On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of State extended the National Interest Exceptions to include additional countries. The NIE list now includes China, Iran, Brazil, the U.K., Ireland, and the European Schengen area.
Students with valid F-1 visas intending to begin or continue their academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 visas and who are found to be otherwise qualified will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel after the issuance of the visa. Since the NIE announcement refers only to entry “no earlier than 30 days before the start of academic studies,” it is unclear how this may apply to F-1 OPT/STEM OPT student entry. We will update our OPT/STEM OPT students as soon as more information is available.
According to a tweet from the Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs, existing J-1 visa holders whose program begins after August 1, 2021 would need to apply for approval of an NIE through their local embassy before they can enter the U.S. Students seeking to apply for new J-1 visas and who are found to be otherwise qualified should, subsequent to the approval of a visa, apply for an NIE through their embassy to be considered for travel to the U.S.