(Updated 9 November 2021) This article is now out of date. You no longer need a national interest exception to visit the United States. All NIEs granted before November 8 are now invalid!!! 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 3-4 weeks 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 email address and questions to respond to in order to apply for a national interest exception at this link https://uk.usembassy.gov/visas/u-s-visa-and-travel-faqs/. Scroll down to Section 4, "Information for non-immigrant visa or ESTA holders requiring an NIE." Follow the instructions 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. From November 8, 2021, the latter article should be read only for historic context.
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. From November 8, 2021, the latter article should be read when considering arguments for expedited visa appointments.
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.