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What is National Interest Exception (NIE) for US Travel? How To Apply? Step by Step Guide by Country

In general, you need a US Visa or be exempt from the Visa requirement to enter America. But, when there is a presidential proclamation that bans entry of travelers to the US, you cannot enter America, unless you are exempted or fall under National Interest Exception(NIE). In this article, we will review the details about NIE, differences between NIE vs. General Exceptions, how to apply for the same for various countries.

Background for NIE: 212(f) of INA for US President

As per Immigration and Nationality Act – Section 212(f), US President gets the broadest authority to block anyone from entering the US, if the president believes that entry of any foreigner is not in the best interest of the US. Below is the actual regulation screenshot of INA Section 212(f).  

Section 212(f) US President Power to Block Entry of Aliens to US Regulation
Section 212(f) US President Power to Block Entry of Aliens to US Regulation

US President usually signs an Executive Order(EO) or Presidential Proclamation(PP) to ban or block the entry of foreigners, who are a risk to the US National interest. In fact, this was the same authority used by President Biden and previous president Trump to ban the entry of foreign Individuals who were arriving into the US from high COVID prevalent countries in the European region in 2020 and many other countries in 2021.

The concept of general proclamation exceptions or National Interest Exceptions(NIE) comes into the picture when the presidential proclamations are in effect. Let’s look at them in detail in the next section. You can also read Can US President ban entry to the US for more details on authority and see previous presidents who have used it.

What are Presidential Proclamation Exceptions ?

Whenever US President signs a Presidential Proclamation(PP) or Executive Order(EO) for any purpose, they list a set of criteria for whom the presidential proclamation or executive order does not apply in the proclamation itself. These exceptions or exemptions listed in the PP or EO are the standard Presidential Proclamation exceptions.

Basically, it means that the proclamation by default exempts the list of individuals or visas listed in the proclamation. In the context of travel ban-related proclamations, if you see a visa type or a category listed in the actual proclamation saying “Shall not apply to“, then the PP does not apply to that visa holder or category of individuals. It means that those who are exempt can get a US visa or travel to the US without any issues and the travel ban does not apply to them. Below is the screenshot of an example of exceptions listed in the  Presidential Proclamation 10199 (India) that banned travelers from India to enter the US.

Presidential Proclamation Exceptions - WhiteHouse Website PP 10199
Presidential Proclamation Exceptions – WhiteHouse Website PP 10199

If you go for stamping, when you are part of the exceptions directly listed in the presidential proclamation, then the US Visa Stamp you get in your passport will have annotation that says “EXCEPTION UNDER PP ON NOVEL CORONAVIRUS“. See the below screenshot.

US Visa Stamping Annotation Exception under PP for Novel Coronavirus
US Visa Stamping Annotation Exception under PP for Novel Coronavirus

What is National Interest Exception (NIE) ? Meaning ?

Most of the Executive Orders(EO) or Presidential Proclamations(PP) signed by a US President that involve travel ban also have a clause at the end that says something like “… in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.” and it looks like in below screenshot taken from Presidential Proclamation 10143 (Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, and South Africa)

Proclamation clause on National interest exception by secretary of state
Proclamation clause on National interest exception by Secretary of State

This special clause in the proclamation means that the US Dept. of State or Dept of Homeland Security(DHS) has the authority to define exceptions or exemptions from the proclamation based on the US National Interests. The exact list of individuals, visa categories, or groups of individuals are defined by the US Dept of State and DHS and published on their website. All of these criteria for whom the Proclamation does not apply to as defined by the US Dept of State are called National Interest Exceptions, popularly referred to as NIE in short.

Below is the screenshot of the list of NIEs as defined by the US Dept of State for 4 different proclamations combined released as COVID Travel Restrictions and Exceptions

National Interest Exceptions List Four Proclamations
National Interest Exceptions(NIE) from List Four Proclamations

If you go for visa stamping based on NIE and get it approved, you would get your US Visa stamped in the passport that has the annotation “NIE UNDER ALL P. P. S ON NOVEL CORONAVIRUS“. It looks like in the below screenshot.

