How to enter the United States via a National Interest Waiver

PT 3 M minute read

Update April 30, 2021

National Interest Exceptions for Pilots and Air Crew Traveling for Training and Aircraft Pickup, Delivery, or Maintenance

On April 8, 2021, the Secretary of State determined that travel by pilots and aircrew for training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance is in the national interest for purposes of granting exceptions under the geographic Presidential Proclamations.

This includes individuals who are traveling to the United States for:

Training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance on B-1/B-2, B-1, or M-1 visas, or Visa Waiver Program authorizations.

The determination also covers certain M-2 dependents when the principal’s necessary training is four weeks or more.  Access by qualified pilots and other essential air crew to aircraft maintenance, as well as simulator training, continuing education such as proficiency checks, and other vital safety certification courses offered in the United States, is an important component of safe skies.  Therefore, we intend to continue issuing visas to eligible applicants for such travelers, on the basis of national interest exceptions, as permitted by post resources and local government restrictions.


Visa applicants will be considered for an exception at the time of interview.  Travelers who already hold valid visas or Visa Waiver Program authorization and believe they meet the exception criteria should follow the procedures set forth on the Embassy/Consulate website where their visa was processed or nearest their residence for consideration for an exception under the geographic Presidential Proclamations.

United States Presidential Proclamations put into effect in March 2020, have made it difficult for some non-U.S. foreign nationals (including Canadian and Mexican citizens) to enter the U.S. The National Interest Waiver (NIW) is an avenue foreign nationals can explore for entry into the U.S. if they are currently prohibited due to travel within a suspended region the last 14 days.

What is a National Interest Waiver?

NIWs are not new, but the program has expanded and adapted a bit to help meet demand created by COVID restrictions The NIW is an exemption allowing entry to certain individuals who have the “exceptional ability” in the field of science, arts, business or any other profession. Allowed purposes of visit include Business, Education, Training, and Medical. The NIW approval is issued to individual travelers and not an aircraft or operator

Who does this affect?

Foreign Nationals who are restricted due to travel in a suspended region in the last 14 days. While the CDC funneling requirements are no longer required, entry by any non-U.S. foreign national (that includes Canadian and Mexican citizens) who have been in a suspended region over the past 14 days is HIGHLY RESTRICTED with few exceptions. The NIW offers an effective alternative pathway to entry to the U.S.

When should travelers apply for a National Interest Waiver?

It’s recommended to start as early to provide U.S. State Department and Customs and Border Protection as much time as possible.

Where to apply for a National Interest Waiver?

Ideally, applications are made through the U.S. State Dept. via the Embassy/Consulate in the traveler’s home country. We know getting traction at the embassy has been a challenge for many. As a secondary process, a few major CBP Ports (KLAX, KIAH, KEWR, KJFK, KDFW) have developed application processes for their specific locations.

What is needed to apply for a National Interest Waiver?

Travelers should provide all relevant travel documents, a detailed purpose of the visit, and most importantly evidence of an urgent need to enter the country.

Thinking about applying for a National Interest Waiver?

The National Interest Waiver is a great alternate path for foreign travelers, who are otherwise restricted to enter the U.S. We have had success when able to tell a compelling story about the importance of the travel request and the impact of the traveler.

Have more questions or want to get started?

Our Global Regulatory Services Team is ready to help.




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