Today I want to talk a little bit about the National Interest Exception for travel during the COVID crisis. Alright, let me start at the beginning. The United States has issued a handful of Presidential proclamations, they’re called PPP’s, which relate to restricting travel specifically from certain areas and with certain visas. So, off the top, I want you to know if you’re a citizen, or a green card holder, or a son, daughter, spouse of one of those you probably don’t have an issue and you can travel without any kind of restriction. Aside from that, we’ve got a whole variety of restrictions and I’m going to hit them quickly to try to cover what might be helpful for you out there. First of all, we have geographic area restrictions. We’ve got China, Brazil, Europe as the three main areas that have, and Iran excuse me, for travel restrictions by presidential proclamation. Now aside from that, the President issued a couple more proclamations that dealt with economic hardship in America so that they were restricting H1B, L-1s and other travels on certain kinds of work visas. This patchwork of different proclamations has caused a ton of confusion, in fact, it’s really not clear, even for lawyers, who should require an exception or who can just travel freely. Even more confusing if you look at the news or talk to friends and family you hear about airplanes coming and going full of passengers from these areas, specifically from Europe, where people just come to the United States get off the plane and just walk through the airport no problem. So, let’s go back and hit the points that matter for you if you’re thinking about traveling during the COVID-19 restrictions.
Alright, the most important thing will be if you are traveling on an H1B or L1 visa. Now these visas have been specifically designated as restricted until December 31 2020, that Presidential proclamation is still in effect. There are a couple of exceptions, one is from a lawsuit and you’ll know about that if you’re part of that lawsuit because it’s for specific companies, some universities and some companies like Chevron for example or Shell. So, if you’re a member of one of those companies you have an exception by the lawsuit. Aside from that, we are relying on developing what’s called National Interest Exceptions for people who want to travel on the H1B and L visas. It is a little bit vague and a little bit confusing and lawyers like our firm have engaged the process with the with the idea in mind we are doing the best for our clients to simply make it through this process and file the right kind of case.
With that in mind, we have clients with all sorts of different problems from different parts of the world that want to travel. We’ve been successful with the National Interest Waiver but here’s the part that’s really hard for you :It depends on each consulate. Consulates literally have different rules, and these different rules require different formats or different documents or different basis for being awarded the National Interest Exception. So right now, if you’re an H1 or an L1 this is something you’re going to have to figure out, work with your attorney, get involved, see if you can get an exception. Another type of exception that we’re finding is the geographic exception. Now this one is a little bit easier to win because what we’re basically saying is all of Europe, all of China, all of Brazil, these individuals are not allowed to come to the United States. Typically, the way to win a case like this, is number one you must already have a visa. Number two, you need to have a sponsor in the United States who’s going to help you prepare the formats and the documents to win the national interest exception. Number three, you need to be traveling usually within 30 days of the application for the National Interest Exception. I’ll give you an example: we filed a case for a client from Germany, it was an emergency case-we filed it late at night, and hit the consulates right as they opened at 7 am and we prepared documents in advance that showed there was a need based on economic hardship. And economic hardship isn’t actually part of the National Interest Exception, it’s sort of vaguely included in it, but basically, it’s not listed as something that we need for COVID-19, or to participate in some sort of health related program. We got approved in about three hours. So, the the National Interest Exception for a geographic basis from Europe has a wider sort of angle and a better chance at winning and I want to encourage you if you have a problem contact our office because we’ll help you with that. Most importantly, you should follow the guidelines I’ve given you if you have a visa, and you have a project, and a reason to come present that through your attorney to the consulate to try to get that exception.
Final point I’ll make is that these National Interest Exceptions don’t require an interview, they don’t require you to file a DS160, they’re literally an application that we make up and send to the specific consulate. So today, traveling under COVID 19, if you’re from a restricted area can be a bit crazy, the information doesn’t make sense, the websites don’t help you necessarily, you require somebody with experience. Give us a call, we’re happy to help and we wish you a lot of success traveling the rest of the year.