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State Department Expands Validity of National Interest Exceptions to Regional COVID Travel Bans

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The State Department has extended the validity of its national interest exceptions (NIEs) to the regional COVID-19 travel bans to a year, multiple-entry validity, effective immediately. Earlier, these NIEs were valid for 30 days and a single entry only. The policy change affects NIEs gave under the all of the existing travel bans. For those present in the following nations within 14 days of trying to enter the United States. Brazil, China, India, Iran, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

This new State Department policy is taking effect right now and also applies to NIEs gave in the last 12 months. As long as the foreign national’s purpose of travel remains the same as when the NIE was at first given. Existing NIEs can be utilized for a year from their approval date for a similar reason under which they were granted.

At this time, however, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has not changed the validity of NIEs gave at CBP ports of entry and pre-flight inspection sites. CBP-issued NIEs appear to remain valid for 30 days and a single entry for now. Stakeholders are looking for clarity on CBP’s position following the State Department change.

State Department Expands Validity of NIE to Regional COVID Travel Bans

New NIEs gave by the State Department should now be given with a year, numerous entry validity. People who were given an NIE by a consulate or embassy within the last year and look to enter the United State. For a similar reason should be able to use that NIE for travel until the one-year expiration. The expiration will be one year from the NIE approval date. For instance, if the NIE was given on 1st January 2021, the expiration date would be 31st December 2021.

It remains not yet clear how barely the U.S. government will construe travel “for the same purpose.”

People issued an NIE more than a year ago or whose purpose of travel has changed. Will be needed to apply for an NIE under the current eligibility standards. National interest eligibility categories and criteria change frequently and without notice. Those traveling on immigrant, fiancé(e), and F and M student visas have the benefit of blanket NIEs. And do not need to seek individual NIEs from the U.S. government. However, students under certain regional bans should follow a few restrictions on their dates of travel.

What this means for foreign nationals and employers

The State Department NIE validity expansion should ease travel planning for certain foreign nationals who are looking for or have been given NIEs from a U.S. consulate or embassy. For a year after consular NIE approval, people traveling for a similar reason. Won’t have to submit a new NIE request. As the new policy is implemented, we should learn more about what the government considers travel “for the same purpose”. And whether one can utilize an NIE gave in various visa classifications. If travel is generally for the same purpose (for instance, whether an NIE gave with an L visa might be utilized for O-1 travel on the same project).

[EB-5 Regional Center Program to Expire on June 30]

Those utilizing the extended NIE validity policy are still advised to plan travel with flexibility in the context of the ongoing COVID emergency. Changes to travel ban policies and COVID travel restrictions happen with little or no notice. And may substantially delay or prevent re-entry to the United States.

As an update, for international airline passengers ages two years and older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires a negative COVID test or proof of recent COVID recovery to travel to the United States.

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