As many of you know US has banned travelers from India, if they have spent 14 days in India before the travel. You can apply for US Visa or travel to US, only if you fall under exceptions for travel ban or fall under National Interest Exception(NIE). Also, even if you have visa stamped in passport, you need to email Consulate and get NIE in email before you fly.
Update: US lifted Travel Ban for India Travelers starting from Nov 8th, 2021. You do not need NIE for Travel or Visa Stamping after Nov 8th, 2021. Check more at US Travel Ban Lifted – US Travel Requirements . You need to vaccinated to travel to US, check List of Vaccines to Travel to US
Many of our readers, users on telegram groups (anonymous for privacy), who applied for NIE were kind enough to share their experiences and NIE Letter templates and guidance for H1B Visa, H4 Visa. Thanks a lot to all of them for sharing their NIE experiences with the community.
What is National Interest Exception (NIE) ? NIE Critical Infrastructure List ?
National Interest Exception (NIE) is nothing but an exception given by the US Dept of State that exempts individuals from the Presidential Proclamation. US Department of state gives the list of who all falls under NIE based on the US National Interest and humanitarian grounds. To get a full list of people who fall under NIE, and general process check the below articles.
- US bans India Travelers – Exceptions, NIE List, Process for NIE
- 16 US Critical Infrastructure Sectors eligible for NIE
Once you get NIE, you need to travel to US within 30 days as per the guidance given by the US consulates and US Embassies across the globe, including India. Check Travel to US with NIE – 30 days Rule.
Now that we have some understanding on the NIE and criteria, let’s look user experiences and NIE Letter templates.
Traveling to the U.S. on H1B/L1 Visa – Get a Credit Card based on Indian Credit History: If you are traveling to the U.S. for the first time on H1B Visa or any other work visa, getting a Credit Card can be difficult as you won’t have a credit history in the U.S. To address this, Zolve, a fintech startup, has raised $55 Million with a focus on helping H1B & work visa holders, in getting a U.S. Credit Card based on their Indian credit history. This way, you can start building your credit history from day 1 in the U.S. with Zolve. The best part is that you can apply for a Zolve Account and Credit Card online from your home, even before you travel.
Experience 1 : NIE Experience H1B end-to-end : Letter, Travel to US
Background : I’m an H1B holder with a stamped US Visa from the Mumbai Consulate. I have been on H1B since 2011. I currently work in the financial services industry in an investment analysis and client facing role and would classify myself as mid level management. I traveled to India on April 26th for my fathers funeral and couldn’t leave before May 4th.
National Interest Exception Application for Travel to US
I applied for my NIE on May 8th to Mumbai Consulate where my visa was stamped. I received approval on May 12th. My application was certainly a long shot in my view because I did not think I classified as “vital support” but I thought I would try anyway because there was no harm in applying. It doesn’t hurt to apply per my research on this topic.
Sample Letter Format for NIE Request for H1B Visa – Financial Services
For my application, I filled out the standard fields listed on the consulate website as below.
- Last name : XXX
- First name: XXX
- Date of birth: XXX
- Place of birth: XXX
- Country of citizenship: XXX
- Passport number: XXX
- Visa Number* and Category: XXX
- Travel dates: XXX
- Travel Purpose and National Interest Category that you fall under with clear justification of the same : XXXX. ( see below )
The travel justification was the most important field in my view. In this field I wrote about 2-3 paragraphs. Below are the topics I covered in the letter. I did not had any official letter from the HR or my company.
- I explained the circumstances of my travel.
- I discussed my work in financial services which is labeled as a critical infrastructure industry per CISA
- I mentioned my office remained open during the pandemic from March 2020 for essential employees and I was deemed an important employee by company (I have heard others get letters from their HR department to cement their case but I did not have one). Having established my firm a critical infrastructure firm.
- I went on to explain how I provide “vital support” to the firm. I discussed my role briefly and mentioned the clients I work with include healthcare firms, US public govt pensions and firms in other critical infrastructure industries.
