As most of you know, Trump Travel ban on H1B, L and other visa holders has separated many families and many are stuck in their home countries and not able to travel to US. They announced National Interest Exceptions(NIE) for H1B, H4, L and other visa holders, who could get US Visa stamping done and also can travel to US.
The eligible applicants need to apply for Emergency Appointment (EA) to get visa stamping done. US consulates in India are no different for this EA process. But, recently, there has been talk among many telling that there is a 30 days rule to travel to US, if the visa was approved under National Interest Exception (NIE). Many of our users, including us have reached to consulates & USTravelDocs in India to clarify the same. In this article, we will share the summary of what we got back from consulates and more details on this 30 days rule.
What is US Visa Approved under NIE ? Sample ?
Due to executive order (EO)/ proclamation signed by US President, applicants of some visa types (e.g. H1B, H4, L, others) are not be eligible to get US visa or enter US. As part of the EO or Proclamation, they gave exceptions to get US Visa. For example, if your spouse is in US on the day of proclamation, or you had same visa type valid on the day of proclamation, you are not subject to proclamation or EO.
Now, if you are eligible for these exceptions and get US Visa approved, then US Visa Stamp Foil that is glued in passport would have annotation called National Interest Exception (NIE) and the proclamation number next to it. It looks like below. If you have got US Visa with this annotation, then your visa was approved under NIE. See below screenshot for sample US Visa issued under NIE.
What is 30 Days Travel Rule with US Visa issued under NIE?
As per few US consulates across the globe: If you get US Visa approved under National Interest Exception (NIE), you need to travel to US within 30 days after the US Visa is approved. This 30-day travel restriction to US may apply to some or all US Visas that were issued under NIE.
Below are some references from various US Consulates across the globe.
- US Consulate Germany: They have listed the 30 days travel rule, under the FAQs section and have it indicated for many of the visa types. Below is one of such screenshots that talks about the 30 days rule. Here is the exact text “Please be advised, if a national interest exception is granted for travel on a new or existing visa or for travel under ESTA, it is good for only one entry and for travel within 30 days after it is approved.” . You can Check US Consulate Germany COVID-19 FAQs
- US Embassy Norway: On US Embassy Norway, they have clearly put in big header on the page and talk about the limitations of National Interest Exception (NIE) Travel. They say that, even if you get full visa validity, if it was issued under NIE, then you need to travel within 30 days. See below screenshot. You can check US Embassy Norway – Expansion of NIE
- US Embassy Sweden: You can find the exact same message on US Embassy Sweden website that tells that you need to enter US within 30 days from the day visa is issued as well. See below screenshot and check US Embassy Sweden NIE info
Do all US Consulates have this 30 days Rule ? India ?
Not all US Consulates websites have the guidance on these limitations to travel to US within 30 days from visa issuance under NIE. Only a handful of consulates, like above, have this “travel within 30 days” rule listed on their websites as “Limitations of National Interest Exception for Travel”.
- US Consulate in India : We do not have the “Travel within 30 days rule” message or restriction listed on US Consulates websites in India for Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata or Hyderabad, including the US Embassy in Delhi. But, when we checked with them via email, the responses are mixed, we will look at them below.
US Consulate Chennai, India – 30 days Travel rule
Some users mentioned on Social media and telegram groups that US Consular officers in Chennai were telling about the 30 days rule. They advised the applicants, who got visas approved to travel within 30 days.
Initially, when we wrote to US Consulate in Chennai and they confirmed that the 30 days rule applies to all the visas issued at US Consulate in Chennai. But later, after sometime they clarified more on the same indicating that it applies only to certain cases and not for everyone. Also, we got email confirmation on the same. Below is the most recent update.
Sep 13th, 2020 : We received confirmation from US consulate clarifying that the 30 days restriction to travel to US does not apply to anyone who has visa with annotation “NIE under P.P on Risk to Labor Market“. Many of the recent H4, H1B, L1, and L2 visas are issued with this same annotation. So, to summarize, all US consulates in India confirmed that there is no such 30 days rule for visas issued with this NIE annotation of labor market. See below second email, where they clarified to other users apologizing for the confusion. Also, on social media, few other users posted similar confirmation emails from US consulate Chennai, that all say that this rule does not apply. So, it is validated by few users.
Below Information from Chennai Consulate is for Historical reasons for you to understand, it does not apply. The above guidance from Sep 13th is the final one.
Sep 10th, 2020 : Today a user, who got H4 Visa Approved using Dropbox got the below Yellow color slip that talks about the 30 days Travel rule. It says that the visa applicant has to travel to US within 30 days from the date of the Visa Interview. It is same as what Chennai Consulate updated via email. The user applied for Dropbox at Bangalore location with Chennai as the Consualte. So, it is real that Chennai is telling users that they need to leave to US in 30 days. See below screenshot
Below is the screenshot of the original exact email response that was sent to us on September 1st, 2020.
They also confirmed in email that the 30 days indication is not printed on the visa. See below screenshot.
US Embassy New Delhi, India – 30 days Travel rule
We reached out to US Embassy in New Delhi with exact same email text that quoted text of 30 days rule on Germany Consulate website. They said it does not apply to Indian Applicants. See below screenshot of the response from New Delhi Consulate.
US Consulate Mumbai, India – 30 days Travel rule Response
We have sent the same email to US Consulate in Mumbai. As per them, the 30 days rule does not apply to applicants in India and you can travel to US as long as the visa stands valid. See below screenshot of the response from them.
US Consulate Kolkata, India – 30 days Travel rule Response
One of our social media group users sent email to US Consulate in Kolkata. They confirmed that 30 days travel rule does not apply to visas issued at US Consulate in Kolkata. See below screenshot of the response from them.
In summary, the response from all consulates and US embassy in Delhi say that the 30 days rule does not apply.
US Travel Docs India Response for 30 Days Travel Rule
When we reached out with the same email to US Travel Docs, the response is totally bizarre. First, they just send the template response of the Proclamation. Second time, when I said they are wrong and ask it again, they send H1B related entry restrictions and do NOT even respond to my question. All we can conclude from this is that the Support Staff responding to USTravelDocs do not have clue to answer properly. So, cannot really trust what they say. See below screenshots from them.
Below are other responses that other users shared when they contacted USTravelDocs, where they say there is no such restriction. But again, this message from them has little weight as they seem to be answered by less trained support staff and response is not accurate. See below screenshot of two responses from them.
Conclusion – 30 days Rule for Consulates in India?
Updated Sep 15th, 2020
As you can see from above, there was confusion created by US Consulate in Chennai on the 30 days rule and the responses from USTravelDocs India Support channels was not clear too. Eventually, US Consulate in Chennai confirmed that the 30 days rule does not apply to anyone, who has the visa with annotation “”NIE under P.P on Risk to Labor Market“.”
- Now, if you plan to travel within 30 days, then just ignore all of this and go ahead with your travel.
- If you want to be extra safe, you can email the consulate and then take their email confirmation as print out. Again, this is not required, but if you want to be extra safe, you can do this.
What has been your response talking to US Consulates on 30 days rule ? Did you travel after 30 days to US ?