National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers

August 7, 2020

By Immigration Group

This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Loan Huynh, Fredrikson Immigration Department Chair, is a member.

COVID-19-related travel bans remain in place for several countries and regions. The Department of State (DOS) released updated guidance on July 22, 2020, stating that certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics and students may qualify for national interest exceptions. Below are highlights:

  • Business travelers, investors, academics, J-1 students and treaty traders who have a valid visa or Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) issued before Presidential Proclamation 9993 or 9996’s effective date or who are seeking to apply for a visa and believe they may qualify for a national interest exception should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling.
  • The DOS also continues to grant national interest exceptions for qualified travelers seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response and national security.
  • As noted above, students traveling from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual national interest exception to travel. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for a national interest exception to travel.