- I would find a way to link your work to these end clients in your application.
- I also mentioned i cannot do my role remotely due to the H1B regulations that prevent us from working outside the country and I mentioned how my aforementioned clients would be worse off without the work I do for them.
- I summarized this by saying I believe it is in the national interest for me to be present in the country to continue this important work etc.
- Documents Attached : I attached my US visa copy and India passport copy.
Response from Mumbai consulate as below : I also asked them what documents I need and they mentioned that a copy of this email will suffice for travel and entry to US.
Side Note: Another contact I have who applied for NIE on B1/B2 got declined but the consulate response encouraged them to find a path to spend 14 days in a third country before entering the US.
Travel to US, Port of Entry Experience:
- I flew from Delhi on May 21st – it was a direct flight from India to US.
- There was a quick secondary check at check in within the airline staff if I could fly on H1B w/ NIE exemption – they didn’t look at the letter from consulate very closely – and issued my boarding pass.
- I did carry the NIE exceptions language from State website and the airline policy language stating passengers should carry documentation relevant to their case for entry, in case there were issues. The letter wasn’t checked again by airline staff.
- Upon landing, I went to immigration officer to who I mentioned I am traveling on H1B with a NIE exemption. The first one asked purpose of trip to India and then if I was in contact with anyone who was sick.
- He then asked me to follow him and took me to another officers booth toward the right hand side of the hall.
- The 2nd officer asked me fairly standard questions for entry to US
- 1) purpose of trip to US
- 2) what I do at my job and how long i have worked there
- 3) how much cash am I carrying
- 4) was i carrying any food.
- I asked him if he needed the printed out copy of my NIE exemption letter and he said no, he had it on his system.
- He then stamped my passport and I was in. Check US Port of Entry Process for more info
- Customs was stopping several people specifically asking if we were carrying food, meat and vegetables (to a much higher degree than they usually do).
Final Thoughts : I hope this provides some detail on the process and what to include on the NIE application. It is a low risk option to try so I would certainly recommend applying if you work in a critical infrastructure industry and trying as much as you can to create a link between your work and the impact on your company/clients ongoing functioning. It is a very stressful time for those stuck in India – my best wishes to those applying for this or finding a way out through a third country.
Experience 2 : NIE Sample Letter for H1B Visa – Approval Experience
Shared by Pratik
Background for NIE : I work in semi conductor manufacturing industry. I did some research and asked my immigration lawyers of the company to see if I qualify. I emailed HR and immigration lawyers and got the relevant letter to attach with NIE request. I emailed the Mumbai consualte the below letter with all the relevant information as mentioned by them as below and attached the supporting NIE letter sent by my company .
NIE Email Information Sent
- Last name : XXX
- First name: XXX
- Date of birth: XXX
- Place of birth: XXX
- Country of citizenship: XXX
- Passport number: XXX
- Visa Number* and Category: XXX
- Travel dates: XXX
- Travel Purpose and National Interest Category that you fall under with clear justification of the same : Working on H1B in US for XXX and fall under “vital support for critical infrastructure sectors”. Please find the attached letter from my company for NIE.
List of Documents Submitted
- Employment Verification letter
- Letter stating which area the company serves in from the Company HR ( NIE Letter )
National Interest Exception (NIE) Letter for H1B
You need to get the below letter in company letter head signed by the relevant company authorized person with contact info for verification, if needed.
Date : XXX
To Whom it May Concern:
The frontline essential worker XXXX (the “Employee”) presenting this letter is currently employed by XXX Inc., formerly known as XXX, located at 5825 XXX, Oregon XXX (the Facility). In reviewing the Oregon state and federal guidance set out below and the eligibility requirements for vaccination listed in the Oregon “Get Vaccinated Oregon” COVID-19 Vaccination Plan (the “Vaccination Plan”), XXXX confirms that the Employee (i) is classified as a “critical worker in a high risk setting” or “frontline worker” employed by an essential manufacturer, and (ii) meets the eligibilities requirements for vaccination in Phase 1B Group 7 of the Vaccination Plan.
