As many of you know, travelers from India are banned from entering US, if they spent 14 days in India before their travel, unless they fall under exceptions or National Interest Exception(NIE). Now, the only option to Apply for US Visa is to go using the Emergency Appointment (EA) option and request for NIE. One of our users, Hemanth M., applied for US Visa Emergency Appointment based on the NIE that falls under ‘vital support for critical infrastructure sectors’. He was kind enough to take time and share detail experience, including the template for writing the NIE letter for EA approval. Thanks a lot to Hemanth for sharing his detailed experience. We really appreciate it ! You can share your experience too by emailing us to [email protected]
Here is my story of travel to India amidst Visa Appointment cancellations and travel ban owing to Presidential Proclamation from May 4th:
Background for India Travel
I traveled to India to see my parents after more than three and a half years as India was caught in the middle of the second wave of COVID. I left the US on Apr 26th. At that time, I had no indication that the appointments would be cancelled or there would be a travel ban. I landed in Doha, Qatar to transit and in the next 5 minutes I received a cancellation. What followed after that was a wild roller coaster ride.
Telegram Group – Community Support : As clueless as I was at that very point, unsure how I am going to get back or if I can get back, I landed in India. The first few days were pretty crazy, however, someone added me to a Telegram group on US Visa Stampings run by Community of Redbus2US, which turned out to be a savior in my case. While it has approximately 22000 members, there is an average of 900 people that are online at any time. People were sharing their insights, discussing how to get out the travel ban and get back to their jobs, and spreading resources voluntarily. Through the group, I must have reached out to approximately 50 people who seemed to be stuck in the same predicament as I was to discuss what they plan to do. Similarly, I was reached out to by multiple people for suggestions as well. The support is what had me going through this whole ordeal.
Booking Regular US Visa Appointment
So, once I was able to figure out that I am able to secure an NIE for my work in a Critical Infrastructure Sector. I waited to get a regular appointment. As soon as slots opened up for Oct 2021 in the Mumbai Consulate, I booked one.
Within the next 3 – 4 days, I worked with my employer to prepare a Single Support Letter request both EA on Urgent Business Needs and NIE based on Critical Infrastructure sector workforce basis (Letter template below). My firm did not have any attorneys and we did not contact anyone. My organization’s risk manager and I based this letter on the CISA guidelines. You can read more on 16 Critical Infrastructure Sectors – Vital Support for NIE Info
Applying for US Visa Emergency Appointment (EA)
I submitted the EA request through the CGI Portal on May 7th towards the evening. If you are not sure about process, read How to apply for US Visa Emergency Appointment in India. I wrote a small cover letter based on the letter provided by the employer and pasted that information in the area where they asked for brief explanation about my EA request. Below are the documents submitted with the emergency appointment(EA) request :
Documents Submitted with EA Request
- Employer Support Letter (NIE letter template below)
- Job Description
- Previous Visa Page copy
- Passport Copy
- I-797A copy.
National Interest Exception Letter Sample Template
United States Embassy
Non-Immigrant Visa Unit
Re: Requesting Expedited Visa Appointment under National Interest Exception: Healthcare/Public Health for ‘Applicant Name’
Please accept this letter requesting an Expedited Visa Appointment and National Interest Exception for ‘Applicant Name’ for the Healthcare/Public Health critical infrastructure sector. ‘Applicant Name’ recently traveled to India in order to complete necessary H-1B stamping, as well as to take care of his parents as multiple family members were affected by COVID-19 and a few had passed away. Prior to cancellation, he had scheduled the VAC Appointment on May 3, 2021 and Consular appointment on May 11, 2021. ‘Applicant Name’ meets the National Interest Exception requirements given his critical role in patient safety and advocacy at ‘Organization Name’. On behalf of ‘Organization Name’, I formally request that he is allowed prompt re-admission to the United States. Below is the necessary information to process his exception:
- Last name:
- First name:
- Date of birth:
- Place of birth:
- Country of citizenship: India
- Passport number:
- Visa Number and Category: Current Visa Number & F-1; I-797A approved, in India for H-1B stamping Travel dates: 04/24/2021 – 06/12/2021 (flexible tickets to fly back upon stamping completion)
‘Applicant Name’ has been employed at ‘Organization Name’ since August 2018 as a Job title. ‘Organization Name’ is a healthcare system of more than 1,700 employees across multiple locations and serving several counties. ‘Applicant Name’ serves in a critical role to patient safety for our entire health system. He is a valuable member of our Quality Department which is currently at a critical staffing level of only five employees. Ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘Applicant’s Name’ has additionally been working as the System Manager for the Safety Reporting System at ‘Organization Name’. Given ‘Applicant Name’ level of skills and expertise in managing the Safety Reporting System, ‘Organization Name’ is experiencing an undue burden in his absence. This role is important in identifying the trends of safety issues across the system and collaborating with management to address the same immediately.
