U.S. authorities have introduced the National Interest Exception (NIE), which allows travel to the U.S. for persons whose entry is of national interest. Until now, National Interest Exceptions, (NIEs) only allowed a single entry into the United States within 30 days of approval so that ESTA travelers or visa holders from travel ban countries had to obtain new authorization for each new entry into the United States.
However, on on July 5, 2021, the USCIS announced the following changes to NIE regulations:
1. U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents are exempt from the ban
2. Immigrant visa holders are not subject to Presidential Proclamation 10199 related to India, and they remain excepted from the other geographic COVID proclamations per the Secretary of State. K visa holders are also able to travel without any additional processing from the Embassy or Consulates.
3. Travelers who already possess a valid student (F-1or M-1) visa and who will begin or resume their programs on or after August 1, 2021, may travel to the United States without further action from the Embassy or Consulates in India. Direct travel to the United States from India with an F-1 or M-1 visa may begin no more than 30 days prior to the start date of a student’s classes.
4. Travelers who already possess a valid student (F-1 or M-1) visa, including those continuing Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) programs, and who will resume their programs on or after August 1, 2021, may travel to the United States without further action from the Embassy or Consulates in India. Travel to the United States from India with an F-1 or M-1 visa may begin no more than 30 days prior to the resumption date of a student’s classes or CPT/OPT program.
Nonimmigrant visa holders (including H-1B holders) who are not subject to Presidential Proclamation 10199 based on their familial relationship to a U.S. citizen or LPR spouse or unmarried minor child (see above) do not need a National Interest Exception. Such travelers should bring proof of the qualifying relationship to present to airline officials when initiating travel to the United States.
5. The Proclamation does not apply to non-U.S. citizen travelers with certain qualifying familial relationships with a U.S. citizen or Legal Permanent Resident (LPR). Non-U.S. citizen travelers possessing derivative visas and who do not have a qualifying familial relationship are subject to the Proclamation and require NIEs before commencing travel to the United States from India. See above for instructions on applying for an NIE.
We, at Emandi Law Firm, are closely monitoring developments in this regard and will keep you posted with further updates.