Can one apply for NIE while in the US?

AircraftMany are seeking legal advice to have some assurance before they decide to travel to India

Recently Boulder, Colorado based Shah family received news many immigrants with families back in their home country fear the most.

Shah’s wife just got to know that her elderly father has been diagnosed with cancer and will be beginning chemotherapy sessions for what the doctors describe as a terminal illness.

Shah’s wife, Priya who is on an H-4 visa, wants to go and meet her dad for some time but is perplexed about how she would return to the US once she’s in India.

Her husband spent the last couple of days enquiring about the possibility of obtaining an NIE or National Interest Exception for his wife even before she travels to India to ensure that they don’t suffer the added turmoil of family separation.

However, he has been getting conflicting reports on immigration forums and from acquaintances whether he can obtain one while still in the US or not.

Read: How to seek National Interest Exception (NIE) for US travel (July 7, 2021)

The family, distraught at the current personal situation, is now considering booking an attorney appointment to know if they can qualify for any exemption and can have some assurance before they decide upon traveling to India.

Ever since President Joe Biden’s April 30 proclamation placing India among restricted countries for entry into the US due to Covid, Indian visa holders have been having a hard time to navigate travel into the United States.

As there is absolutely no update on the likelihood of revocation of the proclamation at this point, anxious travelers have been devising alternate legal routes to get them to the US.

An NIE has served as an option for many work visa holders and their dependents to make their way back into the US. But with the proclamation in place for over four months now, many are facing a dire situation where travel becomes imminent.

The only possible solutions in such a scenario for people who are traveling is to – either apply for an NIE or travel via a third country to fulfill the condition of quarantine, which turns out to be a long and expensive affair.

So, in such a situation many are exploring the possibility of obtaining an NIE while in the US itself so that they can take the decision of whether they can safely travel or not.

What the consulates say

Unfortunately, the guidelines from the US missions specifically state that one cannot apply for NIE while they are still in the US. They suggest that one can only seek permission to travel back to the United States from the consulate concerned in the country you are in.

Many of those who have been able to get an approved visa during the pandemic along with an approved NIE have reported that their document expressly stated that an NIE cannot be obtained for individuals who are currently not in the US.

The same ruling applies not just for Indian travelers but for travelers from across the countries included in the presidential proclamation.

The confusion may have started as a few posts on social media by individuals in similar circumstances talked about exploring the NIE route.

So far we have no confirmation from anyone who has been able to attain an NIE while they are still in the US. So the short answer remains that an exception while still in the US is not possible for visa holders at this point.

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