What UK executives should know when travelling to the US on a National Interest Exemption certificate (part 2)

20 August 2021 / Insight posted in Articles

Originally published on KS Barlevi

A few weeks ago, we sat down (virtually) with Graham Tyler, Partner at Kingston Smith Barlevi and Chairman of Moore Kingston Smith, to get a sense of the process when a UK Executive wishes to enter the US. For that full interview, click here.

After being restricted from entering the US for more than a year due to the Coronavirus lockdowns, Graham has finally made it across the Atlantic and successfully entered the US via Los Angeles. This time, we were fortunate to sit down with Graham in person to get an update on the experience and what you should know before you travel on a National Interest Exemption (NIE).

To help provide additional guidance and context, we’ve also reconnected with Graham’s Immigration Attorney, Lauren De Bellis Aviv, immigration attorney and Managing Partner, Daniel Aharoni & Partners LLP in New York.

KSB: Welcome to the States, Graham! Let’s start from the top. After receiving your National Interest Exemption, what else did you have to do before arriving at the airport (Heathrow)?

Graham: First things first, I booked my round-trip flight to Los Angeles. The National Interest Exemption allows you to travel for 12 months from date of issue, so there wasn’t an immediate rush to travel on specific dates, however, it was in my interest to travel shortly thereafter – approximately two weeks from the time my application was approved. After booking my flights, travel accommodations, rescheduling of meetings and sorting out appropriate IT for seamless working in the US, I had to sort out my PCR test which is required for travel. As part of flying to the US from the UK, a negative result from a PCR or Polymerase Chain Reaction test (a COVID-19 test) within 72 hours of flying is required. It’s easy to find a PCR test center in the UK, and for a fee usually under £100, you can quickly get tested and walk away with a “Fit to Fly” exemption certificate. This certificate is needed to board your flight to the US.

KSB: So other than the PCR test and general travel coordination, there’s no additional paperwork that must be filed or completed?

Lauren: Correct. If you are granted a NIE then all you need is the negative PCR test in order to board a plane.

KSB: Graham, would you tell us what Executives can expect once they arrive to the airport in the UK?

Graham: I arrived at the airport having told myself that I’d likely need to be a bit more patient than usual and as expected, that mindset was required. Immediately upon arriving at London Heathrow at 9am for an 11:40am flight, I was dealt the news that my flight had been cancelled. After the initial shock, and the back and forth of trying to get me on the next available flight that would honor my business class ticket (which did require my travel agent), I was finally rescheduled on a 4pm flight. I can’t stress enough how often it seems this is happening – flights are being consolidated and the appropriate notifications of cancelling and rescheduling flights are not making it to customers. My advice to you is to be sure to check on the status of your flight reservation within the days leading up to your departure.

KSB: After learning your flight had been cancelled and thankfully rebooked same day, what was the rest of the airport experience like?

Graham: I have Global Entry and that process was unchanged, but business as usual stopped there. The BA Lounge has taken precautions and done away with the buffet and is now order only. Boarding now requires passengers to produce their respective documentation that allows them entry into the destination country. For the US, all passengers boarding the flight are made to provide their Passport, National Interest Exemption Certificate (or other documentation verifying your approved entry), and your Fit To Fly Certificate (the PCR Test certificate). Additionally, passengers are required to sign a US Government Form that confirms you are not experiencing symptoms and have not knowingly been exposed to the virus. This adds quite a bit of time to boarding as the forms are made to be signed as you enter the plane.

KSB: Anything about the actual flight that would be helpful for executives to know?

Graham: You are required to wear a mask over your nose and mouth for the duration of the flight but removing it to eat and drink was allowed (meals were still provided as usual). It was interesting to see that it was a full flight, but that makes sense due to their consolidation strategies. Other than masks, the only real difference was that exiting the plane was done by rows. All passengers are asked to remain seated until their row is called to grab overhead luggage and exit.

KSB: So, the final hurdle – what was the experience like at US Customs?

Graham: I must say, I wouldn’t use my experience as the standard as it was impossibly easy and I think your experience at customs is largely dependent on the agent you’re speaking to, but it was an actual breeze. We landed around 8pm and the airport was empty. I’ve never seen a customs line so short. Once at the actual window, the agent asked me the usual questions: “How long will you be here?” (two weeks) “What’s your purpose for the visit?” (business) and that was it! I was prepared with all my paperwork and even the US Government Form that we were instructed would be checked before entry, and it wasn’t. I strongly recommend that you have all of those documents prepared and available as you may not have the same experience as I did.

KSB: Now that you’re in the US, were there any requirements for you once you arrived? Quarantine? PCR tests?

Graham: There weren’t any requirements upon arrival on this end, but I will need to repeat the PCR test here in Los Angeles before I leave and again upon my return to London. It’s smart to triple check this however as things often change quickly and you want to make sure you’re prepared.

Read the full article here.