International students from China, Brazil, Iran, and South Africa will be allowed to enter the United States this fall as they are exempted from travel restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a press release issued on Monday, the State Department said that students, academics, along with other categories from these particular countries who hold proper visas would be able to enter the country, Erudera.com reports.
“Journalists; students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs, may now qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE). Students and academics subject to these proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa, may qualify for an NIE only if their academic program begins August 1, 2021 or later,” the press release reads.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of international students on F-1 and M-1 visas decreased by 18 percent, while visa records for new students dropped by 72 percent.
The press release underlines that students who have valid F-1 and M-1 visas and who are planning to start or continue studies from August 1, 2021, or later, are not obliged to contact the embassy to seek an individual NIE to travel.
“They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel,” it further adds.
International students are the main source of income for US higher education institutions, and the latter experienced a decrease in enrollments during the last fall.
Similar exemptions were made for students from the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Schengen Area last summer under the Trump administration. Students returning to the US are obliged to show COVID-19 negative test results upon their return, while several universities are asking students to get a COVID-19 vaccine, including John Hopkins University, University of Tennessee, Iowa State University (ISU).
Whereas Yale, Columbia, and Princeton University will not allow students to return to campus unless they are vaccinated against COVID-19.
Due to the pandemic, almost all courses at universities worldwide shifted to the remote version. Last July, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that international students would not be allowed to enter the country if their courses are online.