On March 2, 2021, the Department of State rescinded the previous national interest determination regarding categories of travelers eligible for exceptions under Presidential Proclamation 10143 as related to the Schengen Area, United Kingdom and Ireland. The previous national interest determination covered certain technical experts and specialists, senior-level managers and executives, treaty-traders and investors, professional athletes and their dependents.

The Secretary of State also made a new national interest determination covering certain travelers seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure.

In addition to the changes discussed on the Department of State website, travelers who wish to visit the United States to offer vital support to critical infrastructure sectors, as well as academics, J-1 students and journalists who have a valid visa in the appropriate class, an ESTA authorization or who are seeking to apply for a visa and believe they may qualify for a national interest exception (NIE), should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling. If an NIE is approved, they may travel on either a valid visa or ESTA authorization, as appropriate.

One consular post has clarified that:

[E]ffective immediately, technical experts and specialists, senior-level managers and executives, treaty-traders and investors, and professional athletes and their dependents no longer qualify for NIEs unless they can show that they are seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure sectors or critical infrastructure-linked supply chain. [T]he travel must be directly related to supporting the infrastructure. The examples given in Department guidance differentiate between those that would qualify?inspectors clearing deliveries or specialists who are completing essential components?and those that would not?senior executives traveling to observe operations or hold meetings.

Based on the update and the far-reaching impact it has, persons currently in the United States on E, H, L, O or P visas should be aware that leaving the United States for trips to an affected travel ban country may result in being unable to reenter the United States for some time.

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Duane Morris' Immigration Law Group attorneys regularly advise employers regarding their employees' travel plans. Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help employers plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior  Alerts on the topic are available on the team's web page.

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Originally published March 4, 2021

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