(Updated 12 September 2021) With the onset of middle summer 2021 in the United Kingdom, the need to travel to the United States grew dramatically. Announcements were made about loosening of quarantine restrictions upon return from the US as an amber country. Even with a valid ESTA or non-immigrant visa however, if you need to travel to the United States and are a foreign national coming from the United Kingdom, most likely you will have to either (1) make time to be in Mexico, or another non Schengen, UK or Ireland country for a full 14 days before entering the US, or (2) obtain a national interest exception (NIE). The US Embassy in London can take up to 45 days to grant a national interest exception to travel directly to the US despite the travel ban. Urgent exceptions for humanitarian travel reasons may be granted for emergencies more quickly - like to see a dying parent or sibling, or to help support someone who is newly diagnosed with a disease or has suffered an accident.
Sadly, due to the ongoing pandemic travel restrictions, common travel purposes without the addition of a humanitarian, emergency will not form the basis for consular officers to approve an NIE. The Vienna US Embassy, for example, has let the public know that they consider these reasons to be non-essential, tourism or leisure travel: "visiting family or friends; visiting a fiancée, fiancé, girlfriend, boyfriend, partner; attending a wedding or graduation ceremony; visiting a pregnant relative or baby; routine business meetings; attending a professional conference; maintaining a rental or investment property; etc."
If you have urgent, humanitarian need to travel, please consider making the request yourself by following these directions:
You will find the link for the contact sheet for the nonimmigrant visa department of the US Embassy in London at FAQ 1.6 of these frequently asked questions here https://uk.usembassy.gov/visas/u-s-visa-and-travel-faqs/. Read in particular this question 1.6 FAQ 1.6 “I am not exempt from the presidential Proclamation but I want to request national interest consideration.” The answer to FAQ 1.6 contains the link to the public inquiry form.
When you get to the choices, choose the last one, if you already have an approved ESTA or non-immigrant visitor visa: “My inquiry concerns nonimmigrant visas and is not covered by your website.” This will connect you with the public inquiry form.
In the initial contact form, state the purpose of your travel, but make sure to include this exact wording in the first part of the form:
- Request “National Interest consideration,” and
- I have a valid ESTA, or I have a valid visa. (whichever applies)
After you have completed the first form, you will receive via email a more complete questionnaire to make your request. This can take about 36 hours. Follow the instructions there thoroughly including sending the requested attachment of the biographic data page of your passport, and give detailed responses to all questions that apply to your situation.
Resources on National Interest Exceptions
For and introduction to the NIE, please read my news item Which Foreign Nationals Can Travel to the United States from Covid-19 Travel Restricted Countries: The National Interest Exception.
For a discussion of the economic NIE, an NIE for travel to the United States for work reasons, please read my news item Coming to Provide Vital Support to Critical Infrastructure: The New Economic National Interest Exception Explained.
Contact Melissa Chavin – US Visa Lawyer
The above is not legal advice for a particular individual or case. It is only general, legal information. To discuss your specific circumstances and requirements, contact London based US lawyer Melissa Chavin to schedule a paid consultation. Consultations may be conducted by phone, in person in London, or by video conference and cost GB£510. Ms. Chavin is licensed to practice US law, and can help you resolve your concerns.