New Department of State guidance narrows grounds for qualifying for a National Interest Exception (NIE) for travel from Europe.

NIE travel europe

On March 2, 2021, the Department of State published new NIE guidelines. Previously, executives, managers and specialists in the E-1, E-2, H-1B and L-1 visa categories, whose visit could be shown as likely to confer “substantial economic benefit” on the U.S., could be approved. Under the new guidelines, however, a NIE may only be issued to an applicant who will provide “vital support of critical infrastructure sectors as defined by the Department of the Homeland Security (DHS) or critical infrastructure linked supply chain support”.

DHS-defined critical infrastructure sectors are:

  • 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

No previously-issued visas or NIEs will be revoked due to the new policy, and academics, students, and journalists will still automatically be granted NIEs. U.S. Consulates will also continue to grant NIEs for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security.

Importantly, the U.S. Consulate in Rome has indicated that “senior executives and managers traveling to observe operations, hold regular meetings with U.S. clients, and/or for routine operational travel will no longer be considered eligible for a National Interest Exception.” This policy will likely be applied by U.S. Consulates across Europe, and we expect travel restrictions to remain in place for the remainder of 2021.

If you would like to discuss how you, an employee, or a family member may be impacted by the new NIE policy, contact us today for a consultation.

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