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Travel to US from India on NIE: 15 User Experiences, Flight, PoE Process

Since the US has banned travelers from India due to the presidential proclamation in place, you need to get National Interest Exception(NIE) and travel within 12 months. Some of you may apply for US Visa at a Consulate based on NIE, some of you may already have visa and just apply for NIE to travel. Many of you might be worried about how it all would work, when you are traveling with NIE, how do US Port of Entry Procedures work, will there be secondary inspection, what is time taken with NIE at Port of entry for transit, etc.

Many of our readers, community members in social media groups were kind enough to share their experiences with the community. Thanks a lot to all of them for sharing these. These are all posted as anonymous for privacy and curated from the Telegram Group of US Visa Stampings India

If you are looking for NIE process and letter format, read NIE Sample Letters, Format – 14 User Experiences


Experience 1 : Travel from Cochin to New Jersey on NIE

Travel route, Date : COK-DEL-EWR 14th-15th June, 2021 on Air India flight. After all the complex visa and scary NIE issues in India , we finally got onto our onward flights to the US on the 14th of June from COK-DEL and 15th early morning from DEL to EWR on Air India.

At Cochin Airport : At COK, we got a thru check in to DEL…..they checked RT-PCR at COK but surprisingly didn’t ask us anything about the NIE. Just looked at the visa stamps and issued the boarding passes for connecting flights. The gentleman at the AI counter was really awesome, the first AI staff I have met in many a year with some sort of professionalism. Flight from COK to New Delhi was on time and as usual and the food was pathetic.

At New Delhi Airport , RT-PCR Check : At New Delhi, just before the Immigration Counter, the AI transfer desk checked our NIE and RT-PCR again…….I had taken two tests at different places and just as luck would have it, on one of them, they missed the QR code……luckily the second test had the QR code. Just before final boarding, RT-PCR was checked again.

Air India Flight Experience to the US: DEL-EWR flight schedule was exactly on the dot……this was my first AI flight in many a year due to previous poor experiences and AI lived upto my expectations…….my hope was at least the US sectors would be good but I was wrong again……..the DEL-EWR 777 was a rickety aircraft that shuddered and trembled all over the place during takeoff……I expected to have been dropped somewhere in Greenland but luckily we made it all the way……however, Indian pilots are second to none in the world and that’s always comforting. The food was wonderful, to say the least.

On our EWR flight, 50% of all the video screens didn’t work for the 15 hr journey!!!! DO NOT TRAVEL VIA AIR INDIA IF YOU HAVE AN ALTERNATIVE!!!!

Port of Entry Experience at Newark Airport : We reached EWR like 45mins before the actual ETA probably cos of favorable tailwinds and the Immigration queue was similar to the line outside a Kerala marriage reception lunch…….it took us 30mins in the queue to reach the CBP officer, who to kindly escorted us for the Secondary Immigration checks due to our NIE.

Secondary Immigration CheckDelays : The first CBP officer questions were very basic……why are you coming to the US, how long do you plan to stay and what is your line of work……very friendly guy as well. Second one was a room filled with people from all places but mainly many NIE Indians…….it took us, yes, it took is 3.5 hours before we were allowed to proceed to collect our bags and clear Customs……the CBP officers took their own sweet time with the process……no questions were asked at all…….wish the process was made much more efficient……..some passengers got off in 30mins but there was a lady who was in 30mins before us and she was still there even after we left…….and she has a USC kid!!!!!!

So beware……do not take immediate connection flights, worst-case delays can be like 4 hrs as was with the case with us.

At EWR, no one asked for our RTPCR tests anywhere.

The ordeal ended at around 12:30pm, a good 5 hours after we landed. As we declared we were carrying food, we had additional checks as the Agriculture screening as well but this was done quite rapidly.

On the positive side, we were able to take Pfizer shots like 4 hours after our arrival in NYC and that itself seemed to be worth the travel hassle.