NIE - US Visa Annotation
NIE – US Visa Annotation

Now that we have an understanding on what NIE means, let’s look at the process and how to apply for the same.

How to apply for National Interest Exception ?

The process to apply for National Interest Exceptions(NIE) varies by country and the related proclamation that was signed by the US president. In total there are about 4 Presidential Proclamations(PP) that are related to COVID banning entry of travelers to US from certain countries: PP 9984 (China); PP 9992 (Iran); PP 10143 (Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, and South Africa); and PP 10199 (India).

The US Dept of state also amends these from time to time to include or exclude them. Let us look at each of the processes for NIE by Country or group of countries that the proclamation was originally applicable to.

Process to apply for National Interest Exceptions(NIE) – India

Currently, Presidential Proclamation 10199 is in effect for individuals planning to travel from India to America. There is a long list of National Interest exceptions(NIE) categories of individuals listed on US Dept of State Website. If you fall under that list, you can apply for NIE.

Below is the process to apply for NIE, if you are in India and planning to go to US.

Step 1 – Check Eligibility :

The first step is to check eligibility if you qualify for NIE or not. You need to closely check the list of criteria as defined by the US Dept of State on their website. You can read US Bans Travelers from India for the NIE list that is relevant for India or check the US Dept of State website. If you are eligible, then you go to the next steps

Step 2 : Get Supporting Documentation :

You need to get all supporting documentation that proves your eligibility for NIE. These vary by the criteria you choose to apply for NIE. For example, if you are apply for H1B Visa stamping or planning to travel on H1B Visa, then you would need to contact your company and get a letter that details out your roles and responsibilities and why your presence is important in the US.

Usually, you need to fall under “vital support for Critical Infrastructure Sectors” for H1B or other work visa-related NIE. You can check NIE Letter Samples – 14 User Experiences to get to know more about user experiences and what was done by them to get an idea. Depending on the NIE critical you choose, you need to be prepare and get the relevant documentation from your employer, doctor or non-profit, etc.

You can check H1B Visa NIE Sample Templates for samples shared by Users

Step 3 : Apply for NIE to Travel or get Visa Stamping Appointment

Once you have the documentation ready, now is the time for you to either apply for permission to travel to the US based on NIE or apply for a visa stamping appointment slot. Let’s look at each of these

Apply for NIE to Travel to US with valid Visa

If you already have a US Visa that is valid in your passport, all you need is NIE approval from the US Consulate that issued your visa to travel to US. For that, you need to send an email in the below format to the consulate or embassy that issued your current valid visa.

Below are the email addresses for NIE by US consulates in India. These are different from general US Consulates India Contact like their email & phone numbers.

The email should have the below information and in Tabular Format in the body of the email. They changed this recently and added a tabular format.

Last name:Your Family Name or Last Name as it appears on passport
First name:Your First Name as it appears on Passport
Date of birth:Your Date of Birth as it appears on Passport
Place of birth:Your Place of Birth as it appears on Passport
Gender on passport:Your Gender as it appears on passport
Country of citizenship:Your Country of citizenship
Current passport number:Your current (most recent) passport number that is valid
Passport number with issued visa:Your Passport number with US Visa is Stamped on it. This could be the same as above or different if your passport expired before visa validity
Visa category (H1B, H4, B1/B2, L1, L2, etc.):US Nonimmigrant Visa category that you plan to enter the US
Visa expiration date:Your US Visa expiration date. Check US Visa Sample, meaning for more info
Consulate/Embassy that issued the visa:The name of the consulate that issued your US Visa
Current location, city, and country:Your current Location, City and Country. This would be your current city and location where you are based in India
Have you applied for an NIE since May 1, 2021? (yes or no):If you have applied for an NIE before, you need to indicate here as ‘Yes’. If not, you can say ‘No’.
Travel purpose and national interest category, including a clear justification for receipt of an NIE: (for H1, L1, and O1 visa holders, please be sure to include your job title, employer, and end client, where applicable)You need to clearly articulate your purpose of travel with your job duties, employer info and why you should be given NIE. You should attach NIE Supporting letter from the employer/client to have a better chance for approval.
NIE Email Format by US Consulate in India

You need to be physically present in India to apply for NIE. You cannot apply for NIE, when you are in the US. Read Can I apply for NIE from USA ? What is the Official Guidance

Apply for NIE to get US Visa Appointment, Stamping to Travel to US

If you do not have US Visa appointment, first you need to apply for US Visa Application online and first book an appointment. It does not matter, when your appointment is, first book an appointment. Now, once you have that, you have two choices.

