National Interest Exception Guidance to Presidential Proclamations 10014 and 10052
On August 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of State issued guidance on scenarios that may qualify for a “national interest exception” under Presidential Proclamation 10052 of June 22, 2020 (“Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak”) and Presidential Proclamation 10014 of April 22, 2020 (“Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak”). Citing economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Donald Trump issued the proclamations and temporarily suspended the entry of certain foreign nationals into the United States. Although both proclamations referenced exceptions for individuals “whose entry would be in the national interest,” formal guidance had not been released prior to this announcement.
The guidance provided a non-exhaustive list of scenarios that may qualify for a national interest exception by each visa category that was affected by Proclamation. Should one feel that one fits into such “National Interest Exception” (“NIE), one can follow the consular post’s procedures to make an emergency visa appointment. The State Department cautioned that U.S. embassies and consulates may still offer only limited services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and so the ability to obtain a national interest exception is itself contingent upon the ability to obtain a visa appointment. If a national interest exception is granted, employers must also consider whether the applicant is also subject to one of the separate regional travel bans.
Here are some of the common exception scenarios listed:
- 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). This includes those traveling to alleviate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that may be a secondary effect of the pandemic
- Travel supported by a request from a U.S. government agency or entity to meet critical U.S. foreign policy objectives or to satisfy treaty or contractual obligations.
- Travel by employees seeking to resume ongoing employment in the United States in the same position with the same employer and visa classification.
The third category mentioned above can be used by some L1A and L1B and H1B workers.
I recently represented a multinational company, which is a global provider of high-performance wireless network coverage solutions for telecommunication industry and got an I-129 petition approved for an executive to come to serve in the U.S. company in early March. Her visa interview was initially scheduled for mid-March which was cancelled and again for October, which was again cancelled. I helped her apply for an emergency interview invoking the NIE at the consular post in early October, and she was granted the visa under the exception.