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National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) for Travel to the US from Certain Countries

Certain countries have been designated by US Presidential Proclamation as subject to a 14-day entry suspension into the US due to COVID-19. These suspensions prevent most persons - with certain exceptions, such as US citizens or permanent residents - from entering the US directly if they have been in those countries within 14 days prior to entering the US. At present, countries subject to a COVID-19 entry suspension include China, Iran, South Africa, India, the Schengen Area countries, and the United Kingdom and Ireland. To enter the US, travelers must first go to a third country not affected by an entry suspension for at least 14 days prior to entering the US.

In order to travel to the US directly from those regions, non-immigrant visa holders must be granted a National Interest Exception (NIE), which is special authorization to travel directly to the US despite the COVID-19 entry suspension. To obtain an NIE, the traveler can request one at the time of their visa appointment with the US consulate. If the traveler already has a valid US visa, they must contact the US consulate (usually by email) that issued their visa, and the consulate will determine whether or not to issue a NIE. Because each consulate has somewhat different procedures, please contact the US consulate that issued your visa, or the US embassy in the country where you obtained your visa, for more information.

See our COVID-19 Entry Suspensions page for more details.

Automatic NIE for F-1 Students and F-2 Dependents

The US State Department has announced an automatic NIE process for F-1 student visa holders (and their F-2 dependents). Under the automatic NIE process, F-1 students and F-2 dependents will not need to request a NIE to travel to the US, but may travel as long as they have all other documents needed for US entry (including a valid passport, F-1 visa, and Form I-20).

F-1 students traveling to the US from the Schengen Area and the UK/Ireland are already eligible for automatic NIE and do not need to contact the US consulate for special authorization. F-1 students and their dependents traveling to the US from China, Iran, India, and South Africa are eligible for automatic NIEs only if they are coming to start or resume programs on or after August 1, 2021.

All Other Visa Types: NIE Required

For all other visa types - including J-1 / J-2, H-1B, and others - NIE authorization from a US consulate is still needed. Please request a NIE during your visa appointment or (if you already have a valid visa) by contacting your US consulate. NIEs for these other visa types is not automatic. Fortunately, once granted, NIE approval is valid for up to twelve months and for multiple trips, assuming all other documents (including your passport, Form DS-2019 or H-1B approval notice, etc.) remain valid.

COVID-19 Test Result Prior to International Flight

International air travelers to the US must still be able to show a negative COVID-19 test result following a COVID test taken within 72 hours prior to flight departure. This applies regardless of whether the travelers is coming under an automatic NIE or has been granted a NIE by a US consulate.


For more information or if you have questions about your specific situation, send an email to