As some background, XXXX manufactures specialty chemicals required by the semiconductor and microelectronics industries to build products and materials needed for advanced technological devices, including healthcare-related devices and more general computing technology. The XXX’ facility located in XXX, Oregon is considered “Essential Businesses and Operations.” At the federal level, pursuant to the most recent guidance issued on December 16, 2020 by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the Department of Homeland Security, the Chemical Sector and Critical Manufacturing Sector supported by XXX’ manufacturing activities are specifically designated as Essential Critical Infrastructure upon which a wide range of other critical infrastructure sectors rely.
Please contact the following XXX management personnel if you have any questions about this letter or XXX’ operations in general
Processing time after Submitting NIE Request : The Consulate in Mumbai took 9 days to process the request and approved my NIE Request. Below is the sample approval email
NIE Approval Email from Consulate to Travel to US
Please carry a copy of this e-mail while travelling.
We wish to advise you of an approval for the following individual(s) of an exception to the April 30, 2021 Presidential Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019.
This exception has been registered in our systems, is valid for 30 days from the date of approval, and is valid for a single entry only to the United States. As many flights continue to be cancelled on a regular basis, we recommend you attempt to travel as soon as possible so that the approval does not expire before you can travel. As long as the April 30, 2021, Presidential Proclamation is in place, an exception will be required for travel to the United States directly from India or from any of the other countries listed in other presidential proclamations.
Please also be advised that admission into the United States remains subject to a determination by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at ports of entry and that you also may be subject to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival to the United States. This approval does not exempt travelers from U.S. COVID-19-related entry requirements.
U.S. Consulate General Mumbai
Suggestions for anyone applying for NIE
Talk to company and read the critical infra list by department of state in detail. It lists the different areas which might include yours too. For example: if you work in software which helps in maintained of a factory you might be included in providing critical support to manufacturing. So make your case accordingly. Check CISA website Document for full list & Details
If you are looking for more letters, format for applying for NIE for H1B, you can read National Interest Exception Letter Samples for H1B, Format
Experience 3 :NIE Experience with H1B Visa, Travel to US
Background : I came to India on April 17, 2021 to attend a personal matter. I was eligible for dropbox so submitted my documents for dropbox at Chandigarh due to lockdown in New Delhi, got my visa stamped in 1 week. I had change of employer and I was fearing that I will get 221g but fortunately didn’t face any issue.
Applying for NIE for H1B Visa : After the ban almost made my mind to travel to Mexico but after seeing some folks mention NIE applied for NIE.
- I sent NIE email on Tuesday night at around 11PM and got approval by Wednesday 10:30 AM. I work for a cloud and data center technology and category was critical infrastructure – information technology sector. Mainly followed below for justification
- 2 lines about my total experience. Next 3 lines about my profiles and company and project details. 5 bullet points about my JD. And last 3 lines about why it’s critical.
- My travel date in NIE email was 21 but travelled on 23rd May. Took 2 COVID test at labs in Delhi on 20th evening and got results by next day. The timing was within 72 hours.
Travel to US : Travel was via united airlines from Delhi to SFO. I reached airport 6 hour before just to be on safe side. To get boarding pass they asked for NIE email and COVID test and gave boarding pass immediately. Unlike other people no call to Anyone I guess. Nothing at India emigration. At US POE I was asked why I travelled to India and where do I work and was allowed. It felt just like other times. Also there was no rush at US POE, obviously because very few people are traveling.
Experience 4 : NIE H1B, H4, Travel from Chennai to SFO Experience
- My husband is on H1-B and I am on H4. He applied for NIE for the Chennai consulate we waited for 7 days. On the 7th day, we attached a more recent employment letter that is specifically tailored for NIE and replied to them. After 2 more days, we got approved.
- So we booked the flight from Chennai -> Delhi -> SFO.
- Took the Covid RT-PCR test with Metropolis Lab’s home collection that contained the QR code. Got the report on the same day. Took the flight on Sunday evening from Chennai through Air India.