  • Option 1 : Raise an Emergency Appointment Request on USTravelDocs website with NIE Supporting documentation like letter from employer, other info as needed. This will get you the appointment to attend interview. Read How to apply for Emergency US visa Appointment in India for more info.
  • Option 2 : Send an email to the NIE-related email IDs for Consulates as described above in step number 3 in the same format. You can use the approval email and then request for an Emergency Appointment in the online system if you do not have an earlier appointment.
  • If you already have an appointment for a certain day and not canceled, there is nothing else you need to do. You can carry all the NIE documentation with you for the interview.

Step 4 : Get NIE Approval Decision from Consulate, Stamping

If your NIE request is approved, you would get an email that looks like below and would say that NIE request was approved and it is valid for 12 months. NIE used to be issued for 30 days in the past and with single entry. US Dept of State update this to 12 months and multiple entries starting from July 6th, 2021.

If you already have valid visa, then there is nothing you need to, you are good to travel to the US based on the the email you received from Consulate. You can print a copy of the email for records and to show it at airports or port of entry as needed. Below is the email from the US Embassy in Delhi indicating the 12 months validity of NIE for travel.

NIE Validity Email for 12 months from Delhi
NIE Validity Email for 12 months from Delhi

If you do not have valid US visa yet, then you would use this approval email to apply for in-person interview or directly attend in-person Visa interview. It is up to the consular officer to make a decision, if you qualify for NIE or not. Most of the times, if you have all relevant documentation and already got appointment approved, you are likely to get Visa stamping based on NIE.

Step 5 : Travel to US

Once you have the NIE approval, you can travel to the US based on this approval. You have 12 months from the date your NIE was issued to travel to the US. It is also valid for multiple entries as well to the US and has to be used for the same purpose that you requested it for. If you exceed 12 months, then you need re-apply for NIE. Also, if you got visa stamping based on NIE, it would say NIE on the visa stamp under annotation. See below. If you got your visa stamped with the below annotation, then you do not have to again email the consulate for NIE approval, if you’re traveling within 12 months. Read the NIE Validity Rule – 12 months rule to know more on the restriction of 30 days.

NIE Under All PPS on Novel Coronavirus Text in US Visa
NIE Annotation for Visa Stamping.

Read Official FAQs on NIE Process for India at USEmbassy Website


Apply for National Interest Exceptions(NIE) – UK

Currently, UK also has a proclamation in effect that restricts travel of its residents to the US. As per the latest Presidential Proclamation signed by Biden in January, UK residents cannot travel to the US even if they have a valid visa or fall under ESTA unless they fall under general exceptions or NIE.

The process to apply for a National Interest Exception for anyone residing the UK is almost similar to the above. It is just that there is no dedicated email or defined template and you need to use UK Embassy website for the same.

Step 1 Check eligibility, Get documents

These two steps are the same as described in the above section on the process related to NIE in India. In short, you need to check, if you are eligible for the NIE and then get relevant documentation supporting your NIE request. You can check COVID-19 Travel Exceptions on Travel.State.Gov for details on the list of criteria for NIE relevant to the UK

Step 2 – Apply for NIE with UK Embassy

If you are eligible and have proofs supporting the NIE, then you need to reach out to the UK embassy using their website. You need to include the below details as described in their FAQ Section on US Embassy website in London.

