State Department Issues Guidance on National Interest Exceptions for Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom and Ireland

October 13, 2020

By Immigration Group

This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Laura Danielson is an active member.

The Department of State (DOS) recently released updated guidance on national interest exceptions for travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland. Certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, students and journalists may qualify for national interest exceptions under related Presidential Proclamations. Qualified travelers who are applying for or have valid visas or Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) authorization may travel to the United States following the procedures below:

  • Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK 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.
  • Business travelers, investors, academics, J-1 students, journalists and treaty traders who have a valid visa in the appropriate class, an ESTA authorization that was issued before Presidential Proclamations’ 9993 or 9996 effective dates, 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. If a national interest exception is approved, they may travel on either a valid visa or ESTA authorization, as appropriate.

DOS said it 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.