National Interest Exceptions for European Students, Academics, Investors and Business Travelers

21 July 2020 Coronavirus Resource Center:Back to Business Blog
Author(s): Roy J. Barquet

On July 16, 2020, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced that business travelers, investors, treaty traders, and academics from the Schengen Area countries, the U.K., and Ireland may qualify for “national interest exceptions” under Presidential Proclamation 9993 [suspending entry of foreign nationals from the Schengen Area] and Presidential Proclamation 9996 [suspending entry of foreign nationals from the U.K. and Ireland]. Please note that travel for the primary purpose of tourism remains suspended.

International students traveling to the U.S. on valid F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant student visas are exempt from the travel ban and do not need to apply for a national interest exception to be admitted into the U.S. Notwithstanding, international students from China, Brazil, and Iran are still subject to the U.S. travel ban.

According to the DOS, the following categories of foreign nationals may qualify for “national interest exceptions” under Presidential Proclamation 9993 and Presidential Proclamation 9996, which suspended travel from the Schengen Area, the U.K., and Ireland to the U.S.:

  • Public Health: healthcare professionals or researchers working to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic OR to continue ongoing research in an area with substantial public health benefit [e.g. cancer research].

  • Academics: foreign nationals on J-1, Exchange Visitor visas in the categories of Students, Professors, Research Scholars, Short-Term Scholars, or Specialists.

  • Investors: foreign nationals involved in U.S. investment or trade activities of substantial economic impact, including foreign nationals under E-1, Treaty Traders and E-2, Treaty Investors nonimmigrant classifications.

  • Business Travel: foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. to provide a significant economic benefit to the U.S. economy, including:

    • Technical experts/specialists, traveling to the U.S. to install, service, maintain, or receive training for vessels, machinery and other specialized equipment used by U.S. and foreign firms with a substantial investment in the U.S. Travel must be temporary and for a defined period.

    • Senior-level managers/executives, traveling to the U.S. to provide strategic direction necessary for the success of their company.

    • Professional athletes and essential staff, traveling to the U.S. to participate in major sporting events.

Business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, and students from the Schengen Area countries, the U.K., and Ireland who believe they fall under one of the exception categories above should contact their local U.S. Consulate for details about their visa application process.  Consular officers will make the final determination regarding each applicant’s qualifications for a student visa or a national interest exemption visa at the time of the interview. Please note that most U.S. Consulates in Europe have begun a phased resumption of some visa services on July 20, 2020 and offer limited visa appointments to those applicants who qualify for an exception and have imminent travel needs. As such, there is likely to be increased wait times for completing such services due to substantial backlogs.

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