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).
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.
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.
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)
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
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.
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.
- 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
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.|
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.
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.
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)
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
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.
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
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.