- In Chennai Air India, they were not aware of NIE and didn’t allow us to board initially. They said they will give a boarding pass only to Delhi as a Domestic flight and said they can’t transfer the baggage for international travel. We were asked to sign a letter saying we will not dispute Air India if we can’t board in Delhi and collect our baggage in Delhi Aiport.
- We agreed and finally, we boarded the flight to Delhi. After landing in Delhi, we took the baggage and came to the international departure at the United Airlines counter. There they asked for NIE and Covid test. Within 5 minutes they give the boarding pass and checked in the baggage. United Airlines are well aware of the NIE document and the customer service was great. I would definitely recommend United Airlines over Air India.
- After 7 hours of layover in Delhi, we took the SFO flight and landed in San Francisco. The immigration was smooth but a long process.
- They asked for the passport and I-797, they took everyone without a US passport or Green Card to the Secondary Room. My husband talked with a different Immigration Officer, where they asked the purpose of travel and why his physical presence in the US is required.
- They also confirmed that we took a direct flight from Delhi and confirmed the US Address. The officer stamped the passport but kept it in a glass box with a lock. We were asked to collect the baggage and go through customs to check the luggage with the scan.
- They were sending everyone from the Secondary to customs to check on the luggage. Our baggage check was smooth. Make sure you don’t bring any canned sweets like Rasagula and spices like Jeera. After that, they gave us a passport and we could finally go home.
Experience 5 : NIE for H1B, H4 – Two Separate Requests –
Background : My husband and Myself got NIE approval from Chennai consulate . We applied for 2 separate NIE’s as we both are in H1b visa.
Note : We didn’t approach our companies for any letter we did the entire writing and any supporting documents by our self . We had a previous employment verification letter mentioning that we work for so and so company from this date in such designation
One of us work in EVC model ( Employee Vendor-> client model ) . So don’t worry if you fall in that category, clearly mention why your physical present is needed, it doesn’t matter if you are Full time employee or a consultant.
- Time line : Applied NIE on May 14th.
- NIE Reason : We applied under communication sector in critical infrastructure . We have also mentioned that our work helps public health sector as we both work in networking technology which is being used by hospitals for telemedicine .
a. Additional email with more information in the format requested in the auto reply which everyone gets was sent on May 17th, on that same day tried applying for all other consulate got an email reply immediately that I need to apply only in Issuing post which is Chennai.
b. My husband got a reply on May 24th asking for additional information with the below questions
To help us review your NIE request, please explain what your job duties are, and which critical infrastructure sector your work supports (the list of relevant fields is available at https://www.cisa.gov/critical-infrastructure-sectors). Please also explain why your physical presence in the US is required to conduct your work, including an example of a task that cannot be performed remotely.
- This time he gave the NIE category only as communication Sector. https://www.cisa.gov/communications-sector ( copy pasted from the web site and quoted communication sector importance.
- Sent a detailed job description which contained job duties and how much time he spends on each task .( around 2 full pages in MS word )
- Sent an explanation as below telling why his presence is required as:- Being an employee of XXX and working as a XXX I work in new network equipment introduction in XXX technology which provides high speed internet broadband. For assembling the new network equipment, I need to be physically present in XX labs. As I have knowledge to work in lab which is present in USA. In a similar way sent around 5 examples
- Example of a task that cannot be performed remotely:
Powering up a new network equipment in a XX lab which needs certified person . Thus my physical presence is essential to perform the above duty which is critical for enabling high speed internet .
Provided 2 more examples like this
- I sent a reminder on 24th mentioning that we have booked our ticket for 31st of May and sent the ticket also requesting to consider our NIE before our planned date , I also sent an explanation on my own why my work cannot be done without physical presence . I can test the equipments signal strength only within 500 meters etc.
- I got an approval on 25th .
- My husband got approval today on 26th .
Thank you for all the help in sharing the information as NIE is totally new even compared to the H1b RFE’s , so every small information shared was useful.
