Question: I am a non-US citizen on an H1B visa trying to return from the EU (Germany) to the US to teach face-to-face classes this Fall. What are my options to get across the border as long as the COVID-19 suspension-of-entry restrictions are in place?
Some details: I'm a tenure-track faculty at a US university that is planning to fully reopen this Fall. Classes start mid-September. I am partially vaccinated and will be fully vaccinated by August 24 (second dose on August 10).
I'm aware of at least one option, viz., to spend 2 weeks in a country that (for whatever reasons) does not appear in the restrictions, such as Israel (which is supposedly reopening travel soon), Ukraine (which is completely open to fully vaccinated Europeans), or (seriously...) Russia. I am interested in something more direct. In particularly, I am wondering if anyone here has experience with national interest exceptions. I assume these require a letter from the department head or dean; if so, what language should be on that letter?
(I am trying to avoid working through the university HR infrastructure since long-time foreign trips are an administrative minefield; but if the advantages outweigh the risks, I will probably get some support from there as well.)
EDIT: For the sake of completeness, let me record how the problem has been resolved, whether or not my experience is generalizable. First, I asked my department head for a letter confirming that I am needed to teach three face-to-face courses (confirmed by links to relevant resources like the term schedule). With this letter as an attachment, I sent an email to FrankfurtVisaInquiries@state.gov (my US consulate; yours will probably be different; Germans should currently use Berlin according to the US Embassy site) asking for a NIE (National Interest Exception). (The email was titled "X99 - OTHER NIE - [my name]", and included my full name, date of birth, country of birth, gender, country of citizenship, passport number and US visum data, as suggested by the NIE navigator.) After three days, I received an email response telling me that my request was granted. There was no attachment to it; no paperwork to show on the border. (And none was necessary.)