Citizens of China, South Africa, the Schengen Zone, the United Kingdom, Ireland and India, subject to the US entry restrictions under the COVID-19 travel ban, can benefit from their NIEs for another 12 months, as the State Department decided to expand its National Interest Exceptions (NIEs), provided they are used for the purpose under which they are granted.

National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) are applications submitted to the US Consulate requesting an exemption from Presidential Proclamations introduced due to the COVID-19 situation, under which travel from specific countries to the US has been temporarily banned, VisaGuide.World reports.

The recent State Department decision means that NIEs will be valid for 12 months from the date of approval and for multiple entries if used for the cause they are designed. Travellers whose entry is in the US national interest are exempted from the presidential proclamations.

Journalists, persons travelling to provide essential support to critical infrastructure, and those travelling due to specific humanitarian causes are exempted from the presidential proclamations.

Persons travelling to support public health or national security are also excluded from the proclamations introduced to halt the further spread of the disease.

In addition, the following categories, among others, are also exempted from the US Presidential Proclamations:

  • US citizens
  • US noncitizen national
  • US permanent resident

“Among the qualifications for NIEs are those travelling to provide vital support or executive direction to critical infrastructure; those travelling to provide vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the United States; journalists; travel due to extraordinary humanitarian circumstances; or travel in support of national security or public health,” the statement clarifies.

In an effort to prevent the further spread of the virus, on April 30, 2021, President Biden announced that it signed a proclamation that bans entry for all travellers coming from India.

In addition, four other Presidential Proclamations have been signed under the same purpose, limiting the entry to the US to all people who were present in a covered country in the past two weeks before their planned access or attempted to enter the US.

The following covered Countries are affected by US authorities decisions.

  • Brazil
  • China
  • Iran
  • Ireland
  • Schengen Area (Austria, Czech Republic, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, France, Greece, Germany,  Hungary, Italy, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein,  Luxembourg, Netherlands, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Poland,  Slovakia, Spain, Slovenia, Sweden, and Switzerland)
  • United Kingdom
  • South Africa
  • India

The current bans imposed by governments worldwide to halt the further spread of the virus have profoundly affected travellers, especially the travel and tourism sector, among others.

According to the figures published by the European Travel Commission, last year, international arrivals in Europe decreased by 70 per cent compared to 2019 figures. The figures decreased to 6.6 million last year.

However, even amid the pandemic, the majority of European countries have opened their doors in order to welcome citizens from America, some of them since spring.

Last month, the White House introduced interagency working groups with the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada and Mexico to find solutions that would help lift restrictions imposed due to the virus.

In addition, 24 industry organizations called on the White House to abolish COVID-19 restrictions that prohibit travellers from many countries from travelling to the US. Still, according to a White House official, such a decision will need more discussion.