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07.07.2021 Extension of Validity Period for National Interest Exceptions for COVID-19 Travel Restricted Countries By: Tom C. Narvaez, D. Earl Baggett & William J. Benos

On July 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of State announced that the validity period for National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions will now be valid for 12 months from the date of approval and would remain valid for multiple entries. Previously, NIEs were only valid for a 30 day period and for a single entry.

In addition, the Department of State has retroactively applied this new guidance to all existing NIEs approved within the last 12 months. Travelers who have been approved for an NIE may travel to the United States using their existing NIEs if they were approved in the last 12 months and if the purpose of travel is the same as the purpose for which the NIE was previously granted.

Travelers will need to apply for a new NIE if the prior NIE was approved over 12 months ago or if the purpose of the travel is different than the purpose for which the NIE was previously granted.

Employers should identify personnel who may be affected by the new NIE guidance and contact Williams Mullen to discuss strategies and considerations regarding the travel of these employees. Also, employers should be prepared for ongoing disruption in immigration services while the COVID-19 pandemic remains fluid and while most consulates and embassies continue to operate on a limited basis. Williams Mullen is closely monitoring the situation and will provide updates as further information becomes available.

Finally, travelers are reminded to monitor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 guidance regarding necessary COVID-19 testing and protocols related to international travel.