Information on the National Interest Exceptions for Travel to the United States

How to request National Interest Exceptions for Travel

Eligible Travelers:

While routine nonimmigrant visa services remain suspended, U.S. Embassy Reykjavik 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.  Exceptions to the proclamations fall into the following categories:  students, academics, public health professionals, government officials, crew members, those needing emergency medical treatment, humanitarian exceptions, and others whose travel is in the U.S. national interest for vital support to critical infrastructure or national security reasons.  While the Embassy aims to process cases as soon as practicable, there are increased wait times due to backlogs.

Travelers with Valid Visas or Approved ESTA

A student with a valid F or M visa and a valid I-20 form may travel to the United States without notifying the embassy to request an exception.  All other travelers that already have valid visas or ESTA authorization must receive approval for a National Interest Exception prior to travel.  Applicants for National interest Exceptions must be legal residents of Iceland and physically present in Iceland in order to apply.  To do so, travelers must send an email with the subject line “National Interest Exception” that contains the following information to ReykjavikConsular@state.gov:

  • A scanned copy of their visa or ESTA authorization
  • A scanned copy of their passport biographic data page
  • Purpose of travel (and any supporting documents)
  • Proposed itinerary

Travelers should allow 10 business days for the Embassy to review the documents and qualifications.  Travelers will be notified by email if they receive approval for a Nation Interest Exception.  Do not attempt to check in online or travel before you receive email notification of your approval.

Travelers without Valid Visas

If you believe that you fall into any of the above categories, need to travel immediately, and require a visa, please follow the guidance provided at https://is.usembassy.gov/visas/or email ReykjavikConsular@state.gov

Applicants for H1B, H2B, H4, L, and certain J categories covered by Presidential Proclamation 10052 should request an appointment only if you have reason to believe you may qualify for one of the national Interest Exceptions listed on the travel.state.gov website.

Limited Validity and Single Entry for All National Interest Exceptions 

Although travelers approved for a National Interest Exception will be issued full-validity visas, the National Interest Exception is only valid for a single entry within 30 days of approval.  An individual who departs the United States and wishes to return must be re-assessed for a new National Interest Exception.

Mandatory COVID Testing and Quarantine Requirements for Travel  

Effective January 26, 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. Alternatively, travelers to the U.S. may provide documentation from a licensed health care provider of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel. Check theCDC website for additional information and Frequently Asked Questions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testing requirement also includes testing and self-quarantine guidelines you must follow after your arrival in the United States.

All individuals are reminded that their admission to the United States remains subject to a determination by Customs and Border Protection officers upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry.