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How to Request National Interest Exceptions for Travel
April 5, 2021

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul has resumed routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services for all visa categories.  For information on the presidential proclamations, see the travel.state.gov website. Exceptions to the proclamations fall into the following categories: students, investors, academics, public health professionals, government officials, crewmembers, family members of U.S. citizens and residents, those needing 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 substantial backlogs.

Travelers with Valid Visas or Approved ESTA  

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 legally and physically present in South Korea 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 SeoulNIVCaseSpecific@state.gov:

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

Travelers should allow ten business days for the Embassy to review their documents and qualifications.  Travelers will be notified by e-mail if they receive approval for an exception. Do not attempt to check in online or travel before you receive e-mail 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://www.ustraveldocs.com/kr/kr-niv-expeditedappointment.asp  to request an emergency appointment.

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.