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Schengen Zone National Interest Exception

Aug 12 2020

Since March 2020, a COVID travel ban has been in effect on foreign nationals for those who have been present in the Schengen Zone countries for the 14 days prior to seeking entry to the U.S. Foreign nationals who had been present in the UK and Ireland were banned shortly after.

As of July 15th, the U.S. Department of State is permitting certain travelers from Schengen Area, the UK and Ireland to resume travel to the United States because of an exception, known asthe National Interest Exception (NIE). These travelers include F-1 and J-1 students and certain J-1 categories (Professors, Research Scholars, Short-Term Scholars, Specialists). Students with valid visas and I-20s do not need to seek an NIE and may travelto the United States and apply for admission, but those with J visas/Ds-2019s must contact their nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request. The exception granted to students and researchers will be valid for 30 days.

Please see the following bulletin for more information:


August 12, 2020 Announcement: H1-B and the National Interest Exception

On August 12, 2020 the U.S. Department of State issued new guidance on National Interest Exceptionto the June presidential proclamation which bars entry to the US through December 31, 2020 to H-1B workers who were outside of the US or did not have a valid H-1B visa stamp at the time of the proclamation.

The U.S. Department of State has outlined new criteria for an exception to the entry ban, which includes:

  1. For travel as a public health or healthcare professional, or researcher to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, or to conduct ongoing medical research in an area with a substantial public health benefit (e.g. cancer or communicable disease research)
  2. Travel by scholars seeking to resume ongoing employment in the United States in the same position with the same employer and visa classification.
  3. Travel by technical specialists, senior level managers, and otherworkers whose travel is necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States. Consular officers may determine that an H-1B applicant falls into this category when at least two of the following five indicators are present:
    • Labor Condition Application, or LCA, was approved during or after July 2020 (unless the scholar is currently performing or is able to perform the essential functions of the position remotely from outside the United States)
    • The individual will providesignificant and unique contributions to an employer meeting a critical infrastructure need (including healthcare and public health)
      • Must show senior level placement within the petitioning organization, OR
      • the individual will provide significant and uniquecontributions to the petitioning company.
  4. The wage rate paid to the H-1B applicant meaningfully exceeds the prevailing wage rate by at least 15 percent
  5. The H-1B applicant’s education, training and/or experience demonstrate unusualexpertise in the specialty occupation in which the applicant will be employed.
  6. Denial of the visa pursuant to P.P. 10052 will cause financial hardship to the U.S. employer.


Please see link to the announcement here:

We are continuing to advise H-1B scholars not to travel unless it is absolutelynecessary, as there is no guarantee that you will be able to get a visa stamp and re-enter the US even if you fall under the new criteria. US consulates and embassies around the world remain slow to reopen with very limited visa appointments.  If do choose to travel and believe you meet the criteria for an exception and need to apply for an H-1B visa stamp, please contact the US embassy or consulate where you wish to apply for instructions on how to request an emergency visa appointment.