Experience 6 – NIE Request, Telecom Sector, Travel
- Reached USA on NIE on June 1, 2021 and resumed office today.
- Work for telecom sector and handle key projects on which there is dependency of other critical sectors as well.
- NIE Request Mumbai :
- Based on a letter from my Employer applied for NIE at Mumbai consulate on 05/25 with travel date of 05/30 and was approved on 05/26.
- Also gave details for my wife. Along with employer letter had attached itinerary and copies of US vaccination record for me & my wife.
- Had Air India tickets for 05/30 but canceled them and booked on United BOM EWR on 05/31
- Took RT PCR on 05/29 got negative result for me and my wife on same day.
- Travel Check Mumbai : At Mumbai airport, United staff was aware of NIE requirements. After checking NIE printout ( consulate approval as well as my original mail ) they gave us boarding passes.
- US Port of Entry Experience : At POE in Newark I was asked questions such as :
- which Company I work for
- how many years I am with this Company, and job duties.
- Asked my wife why she came to US, to which she answered accompanying spouse.
- I thought it was over then suddenly the officer got up and told us to accompany him to the secondary inspection room.
- The room had at least 50 other travelers.
- My passport and my wife’s passport was kept in plastic bags and we were asked to wait. After some time I was called and asked on what ground I was seeking an exception, was it because I had a US kid.
- I said I handle critical projects for my Company. He then asked for the NIE mail and again asked me to sit. After about half an hour he called out my name and handed both my & my wife’s passports, and said we are good to go.
- As soon as we stepped out of the room we were asked to deposit the customs form, after which we made our way home.
- All the best to everyone waiting to return to USA
Experience 7- Automotive – Second email for NIE Approved
Background : I had recently applied for NIE for me and my wife, I’m on H1B and my wife is on H4.Earlier We were in USA on L1b and L2. In mid april 2021 we both came to India for H1B and H4 visa stamping in Chennai. We got our stamping in the end of April. After that travel ban happened. I didn’t know how to travel back and did not had hope on NIE approval, then I found your group, based on NIE experience in this group I have applied to Chennai consulate, with
- Passport details
- Visa details
- Employer letter requesting NIE
- Wrote details as below
Date of birth, in DDMMMYYY format (ie – 01JAN2021):
Country of birth:
Country of citizenship:
Visa Number* and Category:
Visa Expiration date:
Issuing Post Name (upper left corner of visa):
Exact Travel dates:
Travel purpose and national interest category, including a clear justification for receipt of a NIE: Explanation to support our case
Our company does work in the sectors like Automotive, aviation, communication sectors. Based on these details I had applied on May 29th for me and my wife.
I got approval June 4th for both of us.
Second Email: In the first email I got an auto reply saying if answers for my request is there in that email then I will not get any response. I was not confident on that, then I took initiation and wrote them with some more details to support our request on June 3rd. Then on June 4th I got reply saying that we are approved for NIE.
I feel secondary email is helpful to get their attention on the request.May be it will be helpful for some people who are stuck and don’t know how to travel back to US.
Experience 8 – NIE Letter Template Approach – Internet Infra
My company provided a letter on the company letter head with following details.
1) started with employment verification details, role, location etc.
2) mentioned how company contributes to IT critical infrastructure, like how it helps the internet, provides IT infra to local businesses etc. Also mentioned the impact of company on the US economy.
3) That I am willing to return to continue my work as soon as visa and nie are approved.
4) how my roles and responsibilities help the company support the IT infrastructure.
5) lastly requesting VO to consider my application and statement saying company supports this request.
Note that the letter is not Important for in person interview as VO will ask all the questions to get the information out of you.
Experience 9 – NIE Letter Sample – Approved from Delhi
NIE from Delhi consulate approved on June 22nd in 12 hours. Below is the format used.
