As many of you know US has banned entry of travelers from India and other countries as a proactive measure to control the pandemic situation. Also, the US travel ban applies to Schengen Area, UK, Ireland, China, Iran, Brazil, and South Africa. One thing that is common across all these countries travel bans is National Interest Exception (NIE) for working professionals like someone on H1B, L1, Other work visas.
As per the guidance, the person trying to enter US or get visa need to provide “vital support for critical infrastructure”. In this article we will review the list of 16 critical infrastructure sectors, what does vital support mean to qualify for NIE, what does not qualify, and how to request for the NIE.
What are the 16 Critical Infrastructure Sectors in US?
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is the US Federal Agency that defines the list of critical infrastructure sectors and how they operate. As per CISA, below are the list of 16 critical infrastructure sectors and brief description of what each of the sector includes.
- Chemical Sector: This sector includes manufacturing, storing, using and transportation of all kinds of chemicals that include basic chemicals, specialty chemicals, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and consumer products. Read more at cisa.gov chemical sector
- Commercial facilities Sector: This sector includes anything that draws large crowds of people for shopping, entertainment, business, or lodging. It includes places like shopping malls, retail centers, apartment buildings, condos, office space, movie studios, news channels, casinos, hotels, motels, theme parks, stadiums, zoos, sports leagues, etc. Read more at cisa.gov commercial facilities sector
- Communications Sector: This sector includes anything that provides voice, satellite, wireless and other communication services. It includes mobile services, landline phones, broadband internet, etc. Read more at cisa.gov communications sector
- Critical manufacturing Sector : This sector is related to manufacturing of primary metals, machinery manufacturing, electrical equipment & components manufacturing, transportation equipment manufacturing. Read more at cisa.gov critical manufacturing sector
- Dams Sector : This sector includes anything that includes water retention and control services such as hydro power plants, municipal & industrial water supplies, irrigation, flood control, waste management, river navigation, etc. Read more at cisa.gov dams sector
- Defense Industrial base Sector : This sector includes design, development, R&D, production, delivery, maintenance of military weapons systems, US military requirements, etc. Read more at cisa.gov defense industrial base sector
- Emergency Services Sector : This sector includes anything that deals with emergency services at federal, state, local governments like city police dept, fire stations, town public works, industrial fire department, private security, private emergency medical services, etc. Read more at cisa.gov emergency services sector
- Energy Sector : This sector includes anything that deals with electricity, oil and natural gas like power plants, coal plants, solar, pipeline & distribution of the same, etc. Read more at cisa.gov energy sector
- Financial Services Sector : This sector includes anything that deals with carrying out operations related to investments, banking, credit, insurance, investment funds, and other financial related areas. Read more at cisa.gov financial services sector
- Food and Agriculture Sector: This sector includes everything that deals with farms, restaurants, food manufacturing, processing, storage of food and related areas, including live stock. Read more at cisa.gov food and agriculture sector
- Government Facilities Sector: This sector includes buildings related to federal, state, local and tribal governments. It includes courts, consulates, embassies, national labs, access control systems, CCTV systems, etc. that are related to US Govt. facilities. Read more at cisa.gov government facilities sector
- Healthcare and Public Health Sector : This sector includes everything that deals with infectious disease outbreaks, terrorism, natural disasters, other public health related aspects. Read more at cisa.gov healthcare and public health sector
- Information Technology Sector : This sector deals with anything that provides hardware, software, internet and information technology systems and services for the national security, economy, public health and safety for US Govt, academia, and others. Read more at cisa.gov information technology sector
- Nuclear reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector : This sector deals with nuclear power reactors, radioactive materials, disposal of the same. It includes all of these reactors related to national electricity, research and test reactors and materials related to the same. Read more at cisa.gov nuclear reactor, materials, waste sector
- Transportation Systems Sector: This sector relates to anything that deals with transportation systems such as aircrafts, air traffic control systems, airports, highways, sea ports, mass transit systems like subways, pipelines, freight rail, postal and shipping, and many others. Read more at cisa.gov transportation systems sector
- Water and Wastewater Systems Sector : This sector deals with public drinking water systems, wastewater treatment plants, sanitary sewerage treated by wastewater systems, etc. Read more at cisa.gov water and wastewater systems
You can read more on the Critical Infrastructure Sectors and guidance given during COVID for operations during pandemic.
What is “vital support for critical infrastructure sectors” for getting NIE ?
As per US Department of Homeland Security(DHS) ‘vital support for critical infrastructure sectors’ means providing essential support activities in the above 16 critical infrastructure sectors as defined by CISA like below :
- installation, acquisition, maintenance & essential safety training
- doing anything necessary to sustain the supply and production chains
- functions performed by specialists and individuals essential for continuity in the given sector
If you are a working professional on H1B, L1, other work visa, you can get National Interest exception (NIE) to get US visa and travel to US only if you perform activities that are listed like above. Below is the screenshot of the exact guidance given by US Consulate in Germany previously explaining what is meant by “support for critical infrastructure sectors”. You can check official at AILA.org
Who are not included in “vital support for critical infrastructure sectors” for NIE?
Even if someone is working in one of the listed 16 critical infrastructure sectors, they may not qualify for NIE, if they do not perform on the ground or hands-on activities as listed above. Below list of personnel are not included in the vital support category for getting NIE.
- Senior Managers or Executives, who are primarily focused on observing operations, conduct meetings, regular travel for checking the progress or anything as such.
- Any senior level employees, such as investors, treaty traders (E1, E2 visas ) who do not really provide vital support.
- Any management personnel who do not really provide on the ground support for functioning of the critical infrastructure.
The only exception to the above is when the senior person or management’s travel is critical and would support creation or retention of US Jobs. Also, only if their travel is must and cannot be done remotely for the US job creation part. This also must be approved with significant justification from Washington D.C and Consulates cannot give this approval. See below screenshot on the exact guidance given by US Dept of State.
How to request for NIE, if you are providing vital support ?
The process is very straightforward, you need to email the US Consulate or US Embassy with the below information, providing justification and supporting documents related to your NIE request. Only after approval of NIE, you will be allowed to Travel to US or get US visa stamping. If you are planning for Emergency appointment, you can ask for the same using the below format.
You need to email the Consulate that issued your Non-immigrant visa with the below details or the consulate that you plan to attend visa stamping. It should be in English only.
- Last name : Your family or last name
- First name: Your first name
- Date of birth: Your date of Birth
- Place of birth: Your place of birth as in Passport
- Country of citizenship: Your country of citizenship
- Passport number: Your passport number
- Visa Number* and Category: Your visa number and category of the visa. The Visa number is the Red Color number on the visa foil, it will appear at the lower right of the visa. Check US Visa Sample, meaning for more info
- Travel dates: Your planned and confirmed travel dates with itinerary
- Travel Purpose and National Interest Category that you fall under with clear justification of the same : You need to provide details about the NIE Category that you fall under and give details on why you are qualified under NIE and the need for your travel.
If you are applying for NIE in India, you can use the below email addresses to send the request.
- US Embassy New Delhi: NewDelhiNIE@state.gov
- US Consulate Chennai: ChennaiNIE@state.gov
- US Consulate Hyderabad: HyderabadNIE@state.gov
- US Consulate Kolkata: KolkataNIE@state.gov
- US Consulate Mumbai: MumbaiNIE@state.gov
- If you want to call them, check more contact details at : US Consulates India Contact info – Email, Phone Numbers.
You can check Guide to apply for Emergency US Visa Appointment for general info.
What has been your experience apply for NIE using the above criteria ? Share your thoughts in comments below.