National Interest Exceptions for Travel to the United States during COVID-19 restrictions

Updated 7/7/2021

U.S. travel restrictions remain in place for travelers from Austria and the rest of the Schengen Area, regardless if you have a valid U.S. visa, ESTA or are fully vaccinated.  In most cases, travel by non-U.S. citizens from Austria to the United States is only possible if you qualify and are approved for a National Interest Exception (NIE), or you qualify under immediate family exemptions.

Tourism & leisure travel remains suspended! Such purposes of travel generally will NOT qualify for a National Interest Exception. 

The fact that the Austrian government lifted most restrictions for travelers from the United States on June 24 does not change this policy, as this was not a reciprocal decision.

We cannot predict how long these restrictions will remain in place. Presidential Proclamation 10143, which suspended travel from several countries including Austria, remains in effect until terminated by the President.

Eligible Travelers: 

While routine nonimmigrant visa services remain suspended, U.S. Embassy Vienna’s Consular Section continues to provide emergency and mission critical visa services to applicants exempted from COVID-19 related Presidential Proclamations.  For more information on the Presidential Proclamations, see the travel.state.gov website.  

National Interest Exceptions to the proclamations fall into the following categories:  students, academics, public health professionals, government officials, crew members, those needing emergency medical treatment, humanitarian exceptions, and others whose travel is in the U.S. national interest for vital support to critical infrastructure, significant economic activity, or national security reasons.  

Most travel purposes that fall under the B1/B2 visa category and ESTA will likely not qualify for a National Interest Exception. This includes, but not limited to: tourism; vacations; visiting family or friends; visiting a fiancée or partner; attending a wedding or graduation ceremony; routine business meetings, attending an annual professional conference; maintaining a rental or investment property; etc.  

A student with a valid F or M visa and a valid I-20 form may travel to the United States without an NIE or further action by the Embassy.  Diplomats and Government employees traveling on A or G visas also do not require NIEs. All other travelers that already have valid visas or ESTA authorization must receive approval for an NIE prior to travel.   

Athletes must request an NIE from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). We are no longer authorized to consider sports-related NIEs.

Some travelers may qualify for family exemptions and do not require an NIE, such as legally married spouses of U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card holders).  

Instructions for requesting a National Interest Exception 

* NIE applicants must be legal residents and physically present in Austria. All others, please contact your nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate General.

SUBMIT YOUR NIE REQUEST AT LEAST 10 BUSINESS DAYS BEORE TRAVEL!  

Step 1:  Send an email to ConsulateVienna@state.gov with the subject line “NIE mm-dd-yyyy,” replacing the letters with the month, day and year of your intended travel date. For example, “NIE 12-25-2021″ if you are traveling on December 25, 2021.  Your e-mail MUST contain all the following:

  • A scanned copy of each traveler’s visa or ESTA authorization; 
  • A scanned copy of each traveler’s passport biographic data page; 
  • Purpose of travel (and any supporting documents); 
  • A copy of your flight itinerary, or proposed travel dates.

Incomplete NIE requests will be ignored and further delay your application. 

Step 2:  Please allow up to 10 business days for Consular Officers to review your documents and qualifications.  U.S. Consular Section Vienna is processing hundreds of NIE requests per day with limited resources.  We appreciate your patience during this process.  Please do not send us multiple applications or repeated requests for updates, as this only further slows down our ability to process NIEs in a timely fashion. 

We will only consider expedited NIE requests in life & death matters.

Step 3: Travelers will be notified by email if they receive approval for a Nation Interest Exception.  Do not attempt to check in to your flight online or travel before you receive email notification of your NIE approval.  The NIE will be issued electronically and visible to relevant government agencies and airlines. 

NIE VALIDITY EXTENDED TO ONE YEAR, MULTIPLE ENTRIES

 Effective July 5, 2021, all NIEs will be valid for 12 months and multiple entries for the same purpose of travel.  This is also retroactive for NIEs issued within the past 12 months.  

For example: if you were previously issued an NIE on November 1, 2020, you may continue to travel to the United States until October 31, 2021 without any further action or notification required to this Embassy.  However, the purpose of travel must be for the same reason as originally requested.  If you require travel for a different purpose, a new NIE will be required.

Travelers without Valid Visas 

If you believe that you fall into any of the above categories, need to travel immediately, and require a visa, please follow the guidance provided at https://at.usembassy.gov/visas/.

Mandatory COVID Testing and Quarantine Requirements for Travel   

All airline passengers to the United States ages two years and older must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel – even if you have already been fully vaccinated.  Alternatively, travelers may provide documentation from a licensed health care provider of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel.  Check the CDC website for additional information and Frequently Asked Questions.  The CDC Control and Prevention testing requirement also includes testing and self-quarantine guidelines you must follow after your arrival in the United States. 

FAMILY-BASED EXEMPTIONS

Certain travelers are exempt from COVID travel restrictions including:

  • Legally married spouses of U.S. Citizens (USC);
  • Legally married spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs, commonly known as “Green Card” holders);
  • Under-21, unmarried child of a USC or LPR;
  • Parent or guardian of an under-21, unmarried USC or LPR;
  • Under-21 unmarried sibling of an under-21 unmarried USC or LPR.

(Unmarried partners, “Partnershaft,” fiancées, adult children, grandparents and other extended family do not qualify for a family exemption.)

These travelers do not require NIEs or any notification to this Embassy. If you meet the above qualifications, you may proceed directly to the airport and bring supporting documentation that proves your relationship to the U.S. Citizen or LPR relative, such as marriage certificates and/or birth certificates.

DISCLAIMER: Admission to the United States remains subject to a determination by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers upon arrival at a U.S. Port of Entry. A valid visa, ESTA or NIE is not a guarantee of admission.