Experience 2 :Travel from India(Bengaluru) to US (Seattle) – US Visa with NIE

  • I traveled to the US from Bengaluru on Qatar Airlines during second week of June 2021.
  • I had to check in at the Qatar Airlines counter in the airport.
  • COVID RT-PCR Test : Got my RT-PCR test at the The Gene Lab (Kalyan Nagar, Bengaluru). They gave the results within 12 hours with QR code on it. I didn’t print a copy as the customer service agent told me the digital copy would be enough. But do try to take a hard copy if possible. You can save sometime.
  • They reviewed the NIE annotation on my passport and allowed me to go in. I think they might be checking in the annotation again in Doha, Qatar (where I had to transit). I saw a US Embassy staff member asking one of the passengers to show some documents. I haven’t seen any others being asked any questions though.
  • US Port of Entry Experience: Landed in Seattle, US, a group of 10 people including me were diverted to another direction as there were 4 other counters there. The immigration officer I was called to ask me for the passport and visa.
    • She asked me if I have an email or a letter stating I can get back to the US. Explained to her that since my visa is stamped with NIE annotation. Didn’t seem like she knew it, so she asked her colleague. He explained something to her. She turned to me and asked again if I have a letter.
    • I explained again since I didn’t have a prior visa, the NIE is annotated on the visa and email or a letter is something that is given to someone who requested for NIE through email if they already had visa stamping done.
    • She responded by saying so they essentially stamp it directly on the visa, that’s so cool. I showed her the annotation. She took my picture, stamped the visa and sent me my way.
    • The only confusing aspect was that my fingerprints were not taken. Not sure if it is optional or something they decided to do or not do.

Experience 3 : Travel from Bangalore to Los Angeles with NIE annotation

Flight, COVID Test, Airport process

  • I booked my tickets with Qatar airlines. Bangalore->Doha->Los Angeles.
  • Qatar airlines need 48hrs prior RT-PCR test even though the USA CDC requirement is 72 hours prior
  • At Bangalore airport they just checked my NIE email and gave me my boarding pass within 5 mins. No NIE verification with CBP was done
  • No one asked for NIE at Doha and boarding was smooth.

US Port of Entry Experience

  • At Los Angeles, I was taken to secondary.
  • No questions asked at primary. Office just took my passport scanned it and asked me to follow another officer to the secondary room.
  • I waited for about 2 and half hours and finally, the officer called my name, gave me my passport and said I’m good to go.
  • Not even a single question asked at POE.

Experience 4 : Travel from Chennai to San Francisco with NIE annotation

  • Travel Date, Airline : Traveled to the US on June 16th. CHN – DEL – SFO through United airlines and an onward connecting journey. Chennai to Delhi on June 15th via Vistara at 5.20 pm ist.
  • NIE Visa, No email : US Visa stamped with exemption and no separate NIE email..
  • Checkin : Smooth check in, United has only 1 baggage-free and we got another checked in for $100. Got all the boarding passes there.
  • Boarding in Delhi : Reached Delhi on time. Had 6.5 hrs transit time. United counter did not open until 10 pm ist. Immigration was smooth. Boarded flight at 2.55 am ist on June 16th.
  • Process at SFO , Port of Entry : Reached SFO at 6.10 am pst. Had just 2 hrs of transit time to catch the next flight.
    • Immigration was taken to secondary screening.
    • Took around 30 mins to clear Immigration. Had the stamp entry date wrong so another 10 mins to reverify if it’s correct I. I-94.
    • Went ahead and took by baggage for customs. Both the luggages were opened and had extra scrutiny for “jeera”. Took around 30 mins again.
    • Finally collected the baggage and dropped again for connecting flight. Headed to domestic and was pretty early, boarding did not start. Boarded at 8.30 am PST.

Experience 5 – Travel BLR-DEL-EWR-BOS via United

  • Reached US.. traveled BLR-DEL-EWR-BOS via United
  • At BLR – AI staff took 1 hr to verify my NIE if I am eligible to travel US or not and after that issued boarding passes.
  • At DEL – Went to United counter to check in. I told them abt my NIE, they immly called embassy to verify my NIE. It took around 30-40 mins to verify and then issue Boarding pass till Boston.
  • At EWR- I was asked to go and wait in a room where lots of Indian people were waiting to be verified. CBP officers were checking and asking proofs from everyone for travel ban exemptions. I was hoping that they will ask me same thing. But to my surprise the officer came and handed over my passport and told me I am good to go. I was pleasantly surprised. 🙂 I had to wait 40 mins in that room.

