State Department Expands National Interest Exception List

Last Updated on February 23, 2023

The U.S. State Department has expanded its list of individuals who are eligible for a National Interest Exception (NIE) to enter the U.S. while regional COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in effect.


The State Department is now permitting more individuals to receive an NIE, which allows them to get an exception to enter the U.S. despite their presence in countries impacted by regional COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Individuals who are otherwise subject to the existing travel bans may now qualify for an NIE to enter the U.S. if they are seeking to provide vital support or executive direction for critical infrastructure or significant economic activity in the U.S. Additionally, journalists, immigrants, fiancées, students, and certain exchange visitor program participants are now eligible for an NIE.

Along with the new categories above, eligibility for an NIE still applies to the following individuals:

  • Immigrant and fiancé (K) visa applicants
  • Certain exchange visitors (including interns, trainees, teachers, and au pairs) who meet specific, limited criteria
  • Pilots and aircrew who are traveling to the U.S. for training or aircraft maintenance, pickup, and delivery

What Should Employers and Applicants Know?

While the above exceptions will allow more persons to travel to the U.S. from impacted countries, the added business and professional exceptions are limited and not applicable to most industries.

The exceptions include:

  • Au pairs who support children with special needs or children whose parents work in COVID-19 medical care
  • Persons traveling to the U.S. as government agency-sponsored exchange visitors, specialized teachers, and those in support of critical foreign policy objectives
  • Pilots and aircrew for training or aircraft pickup, delivery or maintenance

As such, persons physically present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, the U.K. or the Schengen Area must continue to understand the impact of the ban and any visa and entry options to meet their business and personal needs. Further, all travelers to the U.S. who are arriving by air must provide evidence of negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel. Alternatively, travelers can present documentation proving recovery from a recent COVID-19 infection.  

Looking Ahead

Envoy Global and Global Immigration Associates (GIA) will continue to provide updates on changes to COVID-19 entry restrictions to the U.S. as they become available. Envoy customers should contact their GIA legal team with specific questions.

Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Anne Walsh, who is a Partner at Global Immigration Associates, P.C. (, Envoy’s affiliated law firm.  

Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.