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Covid-19 travel update: US to allow international students to return in autumn

US to open borders for international students to come back to campus from 1 August 

April 28 2021
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The US secretary of state has announced an exemption to Covid-19 travel restrictions for international students starting from 1 August.

The national interest exemptions (NIEs) will now be extended to international students from all countries with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic programme commencing 1 August 2021 or later.

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Students with these visas do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel, the government said.

Previously, only students from certain countries including the UK, the Republic of Ireland and all the countries in Europe’s Schengen area  could qualify for exemption from US travel restrictions.

Academics covered by exchange visitor programmes may now qualify for an exemption as well.


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The move will affect tens of thousands of current and future international students hoping to commence studying in the US.

In 2019/20 more than a million international students studied in the United States. That number fell by 16 per cent at the beginning of the 2020/21 year, with new international enrolments dropping by 43 per cent, according to the IIE Fall 2020 International Student Enrolment Snapshot.

Some 90 per cent of the 700 institutions surveyed reported international student deferrals in the autumn of 2020 equating to nearly 40,000 students having deferred enrolment to a future term.

The US government has not yet clarified whether students will need to present proof of vaccination before being allowed to travel. However, more than 30 colleges, including the University of California, Georgetown University and Stanford University, have announced that vaccines will be mandatory for anyone returning to campus this autumn.

Many other top student destinations including the UK, Canada and Australia still have strict travel restrictions in place.


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