Experience 6 : NIE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE AIR INDIA ( RAJKOT->NEW DELHI->EWR)

  • My wife (H4) travelled on 24th May with NIE approval
  • Rajkot: Asked RTPCR report and checked 72hours from departure of US flight. Didn’t ask anything about NIE. They just issued both the boarding pass
  • New Delhi: Didn’t ask anything about NIE
    Airport people just asked that make sure you have 72hours departure before you reach at Flight Entry Gate
  • EWR: No one has asked about RTPCR report.
  • 1st CBP Officer Questions:
    • What is husband’s name? She answered
    • What is your husband doing? She answered
    • What food items you are carrying? (We said Yes inside the custom form)
    • She answered
  • 1st CBP officer called his/her colleague and asked to take my wife for the second interview.
  • FYI: Once my wife reached at second interview room, there were too many people who had a second interview. I can say that would be on H1B or H4 or some other visas
    • Do you have I797? My wife didn’t had it and she just handed over mine.
    • What food items you are carrying?
    • Your husband’s passport copy?
    • Where is your husband? She said in US.
    • Are you sure of Question 4? She said Yes
    • Is your husband here to pick up you? She said Yes
  • Immigration is cleared.

Experience 7 – Travel Delhi to SFO via Air India Experience

I traveled on NIE today from Delhi to SFO via Air India.

  • The Air India staff did not called CBP for verification of NIE, but he asked for entire email. I gave him just the approval part but he said he wanted to check the passport numbers on the email. After receiving the boarding pass i asked him how did you verified, he replied we can randomly and main for B1/B2 NIE. The key take away pls get print out of entire email.
  • No questions asked at Indian immigration
  • At POE SFO they sent me and my spouse to second level of screening but we were freed up in 10 mins with stamp on the passport. Question asked – reason to visit India, how long you are working here, did u studied here, have any us born kids, what is nature of ur job, what is ur job title , what roles you perform.
  • I applied NIE at Chennai at first but they did not replied for a long long time out of frustration I send the email to all the consulate’s. Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai asked to apply at Chennai. Hyderabad denied and Chennai finally approved. Hyderabad deny came after Chennai approval and that scared me a lot. Key point do not apply to all consulate and denied from other consulate did not appear in the system but pls avoid applying at all consulate and approval from visa issuing consulate is important.
  • Experience flying with air India was worst in terms of flying experience, united is better but expensive and only 1 bag allowed.

Experience 8 – Delhi to SFO via United

Landed in USA on June 22, 2021 ( H1B with NIE approval (financial sector)

TCS employee working for BFS client

27th May : Sent mail for NIE explaining why i am required in usa to work on my project

Same day (27th May) received approval from delhi consulate

Travelled today with united airlines
Delhi to sfo

Delhi airport asked for NIE approval mail n covid negative report

SFO 1st immigration normal question –
what was last date in usa
was it planned long vacation?

secondary immigration (becz of NIE)
1) asked for current petition original copy
2) how much indiaan and us currency
3) when u recvd nie, if project was so critical why u travel so late after approval

secondary team did stamping and good to go


Experience 9 – Travel Delhi to SFO via United

I got my NIE approved from Delhi and traveled on Saturday via united
Delhi to SFO. United staff didn’t verify my NIE with the embassy (they told me they do that when in doubt.

I was a little bit grilled by immigration at SFO I think I gave them a reason to take to secondary. {In primary Gave vague /confusing answers which gave them a reason to send me to secondary, In secondary I answered the question correctly, they ask what do I do to be considered for NIE by the embassy as well among other basic questions)

For NIE, I gave family separation and working for a cloud provider.

