Home » US Immigration - Visas » What are 16 Critical Infrastructure Sectors in US ? NIE for Visa, Travel? How?

What are 16 Critical Infrastructure Sectors in US ? NIE for Visa, Travel? How?

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.

Essential Critical Infrastructure USA List
Essential Critical Infrastructure USA List
  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10.  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
  11.  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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14.   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
  15. 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
  16. 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

Vital support for critical infrastucture Sectors by US Dept of State Guidance
Vital support for critical infrastructure Sectors by US Dept of State Guidance

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.

Travel that does not count towards NIE for Senior Managers and others
Travel that does not count towards NIE for Senior Managers and others

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.

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.

   

Other Articles

29 Comments

  1. Hi, i work in food industry as a developer. Am i eligible for NIE. I have a valid H1- B but i don’t have a visa. What are my chances of visa approval? Do i need to email them before or i can attend visa interview directly.

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  2. Hi! I have to apply for NIE for myself and my wife around July 21st. I am unable to make a decision if I would qualify for NIE.

    I am a Sr Data Engineer for a SaaS-based company that handles property management for rental, community associations, and investment management. I handle the whole infra for the Data platform and maintenance of the system.

    Could anyone help me with the above?

    Reply
    • Nitin,
      I think you might as it is the maintenance of the infra and critical for operations. Get a letter indicating the criticality and need for you to back in the US. Based on that you can apply for NIE.

      Reply
  3. I am h1b in US in critical infrastructure sector and my wife is in India waiting for H1B stamping. She has already got an appointment but for Feb 2022, Can she raise Emergency request or NIE to reschedule appointment for anytime sooner. ?
    I guess NIE request is sent over email and approval is also over email but how to get early appointment for H1B stamping through NIE approval ?
    Does my wife qualify for NIE on the basis of family separation ?

    Reply
    • NIE approval through email is for those who already has a valid visa stamp and got stuck in India. For your wife, she will apply for interview, appear in interview, prove that she qualifies for NIE and if officer approves her visa will come with NIE annotation. You working in critical infrastructure does nothing for her. IF she doesn’t qualify for critical infrastructure via her job the she simply cannot travel.

      Reply
    • She needs to get the visa stamped. She can apply for emergency appointment since already has a scheduled appointment in Feb 2022. As far as NIE, there is derivative clause, if you qualify for NIE and she as a spouse also qualifies.

      She has to mention in addition to her work duties, that you work in the critical infrastructure industry and also cite family separation. She may get NIE on that basis.

      Reply
  4. Hello,

    I work for the state department as a contractor in the Information Technology division. Am I eligible to apply for NIE under Information Technology Sector? Thanks.

    Reply
  5. I am eligible for emergency visa appointment however i am not able to book an available visa appointment to initiate the emergency request because i am qualified for drop box and cgifederal website is automatically taking me to “schedule ofc appointment” page rather than giving me an option to book an appointment. Is there a work around? Please advise. Very urgent !!!

    Reply
    • ravi,
      First book the appointment, even for dropbox, then you will get an option to raise the EA on the left. Check https://redbus2us.com/visas/usa/apply-india/emergency-us-visa-appointment/

      Reply
  6. Can any one clarify my doubt

    Recently I received 221g blue slip and officer requested to email end client letter and iternary of contract, as per my company policy they won’t issues letters .so I sent supporting documents and it’s been almost 2 months still my case was in under administration processing .

    So in this case can I request for NIE ? As I work for health care client .
    If I request for NIE what are the approval chances of getting visa stamp?

    Reply
    • No you cannot, NIE is a later stage, you need your visa approval first. NIE requires a visa number which is fed into the system for Customs to determine. You don’t have a visa number yet since your visa is not yet issued.

      Reply
    • Sandeep,
      Technically on paper, it should be possible as it does not tell that US Citizen kid has to be in US. But, to be safe, check with consulate once. Do update how it goes here.

      Reply
  7. My wife is in India and she has a valid visa stamped until Oct 2021, I work for a public sector customer , so is she eligible for NIE?

    Reply
      • My wife is also in India and she has valid visa until July 2021. Did you apply NIE and got approval for your wife to travel?

        Reply
    • Shiv,
      It is hard to say, you can try asking for NIE under family separation or your work, whichever you think is the best one. If you fall under NIE, then your spouse can be given NIE too. Some did get it that way.

      Reply
  8. I work for Healthcare group of hospitals and looking to apply for NIE very soon. Can i apply the same for my dependents (Spouse & kid)? All three of us have valid visa. If so, can we apply for NIE as a single application? What justification need to be provided for dependents?

    Reply
    • Derivative family members of those who receive NIE are also eligible I believe. It would make sense to apply in the same application in my view and mention this language which is on the state dept website on NIE exemptions. Of course this is just my opinion

      Reply
    • srini,
      If you get NIE, your spouse and kid would very likely get that too. This is as per the guidelines given by them. So, you can apply in the same or apply for their NIE after you get it.

      Reply
  9. I received a NIE on May 12. I applied on May 8 to the Mumbai embassy. I have a stamped H1B and work in financial services industry. Follow the process as outlined on the above post and make sure to mention the industry you work in if it’s listed as critical infrastructure per CISA and your specific role within the company. To the extent you can, frame your role as providing support to the functioning of your company and explain it in detail. I didn’t have this but a letter from your HR could help. If your company had some offices open during last year, mention this and if you were deemed as an important employee. Frame your role in the national interest if there is any link to public or healthcare orgs too perhaps. There is no downside to applying for one although I hear it’s taking longer to get replies these days ( 6-10 days).

    I traveled on United Airlines from India to US and the process was fairly smooth – just a quick secondary check at immigration. You will need to carry a copy of the email approval you receive and believe the CBP officers have the approval on their computers.

    Reply

Leave a Comment