As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact communities around the globe, the U.S. has maintained several Presidential Proclamations (“P.P.”, 9984, 9992, 10143, and 10199) that restrict travel from numerous countries including China, India and many European countries to slow the spread of the virus between continents. These restrictions have been consistently causing issues with travel and entry to the U.S., as only very specific classes of individuals are exempted from the Proclamations. Moreover, the pandemic itself has prompted Consulates and Embassies worldwide to close their doors or work on extremely limited hours and staffing, creating additional headaches when trying to enter or return to the U.S., as visa stamping appointments are regularly being cancelled and those that do remain are delayed by a year or more.
For businesses, this has been especially problematic as key workers and employees are finding themselves stuck abroad despite having an approved visa by the U.S. immigration authorities. To accommodate these needs, the U.S. has created the National Interest Exception (“NIE”) policy to assist qualifying individuals to return more quickly to the U.S. This guide will explain how Weinstock Immigration Lawyers the Visa Pros can help individual obtain NIE and discuss NIE eligibility for those present in countries impacted by the Proclamations’ travel restrictions. For individuals who are not in an affected country but who are still faced with the inability to travel as a result of cancelled and far-in-advance appointments our immigration attorneys may also be able to help.
Who is subject to an existing travel prohibition?
Generally speaking, all noncitizens from the following countries are subject to travel restrictions to the U.S.:
- China (P.P. 9984)
- Iran (P.P. 9992)
- United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, and South Africa (P.P. 10143)
- The Schengen Area: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland (P.P. 10143)
- India (P.P. 10199)
Individuals who are automatically except from the Proclamations include U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, i.e., green card holders, and their spouses, children (single and under age 21), and siblings (under age 21), as well as the parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizen or LPR children who are single and under age 21. There are several other categories of individuals not impacted by the Proclamation; however, these are much less common.
Even if you are located in a country for which travel from is restricted to the U.S., your travel may qualify for an NIE. Exempt individuals include certain exchange students and academics, journalists, pilots and aircrew, and others. Additionally, those who are traveling for the purposes of seeking lifesaving medical treatment, healthcare workers contributing to the alleviation or research of COVID-19, or needing emergent humanitarian travel, are all able to apply for an NIE.
Our immigration lawyers can help obtain NIE’s for many individuals whose travel is for the purpose of “providing executive direction or vital support for critical infrastructure sectors, or directly linked supply chains,” and those “providing vital support or executive direction for significant economy activity.
Because the U.S. has not clearly explained portions of the NIE policy, like what qualifies as “vital support,” or what constitutes “significant economy activity,” applying for an NIE can be a difficult process to do on one’s own. The process is further complicated by the fact that each country’s Embassy or Consulates have their own methods of applying for an NIE, different requirements for documents and evidence, and no appeal processes. The good news is that once approved, this approval is valid for one year and hiring an experience immigration lawyer to help you with this process will significantly increase your odds of NIE approval.
Typically, “executive direction,” refers to management or director position that can exercise discretion over a company’s business decisions and strategies, investment and expansion plans, and the organization’s staff. “Vital support,” conversely, can be a worker at any level that is essential or critical to the company’s continued operations or future operations.
While the U.S. has not defined what qualifies as “significant economic activity,” it has put forth an extensive list of what qualifies as critical infrastructure. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (“CISA”) has listed 16 sectors that qualify as “critical infrastructure,” including: chemical, commercial facilities, communications, critical manufacturing, dams, defense industrial base, emergency services, energy, financial services, food and agriculture, government facilities, healthcare and public health, information technology, nuclear reactors, materials and waste, transportation systems, and water and wastewater systems. Within each of these sectors, CISA has listed specific examples of employees or workers who may qualify as someone vitally supporting or providing executive direction for critical infrastructure.
Every situation is different and every NIE application will need to be supported by company documentation to show that the individual requesting the NIE meets the criteria. The Visa Pros at Weinstock Immigration Lawyers have successfully prepared and received approvals for many NIE applications and can provide you with a personalized strategy based on your specific needs and timeframe.
While you may not be subject to a proclamation requiring an NIE to travel, you may find yourself in a situation where no appointments are available, or they are extremely far in advance by months or years. Many Consulates and Embassies that are shut down due to COVID-19 or have minimized their operations, have implemented procedures that enable travelers to request an expedited visa stamping appointment based upon various criteria, including urgent humanitarian needs (i.e., medical care, funerals, or deaths, etc.) and urgent business travel where the company would suffer hardship should the traveler be unable to quickly return.
Every consulate and embassy have different criteria, documentation, and submission requirements which is why it’s important to have the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney when applying. You may qualify, depending on your circumstances, and our firm can assist with the evaluation of your case and the preparation of a strong expedite request in these cases.
Are you in need of NIE or expedited appointment request, or curious whether you are eligible? Contact Weinstock Immigration Lawyers today at (770) 604-1603 or request a consultation to discuss your case to gain entry to the U.S.