It has been a little over one month since President’s proclamation restricting arrival of travelers from the pandemic-hit India, except certain groups, took effect on May 4, 2021. The temporary ban on entry into the United States for travelers from India principally applies to non-American residents having neither a US-born kid nor a spouse with legal permanent residency (LPR). It has mostly affected H1B, H4, L1, L2 and B1/B2 visa holders among non-immigrant groups. The articles below tell a disheartening story of how some non-immigrant families suffered a split-up in the wake of the USA’s travel restriction for India.
- This H1B visa holder traveled to India for family emergency but got stuck there
- US travel ban splits up this Indian family forever
However, the Department of State provides the National Interest Exception (NIE), a special entry permit, allowing those stuck or stranded in India to fly back to America, given their humanitarian activities or service in critical infrastructure sectors including national security, public health care, and information technology. Many individuals, among H1B, H4, L1 and L2 visa holders, working in any of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors (listed by the Department of State) have been granted an NIE to travel back to the US.
If you are separated from your family in the US and looking to travel back, but you don’t meet the eligibility criteria for an NIE, there is still a way out. You can apply for an NIE on grounds of family separation. Many non-immigrant US visa holders from India seeking family reunion got NIE travel approval for entry into America.
How to seek National Interest Exception for travel to USA from India?
You need to seek NIE approval from the US consulate where the visa was stamped on your passport. If the US Embassy, New Delhi has given you the visa, you should send an email to NewDelhiNIE@state.gov. If it is the US Consulate Chennai, you should send an email application to ChennaiNIE@state.gov. MumbaiNIE@state.gov for writing to the US Consulate Mumbai, and HyderabadNIE@state.gov for the US Consulate General Hyderabad.
Your email requesting NIE approval for travel to USA must include all the following details of you if you are the traveler:
- Last name:
- First name:
- Date of birth (MM-DD-YYYY):
- Place of birth:
- Country of citizenship:
- Passport number:
- Visa Number*:
- Visa Category:
- Issuing Post Name (upper left corner of visa):
- Travel dates (MM-DD-YYYY):
- Travel purpose:
- National interest category:
- Clear justification for receipt of a NIE:
(*The visa number, also known as the visa foil number, is located on the lower right of the visa.)
NIE approval for travel to USA, if granted, is valid for 30 days from the receipt of a NIE. You must complete travel within 30 days from the date of your NIE approval which allows single entry into the United States. If a NIE waiver is granted to you, you will receive an email confirmation as below. Please note, all NIE requests are considered on a case-by-case basis. Email applications for NIE travel approval in languages other than English will take a little longer than usual to get response.
“Dear Applicant, you have been approved for a national interest exception to Presidential Proclamation 10199 restricting entry to the United States of individuals who have been physically present in India during the pandemic. This exception is approved for immediate travel to the United States and is valid for single entry within 30 days from the date of approval.”
If you qualify for a National Interest Exception because of an emergency need for return travel to USA from India, but you don’t have a valid visa, you can request an expedited appointment for visa renewal through the online system. You need to mention you qualify for an NIE on what grounds in your request for an expedited visa appointment and provide supporting documentation.
You are a US citizen/Green card holder. Recently, you lost your father and your mother is all alone in India. You want to take her to the US. Though she (on B2 visa) is not eligible for an NIE waiver, you can seek a National Interest Exception for her on the humanitarian ground. You must justify your request for an NIE for you mother with maximum possible information and all supporting documents, in your email application to the relevant US consular office in India.