On February 11, 2021, the U.S. Department of State announced a new set of exemptions that will allow foreign students, who are currently studying in the United States, to return to the U.S. automatically, despite President Joe Biden's across-the-board travel restrictions.
The State Department announced that foreign nationals holding F-1 and M-1 student visas will be granted national interest exemptions to Biden's Jan. 25 presidential proclamation, which suspended the entry of travelers coming directly from Europe, the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa due to COVID-19 variants.
The proclamation included several exemptions, including where the entry of a foreign national would be in the national interest of the United States, to be determined by the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security.
The State Department's announcement indicated that student visa holders from Europe and the U.K. would not need to separately apply for individual exemptions under this policy. On the other hand, foreign students seeking new student visas will need to contact an embassy or consulate, but will automatically be considered for a national interest exemption if they are qualified for the visa.
The State Department also reiterated that business travelers, investors, academics and journalists traveling pursuant to a valid visa, or visa waiver, can apply for a national interest exemption.
Qualified travelers seeking to enter the United States may be granted a national interest exemption for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response and national security.