Coronavirus Travel Ban Exempts Students From Europe, Says State Department
WASHINGTON—Foreign students coming from Europe, along with some au pairs and family members of visa holders in the U.S., are exempt from the Trump administration’s various travel bans imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a memo the State Department sent to Congress on Thursday.
The Trump administration has said that the array of travel and visa restrictions enacted since January were intended to slow the spread of the virus and block classes of foreign workers to open jobs for unemployed Americans. The restrictions affected China, Europe and Brazil, and people holding a range of visas, including the prized H-1B for high-skilled workers.
According to the memo, students in European countries who already have visas to study in the U.S., but were blocked by the March travel ban, will be able to come to the U.S. for classes in the fall. Students who can get a visa can also come.
“Granting [this exemption] will assist with the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and bolster key components of our trans-Atlantic relationship,” a State Department spokesman said in a statement in response to earlier questions about student visas. “We appreciate the transparency and concerted efforts of our European partners and allies to combat this pandemic and welcome the EU’s reciprocal action to allow key categories of essential travel to continue.”
The blanket exemption for these students provides certainty for tens of thousands of students from the U.K. to Italy and Kosovo who returned to their home countries when universities shut in the spring. These students were uncertain whether they could return in time for the fall semester if travel bans weren’t lifted.
The exemption doesn’t extend to students in China and Brazil, who face similar travel restrictions. It also doesn’t affect new students awaiting interviews at U.S. consulates for their visas. Many of these people can’t make appointments until the fall, after their semesters have already begun.
The State Department also disclosed in its memo to Congress a series of exemptions to President Trump’s June ban on several visa categories, which included au pairs.
Rebecca Morgan, a spokeswoman for NAFSA: Association of International Educators, a nonprofit dedicated to international education, said that the State Department’s decision was heartening and that the organization looks forward to when all international students are welcomed to the U.S.
“We urge the administration to follow a science-based decision making approach to ensure a safe and expedient restoration of travel for all including international students,” she said.
The administration came under fire last month from families who say they rely on au pairs to take care of their children so they are able to work themselves. Approximately 20,000 young people, primarily women, work in the U.S. each year as au pairs, according to the State Department, which regulates the program.
The memo provided several carve-outs for parents who are medical providers or researchers working on Covid-19 and families who have children with certain medical conditions.
Some families on U.S. visas had also been separated as a result of the June visa ban, typically because a family member traveled abroad. The new State Department guidelines say that if the primary visa holder is already present in the U.S., such as an H-1B holder, his or her family members are welcome to return and join them.
That exemption partially resolves a lawsuit filed by separated spouses on Tuesday.