Updates to Approved NIE Categories

Updates to Approved NIE Categories

Making it Easier for Business Travelers to Enter the United States

Updates to Approved NIE Categories

The Department of State has recently announced new categories of travel for potential National Interest Exception (NIE) approval in relation to Covid-19-related travel restrictions. This update may allow for more people to enter the United States if they meet the criteria addressed in this article.

On March 2, 2021, the Secretary of State revised eligibility for the NIE program, making it considerably more restrictive than previously – and largely eliminating business travel as a category of travel eligible for NIE consideration.

New NIE Updates

The new guidance released on June 4, 2021, builds upon the March 2 policy change by granting new eligibility to those traveling to the U.S. to provide vital support or executive direction for critical infrastructure or significant economic activity.

Critical Infrastructure

The Department of Homeland Security defines these sectors as critical infrastructure:

Chemical, commercial facilities, communications, critical manufacturing, dams, defense industrial bases, emergency services, energy, financial services, food and agriculture, government facilities, healthcare and public health, information technology, nuclear reactors, transportation, and water/wastewater systems.

Significant Economic Activity 

The Department of State defines significant economic activity in the United States as:

  • Travel to support a large entertainment production conducted in the United States that would not go on without the traveler.
  • Travel by highly specialized professionals or experts to install, service, maintain or receive the necessary training for vessels, machinery, and other critical equipment required by U.S. and foreign firms with a substantial investment in the United States.
  • Travel by executives and senior-level employees providing strategy and direction to the U.S. and foreign firms with a substantial investment in the United States.

What Does This Mean for Me?

NIEs are still approved on a case-by-case basis, but this recent update has relaxed NIE requirements from the March 2 policy update to an extent, thereby making it easier for high-level business travelers and E-2 visa holders to get approved.

The NIE remains only valid for 30 days and is a one-time entry to the United States and must be applied for and approved every time you wish to enter the country.

If you would like to apply for an NIE, contact our Charlotte office’s immigration team!

Get more US travel updates here.