Dear Sir or Madam,
I had to make an urgent journey to India as [ENTERY YOUR REASON HERE]. I plan to travel back to the United States on July 10th, 2021, to help my employer [ENTER BRIEF EMPLOYER INFO]
I work as a Software Development Engineer at [EMPLOYER, TEAM AND JOB INFO]
My travel is urgent because [ENTER SOME MADE UP INFO ABOUT WHY YOU NEED TO BE IN USA]
My absence will delay the [ENTER INFO ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU ARE NOT BACK IN USA SOON]
I am fully vaccinated with 2 doses of Pfizer Vaccine.
Accordingly, I, respectfully requests a National Interest Exception to Presidential Proclamation 10199, so that I may travel from the India to work in the United States immediately to provide vital support to critical infrastructure and help the US government with the Climate Pledge.
Last name : XXX
First name: XXX
Date of birth: XXX
Place of birth: XXX
Country of citizenship: India
Passport number: XXX
Visa Number* and Category: XXX
Travel dates: 7/10/2021
Travel Purpose and National Interest Category that you fall under with clear justification of the same : Information Technology
PFA copy of my vaccination proof.
Very truly yours,
6 Experiences – NIE Approved for H4 – Family Separation
NIE Experience 1 – Chennai – H4 Visa
- My NIE experience submitted to Chennai. I am in US and applied for wife wife and kid
- 5/13- Sent email for Family Separation
- Only family separation details + my I-94 visa etc. No details my works
5/18- Received email asking to demonstrate the spouse exception for NIE as well(Even when I am already in US) with task details why it has to be done in US physically
- 5/19- Replied with task details along with supporting letter from company. I work for Emergency services projects
- 5/23(Sunday)- Received NIE for both my wife and kid.
- I was planning to send reminder on Monday morning
- My suggestion – while applying for family separation include the details of work as well for NIE so we don’t have to send details again and it adds additional time
NIE Experience 2 – Chennai – H4 Visa
- I got NIE approval from Chennai.
- I work for a retail company and my job involves working on supporting front line works. But I’ve applied on Family separation reason.
- I’ve requested NIE for my wife and kid. I’m already in US. Applied for NIE on May 14th to Chennai consulate.
- Received a reply asking for my Job duties on 17th. Responded on same day. I thought of sending a follow up on Monday but Received approval today.
- But in the approval mail they mentioned only my details.
- I was little disappointed and replied asking NIE for my wife and daughter just to confirm. They immediately replied with all three of us are exempted.
NIE Experience 3 – NIE Approval without any Documents – H4
- Hi All, I applied for NIE at Chennai Consulate yesterday and got the approval today for me and my dependents (wife and 2 kids). I came for India on a vacation got stuck due to this travel ban..
- I did not expect at this speed.. I have given the travel date as 2nd June..
- I am working for Infosys and working for a retail client.. I applied for NIE under IT sector.. I just sent an email from my yahoo account without any documents..
NIE Experience 4 – New Delhi H4 Email, Letter Sent and text
- Sent all basic information and got it approved for family separation from Delhi. Used below as the text as reason for family seperation
- Travel purpose and national interest category, including a clear justification for receipt of a NIE: My spouse, who has a non immigrant H1B visa, is currently in New Jersey, USA. I had traveled to India for a medical emergency in my family. I have a valid H4 visa and a travel ticket from New Delhi to USA for 16 may, 2021. I have to travel back to the USA to support my spouse. Please consider this as a case of family separation and help by providing an exception from the new presidential proclamation.
NIE Experiences 5 & 6 – H4 Visa
- Experience 5 : Got NIE approval from Hyderabad based on Family separation. I am on H4, applied on 6th May then again on 13th May and sent few reminders after that they asked to share I94 of primary H1 holder
- Experience 6 : Got NIE approval from Hyderabad..purely based on Family separation, applied on 13th May..got approval around 2.00pm today…
You can use something like “Request for National Interest Exception(NIE) under category – Supporting Critical IT Infrastructure, H1B”. Depending on the purpose, you can change the purpose and add visa type in it.
No need, if you are traveling within 30 days from the US Visa issuance date. If you are traveling after 30 days, then you need to email the consulate and get approval email.
What has been your experience with NIE ? How as your travel ? Share your experiences in comments below.