  • Request for “National Interest Consideration”
  • State the reason for your travel
  • Include your details related to your visa like what visa, or if you have valid ESTA, inlcud that information.
  • You can only submit the NIE request 60 days before your travel.
  • Contact UK Embassy for NIE using the Contact form on their website ( you would need to select the last option that website that says “My inquiry concerns nonimmigrant visas and is not covered by your website.” as other options does not give you any options to reach out to to them)
NIE Process for UK Guidance by US Embassy in London
NIE Process for UK Guidance by US Embassy in London

Step 3 – NIE Decision – Travel to US

You would hear back from the US embassy in London on your NIE request and further steps. You may need to submit proof of documents as need as the online form does not allow you to send attachments. Once you hear the decision and NIE is approved, you can travel to the US.


National Interest Exception Germany Guide

The entire Schengen Area, which comprises of 26 countries, includes Germany and many other countries has a proclamation in effect that restricts the travel of its residents to the US. As per the latest Presidential Proclamation signed by Biden in January, Schengen Area residents, including German residents, cannot travel to the US even if they have a valid visa or fall under ESTA unless they fall under general exceptions or NIE.

Below is the process to apply for the National Interest Exception(NIE) from Germany.

Step 1 Check eligibility, Get documents

The list of National interest exceptions for Germany and other Schengen countries are listed at Travel.State.Gov NIE for Schengen Area. First, you need to check, if you are eligible for the NIE and then get the relevant documentation to support your NIE request like a letter from your employer, other documents. The steps are similar to step 1 & step 2 as described in the NIE process for India as in the above sections.

Step 2 – Email US Consulate in Germany

If you are eligible and have proof supporting the NIE request, then you need to contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate in Germany at least couple of weeks before your travel date.

  1. Email the closest US consulate to you in Germany with subject line “CONSIDERATION FOR NATIONAL INTEREST EXCEPTION – [Last Name]”. Add your last name in the [Last Name] location.
  2. You need to attach the below copies to the email
    • scan your passport pages that have biographic information
    • scan copies of your valid US visa, if applicable
    • NIE letter from your employer indicating the vital support requirement
    • Any other documentation supporting the NIE request
  3. Emails of US consulates in Germany

Below is the screenshot of the actual instructions from the US Embassy in Germany. You can check official FAQs on US Embassy website for Germany with more clarifications on this

How do I apply for NIE in US Consulate Germany
How do I apply for NIE in US Consulate Germany

Step 3 – NIE Decision from US Consulate in Germany – Travel to US

Depending on your proofs submitted, if you qualify for NIE, the consulate would inform their decision on NIE via email. Once you get the approval decision and NIE is approved, you can travel to the US. The email from the consulate would give you more instructions on the steps and process.


Process for National Interest Exception(NIE) for Schengen Countries

The process to apply for NIE in any other country that is part of the Schengen Area is pretty much the same as the above NIE process as described for Germany. The only difference is that you need to send that email to the relevant US Consulate in the country that you are currently residing. You can search USEmbassy.gov to find the official website information and contact info of the US Embassy that you live in.

The above process applies to all the other 25 countries that are part of the Schengen Area : Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.


Common FAQs

Is NIE different from Exceptions listed in Presidential Proclamation? Effect?

NIE and Exceptions directly listed in Presidential Proclamation have the same effect. NIE is based on national interest outlined by US Dept of State, whereas the Exceptions are directly given by the President. Also, if you are exempted based on exceptions in the presidential proclamation, you have a very straightforward process to get stamping or travel to US. With NIE, you need to submit proof that you fall under NIE and consulate has to approve your NIE request. NIE second one is more subjective

How long is NIE Valid once issued ?

NIE is valid for 12 months from the date the NIE was issued. This used to be 30 days in the past. The new 12 month guidance is effective from July 6, 2021. The NIE rule of 12 months is also applicable to previously issued NIEs.

What was your experience applying for National Interest Exception (NIE) ? Share your experiences, thoughts in comments below.

   

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29 Comments

  1. Hi Kumar,

    My H1B got picked on September 2020. I have booked my appointment on October 2021. But I am not eligible for NIE. What if until October NIE is not removed? Can I go for Interview or Do I need to cancel that, because if I am trying to postpone the appointment to future date it’s showing no dates available.

    Reply
  2. Hi all,

    I don’t know if maybe somebody is in the same situation but… I’m a Ph.D. student with a J1 visa. I’m planning to travel to Switzerland for a workshop, so as Switzerland is part of the Schengen area I would need an NIE authorization, right? Here is the complex part: I’m already in the United States, but I am from Colombia (a country that doesn’t have a band), so I have no idea where I can apply for an NIE since Colombia is not part of the band, the consulate it is not gonna issue any authorization, U. S embassy has no business here because I’m not a U.S citizen, Swiss embassy cannot help me either because I’m not Swiss…. So, What should I do?

    Reply
    • July,
      Well, this is grey area. You should first Try Switzerland, if they honor it as you live there. If they do not, then take that and email Colombia consulate, that way you cover both and someone has to help you.

      Reply
  3. Hi,

    I have applied for NIE on 30th Aug, 2021 for both myself(h1b) and my wife(h4). I received NIE approval email from consulate for my wife on 8th Sep, 2021. But, I haven’t received NIE approval email yet. Can you kindly answer below question?

    1. Does consulate send separate approval emails for both the applicants? if Yes, will they arrive at same time or will there be a gap?
    2. As H4 NIE is approved, do I need to consider the primary applicant’s NIE is also approved?

    Kindly suggest.

    Thanks,
    BC.

    Reply
  4. Hi Kumar, Me and My wife are planning to visit India. I am on L1 B (my extension got approved but stamping is pending). My wife is on H1 B (pending first time stamping). I am working in IT healthcare, can I apply for NIE ? Also, does this automatically make my wife eligible for NIE (considering she is not on L2 dependent).

    Reply
  5. Hi,
    I requested for NIE on ground of my minor kid’s back to school and got approval within 3 working days for myself, my wife & kid.
    My visa was issued from Ottawa, Canada so I applied to Ottawa embassy . I got a response within half an hour to contact nearest U.S consulate or Embassy. I applied to Kolkata Consulate on 8/20 morning, received an automated response to provide information as mentioned in this website. I replied with all the required info and documents and received an response after half an hour saying they have requested for NIE and awaiting response. Today (8/24) morning I received the approval email. Hope this helps someone in similar situation. Thanks.

    Reply
  6. Hi i wanted to apply for NIE for dad. Do i have fill in all my details like name and visa number and all. Or do i have fill in my father’s details. He already has multiple visa. He just needs an NIE i am guessing from the comments.

    Reply
    • Use your father’s details , not yours. I did same for my mum last week. Pending a response from embassy but it could take 2 more weeks.

      Reply
  7. My H1b petition is approved in 2020 september, but waiting for visa stamping. Can I take emergency appointment and do i need to take any NIE exception?

    Reply
  8. Hi Kumar,

    I need your help. I have drop box appointment on august 2nd 2021 and planning to travel to India on July 30th. Do I need apply NIE from US or should I carry NIE exemption letter from employer stating why am critical. Do you have any sample template? Please provide your feedback.

    Reply
    • Hi Jaya Prakash,
      Can you please update your status here ?? I am also in the same boat I did not get nie as chennai consulate says there not doing non essential request any more and asked me to apply for emergency visa appointment ( I have valid visa till 2023) also have new i797 from current employer. I booked dropbox appointment and wants to know what are the chances

      Reply
  9. Hello Kumar/Anyone,

    really need your help on this please reply with you comments, i have been stuck in india due to this pandemic i can’t travel to US, currently i am on H1-B Visa which is expiring in 2022 and i got realized that my current passport is expiring on September 2021 which is exactly 2 months from now. And on this same passport i got my visa stamp and i am trying to apply for NIE to travel back to US in august if i got approval.

    1. Can i travel with the my current one month expiring passport ?
    2. Do i need to renew my passport ? and travel back?
    3. If i renew my passport is there any complications while travelling and with my visa?
    4. Do i need to go for stamping again?
    can you please advise here, it will be really helpful.

