State Dept. Exempts Foreign Students From Travel Restriction

By Asher Stockler
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Law360 (February 11, 2021, 5:05 PM EST) -- Foreign students studying in the United States will be able to return to the U.S. automatically, despite President Joe Biden's across-the-board travel restrictions, under a set of new exemptions laid out by the U.S. Department of State on Wednesday.

The State Department announced that foreign nationals holding F-1 and M-1 student visas will be granted national interest exemptions to Biden's Jan. 25 presidential proclamation, which suspended the entry of travelers coming directly from Europe, the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa due to COVID-19 variants.

The proclamation included several exemptions, including where the entry of a foreign national would be in the national interest of the United States, to be determined by the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security.

The State Department's announcement indicated that student visa holders from Europe and the U.K. would not need to separately apply for individual exemptions under this policy. Foreign students seeking new student visas will need to contact an embassy or consulate, but will automatically be considered for a national interest exemption if they are qualified for the visa.

The State Department also said business travelers, investors, academics and journalists traveling pursuant to a valid visa, or visa waiver, can apply for a national interest exemption.

"The Department of State also continues to grant national interest exceptions for qualified travelers seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response and national security," the department's statement said.

"Granting national interest exceptions for this travel to the United States from the Schengen area, U.K. and Ireland, will assist with the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and bolster key components of our transatlantic relationship," the statement added.

The Trump administration's iteration of the travel ban also exempted foreign students coming from Europe.

In fiscal year 2020, the State Department issued 23,696 student visas for European and U.K. nationals, according to statistics maintained by the department.

--Editing by Stephen Berg.

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