  • Which visa
  • Which company
  • Reason for traveling
  • Do you have covid
  • Where do you work

Experience 10: Mumbai to Newark

Mumbai to Newark @11.20AM
30 th June landed Newark at 4.45 in the morning
From 4.45 to 7.00 was taken in the secondary room no questions asked just the regular ones
Around 7.15 an officer took me to the screening area and all my bags were screened which took almost 15 mins
Then the officer gave me back my passport and wished me good luck for my final destination

Tip here is answer very honestly about any questions asked that what they are looking for

Boarded my flight was in a little rush as I had to go by air train to terminal C

Landed Austin at 11.30

Overall the airline staff was very helpful and friendly
60 percent flight was occupied

Don’t stress at all
Be confident everything will be ok trust me

Felt amazing after landing in the US after 16 months

I pray and hope everyone in this group return back to thier lives in the US


Experience 11: New Delhi to SFO via United with NIE

Travel date: July 2

Airlines: United (non-stop)
Rt-pcr checked at New delhi airport, Visa and NIE asked, departure immigration was smooth at ND – no questions asked, flight was about 50% capacity…landed half an hr early.

Destination: San Francisco; average queue at customs, Immigration officer asked visa category, company name, same company on visa stamped as on i797 (yes in my case), asked if carrying fruits, seeds (no for me), took just a min and went straight to baggage claim.
I believe having NIE annotation on passport helped and officer did check in system and stamped on passport within a min.


Experience 12: Vijayawada-New Delhi-Chicago-Detroit via AI & United with NIE for H1B+H4

Travel date: July 5th

Airlines: AI &United
Rt-pcr checked at Vijayawada,New Delhi and Chicago airports.Visa and NIE asked at VGA airport and Delhi immigration officials. They have asked about NIE email approval, I told I don’t have separate email approval and it’s annotated along with the visa stamp. They have cross checked visa issued date and stamped with departure date.

Immigration at Chicago: Immigration officer asked some basic questions about company, client and location of stay. And also asked about why you switched the company. 179A also asked by the immigration officer. Please carry.
I believe having NIE annotation on passport helped and officer did check in system and stamped on passport within few minutes.

Claimed baggage at Chicago and checked in to united to travel to detroit.
Travelled to detroit and picked up our bags and went home.


Experience 13: Bangalore – Delhi – SFO via United

Hi all, I’m posting my travel experience in case it helps someone 😊✈️

Traveled on July 10/11 BLR – DEL – SFO via United Airlines. At Bangalore airport, they checked my visa stamped with the NIE (I did not have a separate NIE email), neg RT-PCR test and admission letter. Smooth check-in, security, and boarding at the domestic terminal.

Reached DEL on time and headed from the domestic to Intl Terminal. I had 4.5 hours of transit. I went to the immigration counter, but they refused my boarding pass (the one I got at BLR) and asked me to get a new one from the United counter. They checked again my visa with the NIE (did not ask for an email) and neg RT-PCR test. After getting a new boarding pass, immigration and security went well. At the immigration, the officer asked me my reason for traveling and about the research I’ll be doing.

Boarded the flight at 2.30 am IST. Reached SFO at 5 am PST.
The US immigration (CBP) counters don’t open until 6 am, so we waited in the flight for an hour (if you have relatives waiting outside, better to inform them of this in advance)!

At the immigration, the officer checked my documents, took my photo, but then sent me to another room for a secondary screening. He didn’t give me any reason for it. I was called there within 15 minutes, and after 5 minutes of typing on the computer, the officer stamped my passport with an « arrival date », status « J-1 », and validity date as D/S which means « duration of status ». He gave back my DS-2019, and wished me luck! 😅

Went ahead to collect my baggage. One of my two bags had a green tag, and both were additionally screened and scrutinized for “spices”. I believe cumin/ jeera is not accepted. Finally, they let me pass!! I was happy to exit after a long 24h journey, with a few, but no major hurdles!! 🥳

Wishing the best to all of you!!
Have a safe journey!!!


Experience 14: Bangalore – Delhi – SFO

Reached USA yesterday with NIE approval on H1B Stamp.
Travelled in United via BLR – DEL – SFO
Airline agents checked RT-PCR and NIE annotation in Visa at both BLR and DEL
SF Port of Entry – United reached 1 hour early at 5:10 am, so had to wait in flight till 6:00 am for the immigration counters to open at SFO.
The officer just asked my current I-797 and stamped the arrival stamp. Did not ask any question and not be taken to Secondary inspection. I see couple of guys were taken to secondary inspection.
Overall immigration took 1 hour. Happy to answer any questions.


