Entry USA: Update for NIE Exception Permit

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Effective immediately, a National Interest Exception ("NIE") is valid for 12 months and for multiple trips.

On July 6, the U.S. Department of State announced a change to the entry ban for Schengen countries that will relieve some VDMA member companies doing business in the USA.

Effective immediately, a National Interest Exception ("NIE") is valid for 12 months and for multiple trips. In addition, this rule is retroactive, meaning that those who have obtained an NIE exemption in the past will not have to reapply for it if they plan to re-enter the U.S. within 12 months of the NIE exemption being granted.

This is another incremental improvement to the current pandemic travel rule. Previously, an NIE permit was only valid for 30 days and one trip across the U.S. border. This was particularly burdensome for VDMA member companies with executives and professionals who travel from Europe to the U.S. several times a year for business purposes. After this change, a business traveler only has to apply for an NIE once a year.

VDMA Member Experience
Previously, in the wake of the May 27 changes, VDMA's foreign trade department sent out a flash survey to this list. Thank you to the 73 people who responded. In a nutshell, we wanted to know if the U.S. State Department's May 27 changes would also allow entry for "general" business travel (such as attending a trade show or initiating new business). Generally, we have found that U.S. authorities do not issue NIE waivers for such general business travel. We do not expect this week's changes to affect that.

We also learned that some members' requests were denied because they did not accurately describe which of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors their travel belonged to. This came as a surprise to us. The May 27 amendments provided that travelers involved in "necessary support or direction of significant business activities" would be eligible for an NIE exemption. However, this category was not defined. Our survey results suggest that U.S. authorities are interpreting this language very narrowly. We therefore recommend that when applying for an NIE exemption, you specify exactly which of the 16 critical infrastructure categories your trip belongs to.

VDMA advocacy and communications
The VDMA is now calling for an end to the U.S. entry ban for Schengen countries. VDMA President Karl Haeusgen sent a letter to the U.S. Embassy on July 1 stating that U.S. travel restrictions continue to harm both European and U.S. business interests, with no significant public health benefit. Past-President Carl Martin Welcker also expressed the Association's concern about this continued impediment to transatlantic trade in an op-ed in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

President Biden signals possible changes to Schengen entry ban
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) was in Washington yesterday for a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden. As mentioned above, in the run-up to the meeting, the VDMA had urged the Chancellor to lobby President Biden to lift the U.S. ban on Schengen countries entering the country, which has been in place since March 2020. The ban remains the biggest transatlantic trade barrier and affects VDMA member companies in particular.

At the end of the meeting, Chancellor Merkel told a joint press conference that she had raised the issue with President Biden. President Biden then stated that his team of scientific advisors was reviewing the entry ban and that he planned to provide an update "within the next few days."

Given the long bilateral agenda between the U.S. and Germany, VDMA's foreign trade department considers it a positive sign that President Biden and Chancellor Merkel have addressed the travel ban and that President Biden has indicated that the White House may ease travel restrictions. We will continue to closely monitor the status of U.S. travel restrictions and will inform you as soon as changes are announced.

 

For more information on this topic, VDMA members can contact.

Andrew Adair, VDMA, Foreign Trade
Tel: 49 69 6603-1132, e-mail: andrew.adair@vdma.org