    Reply

    Reply
    • I have applied for NIE for my wife and waiting for their approval, she has a valid H4 visa which till 2023 but her passport is going to expire in October 2021. In her case we will apply for a tatkal passport after we get the NIE letter just to make sure we don’t end up creating any confusion.
      Any way it doesn’t matter for travelling into US if your passport is going to expire a month after your arrival, as you can always apply for a new passport through Indian Embassy.

      The reason we are going to apply for tatkal passport while in India is because it is so much faster, easier and cheaper to apply for passport extension in India when compared to applying extension in US.
      You basically have to carry your old passport with visa and the new passport together all the time and for the officers at the port of entry I think it is a routine procedure and you should just be fine.

      Reply
  10. Hi, Is there any template for the follow up email ? It’s been a month since I am awaiting the decision on NIE. Should I send the follow up email on top of the automated response or should it be a separate email ?
    What should be the contents of follow up email ?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  11. My wife went to India in February, 2020 and could not come back to USA till now due to the COVID-19 situation which got worse in USA and then in India, and the on/off travel ban. I have been on H1-B visa in USA for the last 8 years and changed employer in March. I was waiting for 2 months of paystubs to schedule an appointment for my wife. Then a travel ban was imposed. I wae able to schedule a dropbox appointment for my wife at Mumabi VAC on July 21. I am still working in USA. I sent an NIE request for my wife by email to Mumbai consulate on July 01st and cc’d my wife’s email (same as in the DS-160). Now, I’m concerned because they’re not replying and in the automatic reply from them on July 1st, it says it takes two weeks for a response but also only the visa holder (my wife?) must send the email. Please let me know if I should wait the two weeks time mentioned or should my wife in India send another NIE request directly to the Mumbai consulate?

    Reply
  12. Hi Kumar,
    I am in US on my H1B with Valid visa and My family (Wife and Kid) are in india with valid H4 visa (Stmaped in March-2021) . I work in a pharmaceutical sector, can I apply for NIE for me (while staying in US) and family, and if Approves, can i travel india and bring my family to US. Your inputs will be appreciated and will give me clarity to meet my family after a long time. Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  13. Hi All,
    I have valid H1B Visa and currently in US. My wife and Kid struck in India due to this travel ban. My wife having valid H4 visa but my kid is yet to get visa.
    We submitted documents for my kid on April 30th but they issued 221G and told us to contact embassy once they resume their operations.
    I am planing to get NIE. What is the process I need to follow now to get NIE?
    Do I need to submit NIE for my kid to get Visa and then to travel? and Do I need to submit seprate NIE for my wife travel?
    Appreciate your help here.

    Reply
  14. I am a second-year student on H4 visa currently stuck in India. My sister is a middle school student. In the new update on the PP10199, it mentioned new or returning students can arrive at the US without an NIE. However, new or returning students were also mentioned in the category which required NIE approval. I have two questions:
    1. Are we. my sister and I, considered as new/returning students as mentioned in the update on June 28th?
    2. Can we enter US without an NIE if we are considered as new/returning students?

    Reply
    • I think NIE has been extended from 30 days to 12 months with the provision of multiple entries. You might have to write an article about it.

      Reply
    • Hi Kumar,
      I am in need of help to get insight view on NIE results time frame. I have applied for NIE on July 6th for myself and dependents and awaiting for results, I got my last stamping done in London( US Embassy) and all previous stamping were made in Mumbai. I got acknowledgment same day from Mumbai NIE. I need approval for travel.

      Reply
  15. Hi Kumar,

    I got stamped my H1b visa in the year 2020(Jan). Due to this pandemic i never got the chance to travel. Now I have an on-site opportunity, but due to this travel ban I won’t be able to travel

    I’ve two questions?

    a) Can I travel with NIE approval as this will be my first visit?
    b) Can I travel through Mexico? If yes, will there be any problem at the port of entry?

    Thanks,
    Shyam

    Reply
    • You can apply for NIE. Approval depends on your case and your application.
      With NIE approved you will be able to travel, without NIE you can visit Mexico for 14 days before traveling to US.

      You will be questioned at Mexico the port of entry and also in US port of entry. Expect a lot of questions and keep all documents prepared.

      Reply

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