‘Applicant Name’ qualifies for National Interest Exemption as he is a Critical Infrastructure Worker based on the following points (Note: Taken Directly from CISA Guidelines):
‘Applicant Name’’s role is critical to the daily operations at ‘Organization Name’ and in ensuring patient and staff safety, incident management, and patient advocacy. He traveled to India with a notion to return to the US as soon as received his passport with stamped H-1B visa on or before June 12, 2021. Any further delay in his return will cause an undue burden on the operations at ‘Organization Name’ as a whole and specifically to the Quality Department. Therefore, we request you to kindly provide an Expedited Visa Appointment on the Urgent Business Travel basis due to the critical nature of his role.
We look forward to the rapid re-admission of ‘Applicant Name’ to the United States to resume employment with ‘Organization Name’, and we respectfully request that you kindly extend all due courtesies. Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me at ‘email address’ or via phone at xxx-xxx-xxxx.
Risk Manager for the Organization”
EA Approval, H1B Visa Interview Questions
I received an approval email on May 8th asking me to schedule an EA within the next 6 days. I reserved slots on May 12th & 13th for Biometrics and Interview respectively. My biometrics appointment was uneventful. The interview appointment was a little weird. I was the third person in the line to be interviewed. An F-1 applicant has been rejected just before me.The Visa Officer called me and asked below questions.
- VO: Give me your I-797 and passport. Your photo is not uploading.
- Me: I am carrying a picture and I can provide it.
- VO: Not needed. Something must have been held-up.
- Me: Ok.
- VO: When is your travel date?
- Me: June 12th. However, I have flexible tickets so I can leave earlier as soon as I receive my Visa and Passport in hand.
- VO: It is good to have flexible tickets. You never know how long the processing can take. You might have to wait longer. (My heart sank to the floor)
Suddenly, my name was called out by a staff member who actually allowed us into the consulate. I was confused. I turned to the VO and mentioned to her that my name was being called out. She was confused as well and called the staff member. She asked him what was going on. He mentioned to her that someone on the inside is asking for more documentation (not sure what it meant). I along with another person were asked to wait. VO asked the staff member to have me sent for an interview after 3-4 candidates.
I was both worried (as I was asked to sit separately) and a little comforted (as I am not the only one) at the same time. After 15 minutes or so, an Indian Staff member asked for my Passport and I-797 which I handed out. They brought the documents back to us within the next 20 minutes.
After 15 more minutes, the VO called me again:
- VO: What is your company and title?
- Me: Mentioned my company name and job title
- VO types for 2 minutes.
- VO: What exactly do you do in your role?
- Me: Explained how the role is important to Patient Safety and other job description points.
- VO types for 3 minutes
- VO: Is this an IT role?
- Me: No. Explained my role again.
- VO types for 3 minutes
- VO: Is this a supervisory role?
- Me: No. My organization is relatively small and we have a horizontal hierarchy. So I get to work with all the leaders to mitigate risk events.
- VO types again for 2 more minutes.
- VO: Your visa is approved pending managerial approval.
- Me: Thank you. (Not sure what she meant by above statement but I walked out).
CEAC Website – US Visa Status, Annotation
As you all know, you can check US Visa Status online at CEAC Website. The CEAC tracker did not show any update until May 25th and showed Refused status . However, through the Telegram group, I was able to connect with multiple people who interviewed from May 4 to May 25th. We tracked our status update timelines. So, on May 25th it changed from Refused to Administrative Processing.
Finally On May 26th, it changed to Approved (Issued status). I received the passport on May 27th, 2021. The passport had the annotation “NIE UNDER ALL P.P.S ON NOVEL CORONAVIRUS”, as in below screenshot. As per the NIE 30 Day Rule, based on this, I can travel to US within 30 days from the date my visa was issued.
What was your experience with Emergency Appointment scheduling ? What was your format for letter ? Share your experiences in Comments below.