Coronavirus Travel Ban Exempts Students From Europe, Says State Department
Foreign students from Europe and family members of some reciprocal students and visa holders in the United States are exempt from various travel bans imposed by the trump administration during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a state department memo to Congress on Thursday.
The trump administration has said a series of travel and visa restrictions imposed since January are aimed at slowing the spread of the virus and preventing foreign workers from entering the United States to lose their jobs. The restrictions affect China, Europe and Brazil, as well as people with a range of visas, including the H-1B visa for highly skilled workers.
According to the memorandum, students from European countries who have obtained a visa to study in the United States but are prevented by the travel ban in March will be able to come to the United States for classes in the autumn. Students who can get a visa can also come.
"Granting this exemption will help restore the economy from the covid-19 pandemic and strengthen a key component of our transatlantic relationship," a state Department spokesman said in a statement“ We appreciate the transparency and concerted efforts of our European partners and allies to fight the epidemic and welcome the EU's reciprocal action to continue essential travel in key categories. "
The tax-free package for these students provides certainty for thousands of students from the UK to Italy and Kosovo who returned to their homeland after the University closed in the spring. These students are not sure if they can return in time for the fall semester if the travel ban is not lifted.
The exemption does not apply to Chinese and Brazilian students facing similar travel restrictions. It will also not affect freshmen waiting for a visa interview at the U.S. consulate. Many of these people won't be able to make an appointment until the fall after the semester begins.
The State Department separately tweeted that some of the routine visa processing procedures suspended due to the pandemic were restarted this week, though not at every consulate.
Students who use J-1 visa in banned countries (usually those engaged in research or medical work) can be exempted on a case by case basis, the memo said.
The State Department also disclosed in a memorandum to Congress a series of exemptions from President Trump's June ban on several visa categories, including mutualism.
Rebecca Morgan, spokesman for NAFSA: the nonprofit International Association of educators for International Education says the State Department's decision is encouraging and the organization looks forward to welcoming all international students to the United States.
"We urge the government to follow a science based approach to decision-making to ensure safe travel for all, including international students, and easy recovery," she said
Last month, the government came under fire from families who said they relied on nannies to take care of their children so that they could work on their own. According to the State Department, which is responsible for the program, about 20000 young people (mainly women) work in the United States each year.
The memorandum provides solutions for parents of health care providers or researchers working with covid-19 and families of children with certain health conditions.
As a result of the visa ban in June, some families that received US visas were also separated, usually because a family member traveled abroad. The State Department's new guidelines say that if major visa holders are already in the United States, such as H-1B holders, their families are welcome to return and join them.
The exemption partially resolves a lawsuit filed by a separated spouse on Tuesday.
Write to Michelle Hackman, email: Michelle Hackman@wsj.com