Effective immediately, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has changed its policy regarding adjudicating requests for National Interest Exceptions (NIE) to Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992 and 10143 which restrict travel to the U.S. from China, Iran, the Schengen States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, and South Africa. Based on the policy change, CBP will only consider processing NIE requests for urgent humanitarian reasons or those involving national security and/or law enforcement matters. CBP will no longer process new NIE requests regardless of whether an applicant will provide vital support for critical infrastructure. All such NIE requests must now be submitted to and adjudicated by U.S. Department of State (DOS) consulates abroad. Unfortunately, this change is expected to cause delays in NIE processing, as routine operations are still suspended at U.S. consulates. As a result, NIE processing is taking up to 60 days at certain consulates.
In light of this change, those foreign nationals holding valid nonimmigrant employment-based visas (like the H-1B, L-1 or E, for example) and who depart the U.S. prior to obtaining the NIE may be subject to lengthy wait times for NIE requests to be processed and therefore may want to consider spending 14 days in a third country not subject to U.S. travel restrictions in order to return to the U.S. without the NIE.