With a month in office, the Biden Administration is taking steps to reveal its COVID-19 policy approach to international students and academics. On January 25, 2021, the President announced Proclamation #10143, which extended the previous administration’s limitation on travel to the U.S. from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. On February 10, 2021, the Department of State confirmed that national interest exceptions (NIE) to the travel ban, first issued in October 2020, will remain in place in the new administration.
Those exceptions are as follows: 1) Students traveling from one of the areas identified above with a valid F-1 or M-1 visa do not need to contact a U.S. consular post to obtain an NIE, and any students applying for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE; and 2) Academics and J-1 students who have a valid visa, an ESTA authorization that was issued prior to the March 2020 proclamation date, or who are seeking to apply for a visa, may apply for an NIE at a U.S. embassy or consular post before traveling.
In this challenging and rapidly changing environment, colleges and universities should continue to update and revise their institutional guidance and policies regarding all applicable requirements for international students and academic employees. Additionally, institutions should be aware of the various state-level travel restrictions and quarantine requirements and update their communities accordingly.
Notably, this State Department guidance does not affect other areas impacted by COVID-19 related travel bans, including China, Iran, Brazil, and South Africa. For these areas, students and academics must qualify for a national interest exception on an individual, case-by-case basis. Duane Morris will continue to provide updates on development regarding travel bans on populations that impact colleges and universities.