On June 29, 2021, the U.S. Department of State extended the period of validity for national interest exceptions (NIE) for travelers entering the United States from an area subject to ongoing COVID-related travel bans.

Presidential proclamations 9984, 9992, 10143, 10199, and subsequent proclamations have banned the entry of certain nonimmigrants who have been present in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and India for the 14-day period prior to their requested entry into the United States. These proclamations were issued to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The proclamations, however, allow the Department of State to grant NIEs to qualified travelers seeking to enter the United States for humanitarian travel, public health response efforts, or in support of national security.

NIEs were originally limited to a single entry into the United States and with a validity period of only 30 days from the date of issuance. This required individuals who needed to enter the United States on multiple occasions to apply for and receive approval for subsequent NIEs for each travel and entry to the United States. According to the Department of State, effective immediately and unless otherwise indicated, NIEs will be valid for one year from the date of approval, as well as for multiple entries to the United States, as long as the entries are used for the same purpose under which the NIE was originally approved. Individuals must continue to meet the requirements for approval of the exception.

The extension applies retroactively to all existing NIEs that the Department of State granted within the last 12 months and in conjunction with an application for a U.S. visa or travel under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Therefore, an individual who has been approved for an NIE may travel to the United States using an existing NIE, as well as a valid visa or ESTA authorization, if the NIE was approved within the last 12 months and the purpose of the individual’s travel is the same purpose for which the NIE was originally granted.

At the moment, it does not appear this extension will be carried over to the validity period for NIEs granted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at ports of entry to the United States. Unless otherwise verified by the CBP, these NIEs may only remain valid for a single entry to the United States within 30 days of issuance.

Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will monitor developments with respect to these and other policy changes and will post updates on the Immigration blog and in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.