Experience 15: Hyderabad – Delhi – EWR

Itinerary: HYD -> DEL -> EWR with Air India

Visa type: H1B with USC wife, but traveling alone.

At Hyderabad:
Checkin, immigration and security takes 2 hours. Checked RTPCR and asked about NIE exception. Mentioned all details and showed the necessary documents.

At Delhi:
Transfer was easy. Security was done twice once at the terminal and once at the gate. Asked to show RTPCR and travel ban exemption again.

Flight to Newark was packed. Most of them were F1 students. Flight itself was smooth.

Newark:
Immigration line was moving quick. When my turn came up, I was asked for my H1B I797, passport and was sent straight to a secondary screening room which was like detention.

Everyone who wasn’t a citizen or permanent resident or a student was sent to this room with the exception of some unlucky F1 students who also were in the room. It was also packed as flights from Latin countries kept arriving and some folks were sent here.

No phones were allowed here and the officers were calling up one by one and it felt like a court room. They were taking up each case and conducting a 10 min enquiry and ran an entire background check on their computer.

H1B visa holders travelling with families and those with USC kids were taken care of first and then came my turn after an hour and a half. I was asked about my exception, about travel to India, details about company, etc and was finally given my passport back.

Then collected bags and left!

Total time at Newark: 3 hours.

Be prepared to be put through additional screening. It felt like we were criminals and our court case was running. But the positive side of it was that everyone was being sent out eventually and they’re just making sure that all details are verified thoroughly. While I was in there it felt like I was a bad student sent to detention.Once I was out of rhe room I was treated with utmost respect. Be patient and be honest, you will get through it fine.

Goodluck to anyone whose POE is EWR!


What was your Travel Experiences to US on NIE ? Share your experiences in Comments below.

   

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8 Comments

  1. I’d received NIE approval from Chennai consulate after 6 weeks. In the approval mail they misspelled the surname but passport number is mentioned rightly. I’d notified to consulate but haven’t received any feedback yet.

    Anyone knows how this NIE worked as email says

    ” THIS CORRESPONDENCE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. IT IS NOT REQUIRED FOR AIRLINE BOARDING DETERMINATIONS.

    Should I consider this as typo & expect the CBP data base is updated correctly or wait for Chennai consulate to reply and make the amendment.

    Reply
    • NIE approval over mail is not a mandate from Airlines or POE officers . Embassy is issuing Visa(s) with NIE annotation which is tagged to your passport. I believe you are good .

      Reply
  2. My Wife has raised a travel request for July 13 for travelling to Dallas.She has NIE annoited on her H1B visa page as he got it stamped on Mid June.

    Any idea if both doses of covishield are needed to be taken for flying to US under Nie?
    She got her first dose on May 31st and its been more than 28 days and asper Indian health ministry can take second dose before 84 days if international travel is scheduled for employment.

    Did any one who has travelled under Nie faced this situation? Can you help regarding the registration for second dose? Is it being checked? I am from Kolkata

    Reply
  3. Currently, I’m residing in the United States on an H1-B visa and stamped recently in March. I’m fully vaccinated and have a CDC vaccination card. I’m planning to travel to India in August. In my case, while coming back to the United States, do I still need to get approval for NIE before I travel to India? What steps should I need to take?
    Please let me know.

    Reply
  4. Hi,

    Currently, I’m residing in the United States on an H1-B visa and stamped recently in March. I’m fully vaccinated and have a CDC vaccination card. I’m planning to travel to India in August. In my case, while coming back to the United States, do I still need to get approval for NIE before I travel to India? What steps should I need to take?
    Please let me know.

    Thank you,
    Krithika

    Reply
  5. I recently traveled to US with NIE email. I work as an electrical / biomedical engineering researcher on H4 EAD. I took United Flight from Hyderabad to Newark. Hyderabad airport officials asked for my NIE email. The border patrol never bothered to ask me about NIE. He told me I don’t need NIE as my husband is living in the US. No questions asked, no secondary checks.

    Customs – I told that I had Indian sweets, scanned my bags and let me go.

    Reply

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