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

Updated 10/18/2021

Updated 10/18/2021

NOTE: If you are a U.S. Citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident (“Green Card” holder), the NIE information below does NOT pertain to you.  If you are the legal spouse of a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder, scroll down to “Family-Based Exemptions.”

New U.S. Travel Policy Begins November 8

As announced by the White House, a new travel policy requiring foreign nationals traveling to the United States to demonstrate proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 will take effect November 8.  This will end the need for National Interest Exceptions (NIE).  The CDC’s website explains that, for purposes of entry into the United States, the accepted vaccines will include FDA approved or authorized (Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna) and WHO Emergency Use Listing vaccines (such as AstraZeneca-Oxford). Please see  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html.

The CDC and the interagency are working to develop the orders and guidance documents to implement this new travel policy, and those details — for the airlines, for airline passengers, and for people coming to the land border — will be available well in advance of November 8 to understand what is required to be in compliance. Details of the new travel policy will be posted on our Embassy homepage and Travel.State.Gov as it becomes available.

Schengen Travel Restrictions Remain in Place

Presidential Proclamation 10143, which suspended travel from the 26 Schengen Area countries, including Austria, remains in force until replaced by the new travel policy.  These restrictions apply regardless if you have a valid U.S. visa, ESTA or have been 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), are exempted by visa class, or qualify for a Family Exemption.  Your COVID vaccination status also makes no difference.  

TOURISM & LEISURE TRAVEL REMAINS SUSPENDED

Most travel purposes that fall under the B1/B2 visa category will likely not qualify for a National Interest Exception, even if you have a valid visa or ESTA. This includes, but not limited to, tourism; vacation; visiting family or friends; visiting a fiancée, fiancé, girlfriend, boyfriend, partner; attending a wedding or graduation or religious ceremony; visiting a pregnant relative or baby; routine business meetings; visiting universities, attending a professional conference; maintaining a rental or investment property; etc.  

NATIONAL INTEREST EXCEPTIONS (NIE) AND EXEMPTED TRAVELERS

While routine Non-Immigrant Visa (NIV) 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 fall into the following categories: 

  • Students (on a valid J visa)*,  
  • Academics/researchers (on a valid J visa),
  • Public health professionals, 
  • Government officials*, 
  • Crew members, 
  • Emergency medical treatment, 
  • Humanitarian reasons, 
  • Others whose travel is in the U.S. national interest for vital support to critical infrastructure, significant economic activity, or national security.  

Athletes: This office is unable to issue NIEs for travel by professional athletes. Athletes who require an NIE should contact their league representative or agent.  

*EXEMPTED TRAVELERS: Students with valid F or M visas and a valid I-20 form, and Government officials and Diplomats traveling with valid A or G visas do NOT require NIEs. You may proceed with travel.

Requesting a National Interest Exception (NIE)

CURRENT WAIT TIME: 7 DAYS.  SUBMIT YOUR NIE REQUEST AT LEAST ONE WEEK BEFORE ANTICIPATED TRAVEL DATE!

PLEASE READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS BELOW THOROUGHLY BEFORE APPLYING. INCOMPLETE NIE APPLICATIONS WILL DELAY YOUR CASE.

STEP 1: CONFIRM YOUR PHYSICAL PRESENCE. U.S. Embassy Vienna will only consider NIE applicants who are physically present in Austria with legal status such as Austrian citizens, permanent or temporary residents holding a valid “Aufenthaltstitel” residency card, valid student or work visa, or EU citizens in Austria with valid “Meldezettel” long-term registration of residence. All other travelers, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate General in your country of residence. If you qualify but are currently in the United States, please wait until you return to Austria before submitting your NIE request

STEP 2:  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 NIE 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 photo page; 
    • Purpose of travel, and any supporting documents that clearly show how you qualify for an NIE; 
    • A copy of your flight itinerary, or proposed travel dates;
    • Proof of Austrian residency, if you are not an Austrian citizen.

STEP 3:  Please allow up to 7 days for Consular Officers to review your documents and qualifications. Please do not send multiple applications or requests for updates, as this further slows down processing times. 

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

STEP 4: If your NIE is approved, you will be notified by email.  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. 

  • Please do NOT send us private vaccination records. Your COVID vaccination status makes no difference for NIE consideration.

NIE VALIDITY EXTENDED TO ONE YEAR, MULTIPLE ENTRIES

Effective July 5, 2021, all NIEs are valid for 12 months and multiple entries, for the same purpose of travel.  This is retroactive for NIEs issued on or after July 5, 2020.  There is no further action or documents required from the Embassy and you may proceed with travel. Your purpose of travel must be the same as for the originally-issued NIE. 

VISA APPLICANTS

If you are a visa applicant with an upcoming scheduled appointment at U.S. Consulate Vienna, or were recently issued a visa here, please do NOT apply for an NIE.  Your NIE will be issued automatically if your visa is approved.

Travelers without Valid Visas

If you believe that you fall into any of the above categories but require a visa, please follow the guidance provided at https://at.usembassy.gov/visas/. You are responsible for completing your own visa application, paying the appropriate fee and scheduling an appointment.

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, also 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, “Partnerschaft,” fiancées, fiancés, boyfriends, girlfriends, adult children, parents, grandparents and other extended family do not qualify for family exemptions.

Required Documents: If you qualify for Family Exemptions, you do not need an NIE. You must still have a valid ESTA or U.S. Visa, plus documentation that proves your relationship to the U.S. Citizen or LPR relative such as marriage certificate, birth certificates, adoption decrees, etc. 

If you are a citizen of a country that requires a U.S. visa, please click here to apply for a visa, pay the visa fee, and schedule an appointment for a B2 visa. After scheduling an appointment, you can go back to that website and request an expedited appointment, with an explanation of your Family Exemption status. 

IMPORTANT: If you are traveling on Family Exemption status, DO NOT CHECK INTO YOUR FLIGHT ONLINE!  Doing so may inadvertently cause your ESTA to be cancelled. Instead, arrive at the airport at least three hours before your flight with all your required documentation.

Mandatory COVID Testing and Quarantine Requirements  

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.

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