How does the Expansion of Travel Ban Exceptions Affect International Students and Scholars?

May 6, 2021

On April 26th the U.S. State Department announced an expansion of the travel ban exemptions to Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9984, 9992, and 10143 related to the spread of COVID-19.  This means that F-1 students and some academics on J-1 visas from China, Iran, Brazil, and South Africa, now qualify to apply for a National Interest Waiver (NIE) similar to  students and scholars from the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.  

In other news, late Friday afternoon, April 30, 2021, the Department of State  announced the suspension of entry into the United States, of physically present within the Republic of India, effective May 4, 2021 (see details in above announcement.)  However  a second announcement,  “Uniform Global National Interest Exceptions to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions: India,” explained that students in India applying for student and academic visas would be eligible for a National Interest Exception (NIE).

There is still some confusion about what these announcements mean for new and continuing students from the travel restricted countries. Please read the details in the links above and check the website of the U.S. overseas consulate where you are applying  for details. OISS is continuing to seek clarifications on these three new announcements, but for now the general understanding is as follows:

For students and scholars from Brazil, China, India, Iran, and South Africa

  • If you have a valid F-1 visa and intend to begin or continue an academic program commencing on or after August 1, 2021, you do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel.  You may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of your academic studies, as noted on the form I-20.  OISS is seeking clarification on continuing students and students with OPT authorization and will provide updates.
  • If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa, check with the nearest embassy or consulate. Those who are issued an F-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel.  Note: new students may enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic program as noted on the form I-20.  We are seeking clarification for returning and continuing students.
  • If you hold a valid J-1 student or scholar visa you need to contact the U.S. consulate or embassy and obtain an NIE before you travel.  There are no automatic exemptions.
  • If you need to apply for new J-1 visa, check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate.

For F-1 students and J-1 students and scholars from the Schengen region, U.K. and Ireland

  • If you hold a current F1 visa and a valid I-20 form, contact the embassy before traveling.  You may be able to continue to travel to the United States under the earlier NIE provisions.
  • If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa, check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; if you are issued an F-1 visa you will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel.  Students beginning their studies in Fall 2021, cannot enter the United States earlier than 30 days before the start of your academic studies, as noted on the form I-20. 
  • Other visa holders need to qualify for a NIE and should contact embassy before traveling.

Helpful Links

Press Release from Department of State US Embassy China

National Interest Exception Frequently Asked Questions from the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India