National Interest Exception (NIE) – Travel Update, September 13, 2021

Updated 9/13/2021

NOTE: If you are a U.S. Citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident (“Green Card” holder), the NIE information below does NOT pertain to you.  If you are the legal spouse of a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder, scroll down to “Family-Based Exemptions.”

Schengen Travel Restrictions Remain in Place

Presidential Proclamation 10143, which suspended travel from the 26 Schengen Area countries, including Greece,remains in force.  These restrictions apply regardless if you have a valid U.S. visa, ESTA or have been fully vaccinated.

In most cases, travel by non-U.S. citizens from Greece to the United States is only possible if you qualify and are approved for a National Interest Exception (NIE), are exempted by visa class, or qualify for a Family Exemption.

The fact that the government of Greece lifted most travel restrictions for travelers from the United States does not change this policy; this was not a reciprocal decision.  Your COVID vaccination status also makes no difference.  We cannot predict how long these restrictions will remain in place.

TOURISM & LEISURE TRAVEL REMAINS SUSPENDED

Most travel purposes that fall under the B1/B2 visa category will likely not qualify for a National Interest Exception, even if you have a valid visa or ESTA. This includes, but not limited to, tourism; vacation; visiting family or friends; visiting a fiancée, fiancé, girlfriend, boyfriend, cohabitation partner; attending a wedding or graduation ceremony; visiting a pregnant relative or baby; routine business meetings; attending a professional conference; maintaining a rental or investment property; etc.  We do not know when these restrictions will be lifted.

NATIONAL INTEREST EXCEPTIONS (NIE) AND EXEMPTED TRAVELERS

While routine Non-Immigrant Visa (NIV) services remain suspended, U.S. Embassy Athens Consular Section continues to provide emergency and mission critical visa services to applicants exempted from COVID-19 related Presidential Proclamations.  For more information on the Presidential Proclamations, see the travel.state.gov website.

National Interest Exceptions fall into the following categories:

  • Students*,
  • Academics/researchers,
  • Public health professionals,
  • Government officials*,
  • Crew members,
  • Emergency medical treatment,
  • Humanitarian reasons,
  • Others whose travel is in the U.S. national interest for vital support to critical infrastructure, significant economic activity, or national security.

*Exempted travelers: Students with valid F or M visas and a valid I-20 form, and Government officials and Diplomats traveling with valid A or G visas do not require NIEs. You may proceed with travel.

Athletes must request an NIE from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). We are no longer authorized to consider sports-related NIEs.

Requesting a National Interest Exception (NIE)

CURRENT WAIT TIME: 5 BUSINESS DAYS AFTER RECEIPT OF A COMPLETE REQUEST.

PLEASE READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS BELOW THOROUGHLY BEFORE APPLYING. INCOMPLETE / INCORRECT REQUESTS WILL DELAY YOUR CASE.

STEP 1: CONFIRM YOUR PHYSICAL PRESENCE. U.S. Embassy Athens will only consider NIE applicants who are physically present in Greece with legal status such as Greek citizens and permanent or temporary residents holding a valid Greek residency card. All other travelers, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate General in your country of residence. If you qualify but are currently in the United States, please wait until you return to Athens before submitting your NIE request.

STEP 2: Send an email to AthensNIE@state.gov with the subject line “NIE dd-mmm-yyyy SURNAME,” replacing the letters with the day, month, and year of your intended travel date. For example, “NIE 25-DEC-2021 SMITH″ if you are traveling on December 25, 2021, and your surname is Smith.  Your e-mail MUST contain all the following:

    • A scanned copy of each traveler’s visa or ESTA authorization;
    • A scanned copy of each traveler’s passport photo page;
    • Purpose of travel, and any supporting documents that clearly show how you qualify for an NIE;
    • A copy of your flight itinerary, or proposed travel dates;
    • Proof of Greek residency, if you are not a Greek citizen (passport holder)
  • Please provide the following information in the body of your email:
    • Surname:
    • First name:
    • Date of Birth:
    • Country of Birth:
    • Nationality:
    • Gender:
    • Visa Class / ESTA (valid until date):
    • Purpose of Travel:

Please note: the traveler must send all attachments and information required in one email.  Important: If you are applying for an NIE on behalf of another traveler who is 18 years of age or older the traveler must be copied on all NIE correspondence due to privacy laws outlined under section 222(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

STEP 3:  Please allow up to 5 business days for Consular Officers to review your documents and qualifications.  U.S. Consular Section Athens is processing hundreds of NIE requests per day with limited resources.  We appreciate your patience during this process.  Please do not send multiple applications or requests for updates, as this only further slows down processing.

STEP 4: If your NIE is approved, you will be notified by email.  Do not attempt to check in to your flight online or travel before you receive email notification of your NIE approval.  The NIE will be issued electronically and visible to relevant government agencies and airlines.

NIE VALIDITY EXTENDED TO ONE YEAR, MULTIPLE ENTRIES

Effective July 5, 2021, all NIEs are valid for 12 months and multiple entries, for the same purpose of travel.  This is retroactive for NIEs issued on or after July 5, 2020.  There is no further action or documents required from the Embassy and you may proceed with travel. Your purpose of travel must be the same as for the originally-issued NIE.
VISA APPLICANTS

If you are a visa applicant with an upcoming scheduled appointment at U.S. Consulate Athens, or were recently issued a visa here, please do NOT apply for an NIE.  Your NIE will be issued automatically when the visa is approved.

Travelers without Valid Visas

If you believe that you fall into any of the above categories but require a visa, please follow the guidance provided at https://gr.usembassy.gov/visas/nonimmigrant-visas/. You are responsible for completing your own visa application, paying the appropriate fee and scheduling an appointment.

FAMILY-BASED EXEMPTIONS

Certain travelers are exempt from COVID travel restrictions including:

    • Legally married spouses of U.S. Citizens (USC);
    • Legally married spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs, also known as “Green Card” holders);
    • Under-21, unmarried child of a USC or LPR;
    • Parent or guardian of an under-21, unmarried USC or LPR;
    • Under-21 unmarried sibling of an under-21 unmarried USC or LPR.

Unmarried partners, cohabitation agreements, fiancées, fiancés, boyfriends, girlfriends, adult children, parents, grandparents and other extended family do not qualify for family exemptions.

Required Documents: If you qualify for Family Exemptions, you do not need an NIE. You must still have a valid ESTA or U.S. Visa, plus documentation that proves your relationship to the U.S. Citizen or LPR relative such as marriage certificate, birth certificates, adoption decrees, etc.

If you are a citizen of a country that requires a U.S. visa, please https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-gr/niv to apply for a visa, pay the visa fee, and schedule an appointment for a B2 visa. After scheduling an appointment, you can go back to that website and request an expedited appointment, with an explanation of your Family Exemption status.

Mandatory COVID Testing and Quarantine Requirements

All airline passengers to the United States ages two years and older must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel – even if you have already been fully vaccinated. Alternatively, travelers may provide documentation from a licensed health care provider of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel.  Check the CDC website for additional information and Frequently Asked Questions.  The CDC Control and Prevention testing requirement also includes testing and self-quarantine guidelines you must follow after your arrival in the United States.

Admission to the United States remains subject to a determination by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the U.S. Port of Entry. Having a valid visa or ESTA approval along with an NIE is not a guarantee of admission.