US Department of State Exempts F-1 and M-1 Students from Certain COVID-19 Travel Bans

February 16, 2021

The US Department of State announced on February 10 that students possessing valid F-1 and M-1 visas who are seeking admission to the United States from the Schengen area countries, the United Kingdom, and Ireland no longer need to seek a National Interest Exception (NIE) to enter the United States. These travelers will automatically be able to enter the United States under a general NIE, without needing to obtain preauthorization from a US consular post.

Presidential Proclamations 10143, 9984, 9992, 9993, 9996, and 10041, which continue to remain in effect, require that most foreign travelers obtain an NIE to enter the United States if seeking admission from the list of countries included in the COVID-19-related travel bans.

F-1 and M-1 students seeking to travel from the Schengen area countries, the United Kingdom, and Ireland who do not possess a valid visa are still required to obtain one from a US consular post. These individuals, however, will automatically be granted an NIE by the US consular post adjudicating their application, and will be issued a visa as long as they meet all other eligibility criteria for the F-1 or M-1 classification. Subsequently, they will be permitted to enter the US under the general NIE upon issuance of their visa.

J-1 students with a valid visa and those who require a J-1 visa are not covered by the new exemption. These individuals must still apply for, and obtain, an NIE from a US consular post prior to traveling to the United States.

The proclamations referenced above currently restrict travel from the following countries: South Africa, China, Iran, Brazil, Ireland, United Kingdom (including England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland), and the Schengen area. For purposes of the exemption, the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus are not part of the Schengen area, and were therefore not subject to the travel restriction.

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If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this alert, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Washington, DC
Shannon A. Donnelly
Eleanor Pelta
Eric S. Bord

Laura C. Garvin

For additional government-related guidance, learn more about our Washington strategic government relations and counseling practice.