How to Apply for a National Interest Exception to India Travel Ban

On May 4, 2021, India was added to a list of countries with restrictions on entry to the United States because of an increase in COVID-19 cases. The ban prohibited most travelers physically present in the country during the 14 days prior to their planned or attempted U.S. entry from entering the U.S. The sudden announcement left numerous individuals stranded in India, even while their family members were in the U.S. As cases escalated, the consulates shut down, even temporarily halting emergency appointments as the country managed the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Consular operations remain limited worldwide, with many posts only accepting emergency appointments. Emergency appointments are only being scheduled if an individual can provide evidence that he or she is not subject to the travel ban. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are exempt from the bans, as are a number of categories including individuals supporting critical infrastructure. Find out if you are exempt from the ban: Are You Subject to the Travel Ban? India Travel Restrictions & Resources

I don’t have a valid visa, but I am eligible for a National Interest Exception and need to travel to the U.S. 

If you have an urgent need for travel but do not have a valid visa, you must first qualify for an emergency appointment. Reasons for emergency appointments include medical needs, funeral/death, urgent business travel, and students or exchange visitors. Find out more about the criteria in our article: How to Request an Expedited Consular Appointment  The Department of State also expanded eligibility for an interview waiver or “drop box” appointment to 48 months (if you previously held the same visa class that has expired within the 48-month time frame). Review our Interview Waiver Checklist: Are you Eligible for a Drop Box Appointment?

In order to secure an expedited or emergency appointment, the consulates are also asking that you provide proof that you qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE) at the same time. Please contact an immigration attorney if you have questions about your eligibility.

I have a valid visa and I am eligible for a National Interest Exception. How do I travel to the U.S.? 

How to Apply for a National Interest Exception (NIE) – With Valid Visa (No Stamping Appointment Required)

1. Prepare your evidence of NIE eligibility.

2. Send an email to the consulate or embassy with your evidence and the below information.

Visa holders with definite plans to travel who can demonstrate qualification for a National Interest Exception may contact the Embassy or Consulate that issued their visa to request a national interest exception prior to travel:

The email must include the following information for all travelers seeking an exception, as it appears on the visa:

Last name
First name
Date of birth, in DDMMMYYY format (ie – 01JAN2021)
Gender (M/F)
Country of birth
Country of citizenship
Passport number
Visa Number and Category (The visa number, also known as the visa foil number, is located on the lower right of the visa.)
Issuing Post Name (upper left corner of visa)
Travel dates
Travel purpose and national interest category, including a clear justification for receipt of an NIE

3. Wait for a response (between 2 weeks and 30 days in most cases.)

The Department of State has noted that each request will be considered as resources and operating capacity allow. You are encouraged to send your email in English for the fastest response times. While the consular posts strive to answer all requests with an approval or denial of the NIE within 2 weeks, the process could take longer.

Please note that national interest exceptions, when granted, are valid for a single entry within 30 days of approval. Subsequent requests after an expired NIE may have greater challenges to approval if it appears your travel was not actually urgent.

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