Foreign students from China, Brazil, Iran, and South Africa will be exempt from travel restrictions imposed during coronavirus pandemic, opening up the possibility of a significant increase in international student enrollments in US schools this fall.
The US State Department said in an online update, dated Monday, that students and academics, as well as journalists and several other categories of individuals from these countries, would be allowed into the US on appropriate visas.
Last summer, the Trump administration made a similar exception for students and others from the UK, Ireland and Europe.
The engraving is carried out under what the State Department calls “national interest exemption,” meaning the government has decided to allow these people in in the best interests of the US.
US embassies and consulates are slowly restarting visa services in most parts of the world after ceasing operations in March 2020. They say they prioritize family members of US citizens, diplomats and those helping with the pandemic, followed by students, temporary workers and several others. . group.
International enrollments at American colleges and universities plummeted last fall, as hundreds of thousands of students were stranded abroad, unable to obtain new visas or unable to travel if they already had the right documentation. Visa records show the number of students here on F-1 or M-1 visas, which include those in colleges, vocational programs and K-12 schools, fell 18% to 1.25 million, while the visa record for newly enrolled students fell by 72 %.
Chinese students make up about a third of all international students enrolled in US schools. Students from India, the second leading country of origin, are subject to standard Covid-19 testing protocols, but have not been barred from traveling to the US during the pandemic. Brazil is the ninth largest, and Iran No. 13, according to the Institute for International Education, which supports global studies and tracks international enrollments.
Uncertainty over visa issuance and travel allowances weigh heavily on schools this spring, as they are trying to plan for the upcoming school year but are unable to predict how many foreign students might be able to move into dormitories and sit in actual classrooms, rather than taking online classes, from home.
International students and academics on exchange visas will be able to come to class only if their program starts on or after August 1, so summer school is still not an option for them.
Under current rules, any traveler arriving to the US from abroad must submit a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of arriving. However, the Biden administration said it would not develop evidence of a federally mandated vaccination many colleges and universities need vaccines for students to attend next fall.
On Tuesday, the Biden administration also said it was reinstating a policy canceled by the Trump administration that would make processing visas and other immigration applications faster. The policy, known as the previous award memo, directs immigration officers to approve a visa or other renewal if the original application has been approved and other circumstances have not changed.
Under the former President
Donald Trump, updates are evaluated as new applications, leading to significantly slower immigration processing and higher rejection rates. The US Citizenship and Immigration Service, the body that operates the official immigration system, is funded almost entirely through fees it collects for citizenship applications, green cards, and visas. Agent run out of money and have been considering time off two thirds of the staff last summer.
—Michelle Hackman contributed to this article.
Write to Melissa Korn on [email protected]
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